Geoff Duncan’s plan to be ‘steady hand’ at Capitol this session

An AJC interview


The legislative session that starts next week could be among the most chaotic and divisive in years, with bitter battles over race, class, gender and culture wars issues on the radar.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan intends to be the “steady hand” navigating lawmakers through it all.

“Folks are ready to gravitate toward the adults in the room,” he said in an interview. “And we will continue to fill that role.”

The Republican enters this election-year session in a tricky position. As the president of the Senate, Duncan helps shape the legislative agenda each year. His support for key legislation could help push it across the finish line, and his opposition to an idea could doom it.

But Duncan’s influence will be tested during the 40-day session. He’s opted against a second term rather than face a Donald Trump-backed challenger, and his vision of a “GOP 2.0″ that rejects the former president’s election fraud lies has alienated many in his party.

In his final legislative session as Georgia’s No. 2 politician, Duncan has staked out what he hopes will be a bipartisan agenda.

He wants to offer tax credits to Georgians who donate to law enforcement along with incentives for programs that help prepare foster kids for adulthood. He proposes higher wages for corrections officers. And he seeks to increase funding for computer science courses.

Duncan was also blunt with his skepticism – or outright opposition – to other measures that will surface this year.

He said he’s yet to hear a “compelling argument” for how a new city of Buckhead would more effectively combat crime if it splits from Atlanta – and said newly minted Mayor Andre Dickens deserves time to put his strategy in place.

220103-Atlanta-Andre Dickens waves to the crowd just after being sworn in as Mayor of Atlanta during his inauguration ceremony at Georgia Tech on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

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Credit: Ben Gray

“I had a great meeting Tuesday with Andre Dickens, and he’s serious about tackling crime,” Duncan said. “He deserves the opportunity to implement his plan, and political divides around the cityhood movement is not healthy for metro Atlanta.”

Duncan also raised concerns about renewed efforts to pass more stringent abortion restrictions, saying Republican legislators should “allow the judicial process to play out.” And he criticized efforts to enact new voting restrictions that play into Trump’s conspiracy theories.

“We’ve rehashed this for more than a year now,” he said. “If you’re a Republican and you want to have a significant influence going forward, it’s time to turn the page and move forward. We can’t just focus on the rearview mirror.”

Excerpts from the interview, edited for clarity

On his role this legislative session:

“It’s going to be consistent with my role the first three sessions. We are recognized in the Senate and throughout the building as a steady hand truly focused on the policy over politics, and we’re going to continue trying to be the steady hand.”

On how he’ll navigate the anticipated tumult of this session:

“Most elected officials around the Capitol are tired of the whipsawing. There’s a gravitational pull toward the folks who are trying to keep focused on their agenda. Folks are expecting us to do more than play politics for 40 legislative days. Folks are ready to gravitate toward adults in the room, and we will continue to fill that role.”

On his attempt to seek consensus this session:

“The first place we’re going to find it is with the ‘LESS Crime’ Act that we started to unveil a few months ago. Crime is a bipartisan issue and it will require a bipartisan solution. We’re going to build a coalition to back this tax credit program.”

03/22/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan speaks during a presser held by Gov. Brian Kemp at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Monday, March 22, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

On other highlights of his agenda:

“We’ll develop a tax credit strategy to allow funding to better prepare foster kids for adulthood. And we’ll work to end the hoteling of foster kids. We want to increase funding for corrections officers.

“We will fight for more funding for computer science, to make sure more Georgians graduate from high school with that training. We want every kid in Georgia to graduate with at least one computer science class to expose them to a technology pathway that could change their lives.”

On the push for Buckhead cityhood:

“I have yet to hear a compelling argument from supporters of Buckhead cityhood that details their plan to tackle the crime rate. The details matter here. The financing issues. The education issues. The governance issues. These are all issues that must be fixed before – and not after – a referendum is passed. My hope is that we’re able to figure out a way to help all of Atlanta significantly cut crime.”

On proposals to enact new abortion restrictions:

“It’s important for us to allow the judicial process to play out, without trying to go back to the well too quickly. As somebody who is pro-life, I feel the conversation is moving in the right direction.”