General Assembly begins new session

By Chris Bridges - the Walton Tribune

 It was back to work in Atlanta for Walton County’s state lawmakers Monday.

The 2024 session of the Georgia General Assembly was ushered in by the state House and Senate. Representatives Bruce Williamson, Rey Martinez and Tim Fleming were back in Atlanta this week.

Senators Brian Strickland and Bill Cowsert, who represent areas of Walton County, were also in Atlanta.

Strickland told The Walton Tribune Monday afternoon that some of the key issues he will be pushing include:

•Workforce development: “I will continue to pursue the final passage of SB 157 which addresses how occupational licensing boards handle criminal records with those that have worked their way out of the criminal justice system and want to become productive members of society.” 

 •Mental Health reform: “I will continue the work we start with HB 1013 that I sponsored in the Senate in 2022 with modernizing how Georgia provides mental health services and how we address mental health in our justice system.”

 •Cutting taxes and the budget: “While I am proud of the policies of our state under the leadership of Governor Kemp that has led to a $16B surplus, I will support being wise with how we address these funds by investing in our state employees and our schools, but also continuing to cut the state income tax and returning excess funds to our taxpayers.” 

•Foster care reform: “I will continue to work on reforming our foster care system to build on the legislation I sponsored last year to end the hoteling of children in foster care. 

The two legislative chambers were content with passing resolutions formally notifying Gov. Brian Kemp that the General Assembly is in session and scheduling a joint session for Thursday to hear Kemp deliver his annual State of the State address.

Despite the relative lack of activity on Monday, the 40-day session is expected to pick up quickly. Lawmakers will be anxious to complete their business as soon as possible so they can get out of the campaign trail in this election year. 

All 236 seats in the legislature will be on the ballot in November, and candidate qualifying is set for early March.

Easter comes early this year — on March 31 —giving legislative leaders another reason to move forward at a fast pace.

The governor’s State of the State message will be his second of the 2024 session’s opening week. Kemp is scheduled to headline Wednesday morning’s Eggs and Issues breakfast sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, being held this year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.

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