2018 Legislative Session begins in Atlanta

ATLANTA (WTOC) - With statewide elections this fall, lawmakers expect few surprises in this legislative session.

Lawmakers settled in for the first of 40 days in chambers during the session. Many believe most of the work will focus on the budget and returning home to connect with voters and campaign for another term or another seat.

"There's not going to be any real controversial issues, I don't think, will fly up. I think 90 percent of the Senate is running for another office. So, they're ready to get home," Rep. Ron Stephens said.

Some House members expect debate on bringing more broadband access to rural Georgia to help economic development as well as ways to help improve rural health care and education.

"We have to pass a budget. Some things have to be done. There will be a lot of 'five minutes of fame' stuff but the essentials still have to be done," Rep. Al Williams said.

Not long ago, Georgia lawmakers had to cut everything they could from the budget during an economic downturn. But, with revenues looking good, they face a different challenge.

Revenue figures from last month show roughly a 10 percent increase. That could prompt legislators to craft a slightly larger proposal than the $25 billion budget last year.

But some lawmakers caution there may not be surplus to initiate anything new as much of that money is spoken for to help fund growing needs in K-12 education and retirement programs.

"Those things eat up what new revenue we have pretty quickly. So there likely won't be any new money for new programs," Sen. Jack Hill said.

Several said some of that increased revenue should go to rebuild savings and maintain state's bond rating.

The day did include some excitement from lawmakers supporting the University of Georgia Bulldogs in the championship game, but also celebrating the big game being played in Atlanta and the tourists and attention that brings to Georgia.

Please click here to view Prefiled Legislation in the House. Please click here to view Prefiled Legislation in the Senate.

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