ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp decided no news is good news Wednesday, breaking from the tradition of governors announcing a new initiative or two at the annual Eggs and Issues breakfast.
Instead, the Republican governor will wait until Thursday’s State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly to talk about his priorities for the 2020 legislative session.
“Tomorrow, I will outline my blueprint for a stronger, safer and more prosperous Georgia to the people of our state,” Kemp posted on his Twitter account. “But for today, let’s focus on a historic 2019.”
True to his word, the governor devoted his speech to more than 2,600 political and business leaders – a record for the Eggs and Issues breakfast sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce – to his administration’s accomplishments during his first year in office. His list included the creation of a task force under the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to target criminal gangs, the formation of a commission led by first lady Marty Kemp to combat human trafficking and a $3,000 teacher pay raise.
Kemp also touted the authorization he received last year from the legislature to take a “Georgia-centric” approach to health-care reform by seeking two federal waivers to expand the state’s Medicaid program through a more conservative approach than the Affordable Care Act allows and offer an alternative to Obamacare’s health-insurance exchanges aimed at lowering insurance premiums.
“This year, we will build off that momentum,” he said. “We cannot and will not take our feet off the gas.”
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan did make news following Kemp’s speech by announcing the formation of a task force that will look for ways to fulfill Duncan’s pledge to make Georgia the technology innovation capital of the East Coast.
The Georgia Innovates Task Force will be co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and G.P. “Bud” Peterson, the retired former president of Georgia Tech. It will include a host of business and academic leaders from around the state, among them Paul Bowers, president, chairman and CEO of Georgia Power Co.; Raphael Bostick, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; and Barbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
“I have asked this group of leaders to come up with big ideas to put Georgia on the map when it comes to technology and making our state as important as Silicon Valley,” Duncan said. “I want Georgia to be a national leader in technology research, development and implementation and allow for growth and evolution across all parts of Georgia.”
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston warned the 2020 session is likely to be a long one, as lawmakers grapple with decisions on the spending cuts Kemp will recommend to adjust for a sluggish revenue outlook.
“Georgia is a big, growing, dynamic state,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “Budget decisions that impact the people of this state are too important to be influenced by a legislative calendar. We’ll take the time necessary to get the work done.”