Three political events will have a dramatic impact on the efficacy and success of the 2017 General Assembly. The decisive defeat of Amendment 1, the Opportunity School District, will loom large over the Gold Dome. As one legislator told me, “60% is a major vote and has not gone unnoticed. The same 60% that voted down OSD also vote for legislators and ignoring that would be political suicide.” The Governor is mad—Nathan Deal generally does not get mad; he gets even and the defeat of OSD has put him on edge and potentially has compromised his political clout. Governor Deal announced that there would be legislation that would address failing schools but thus far it is been a closely guarded secret as to what the Governor will propose. More than likely the response from legislators will be cool, citing that the people have spoken very decisively on the matter.
The second and third political events were Governor Deal’s veto of the religious freedom legislation and the campus gun carry bill. Supporters of both bills have vowed recently to bring them back even with the Governor pledging to veto them again. Such action cannot bring harmony to the legislative session.
Add to those political issues the fact that there are 40 new legislators in the General Assembly for 2017. 40 out of 236 means new faces as well as new attitudes and there is no prediction as to how that will play out!
The bottom line is that there are lots of legislators as well as the Governor roaming the halls of the Capitol looking for a fight and they will certainly find one. Add that to the Governor’s private declaration that education legislation that he does not sponsor has little chance of adoption and it makes the rollout of the Governor’s Education Reform Commission legislation (again, nobody is talking that has seen the legislation from the ERC recommendations) headed for a tough time in the House and Senate. Several key legislators have already lined up against specific parts of the recommendations, particularly merit pay, and that certainly sets the stage for an epic street fight. It is not clear whom you should put your money on at this point.