District 17 State Rep. Howard Maxwell, R-Dallas, who is serving his sixth term, said this year lawmakers may be open to giving raises for the first time in many years — amid an increase in state revenues which have allowed officials to add to the state’s “rainy day” reserves fund.
A 1 percent increase costs about $128 million, and they may be considering a 3 percent increase, Maxwell said.
Among new legislation which may arise is an amendment to zero-tolerance laws governing weapons on school grounds. Lawmakers need to make changes to allow students to carry such items as pocket knives, Maxwell said.
“I believe we need some common sense in this,” Maxwell said. “You’ve got to look at the intent the student had.”
An Allatoona High School student in October was charged with violating the law by carrying a three-inch emergency medical technician knife in his vehicle’s glove compartment. The knife was kept for emergency situations in which a seat belt might need to be cut off a passenger in a wreck.
Maxwell admitted society has changed from the time when he and other students typically brought shotguns and knives to school so they could hunt squirrels and rabbits after classes were done for the day.
“It’s a shame you have to legislate everything that’s out there,” he said.
The Georgia general assembly began its 2014 session this week and will have 40 legislative days to approve a budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Maxwell said lawmakers plan to work during periods they typically have taken breaks, such as the week of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. They plan to pass a supplemental budget by Jan. 23, and approve the 2014-15 budget and adjourn by March 15 – much earlier than their typical April or early May endings, he said.
“It’s going to be, as one of the leadership said, ‘fast and furious,’” Maxwell said.
He said he was anticipating a number of bills “will just die this session and have to be reintroduced next year.”
“Unless there’s something that really, really needs to take care of a major problem, it’s not going to get through this year,” Maxwell said.
District 30 State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, agreed lawmakers likely would put a priority on passing the budget before legislation.
“The budget’s going to be pre-eminent this session,” he said.
A federal judge recently ruled primaries for federal elected offices must be on May 20 – rather than July 15 – to allow military members and others living overseas enough time to return absentee ballots in federal runoff elections. That will move the deadline for federal candidates to qualify almost two months earlier to March 7.