Charlie Harper: November’s Election Impacts January’s Legislature

Charlie Harper

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

With the calendar now having turned to December, we’re roughly half way between last month’s election and next month’s “governing”.  An Inauguration is on tap for Friday, January 20th.  Congress and the Georgia legislature will begin legislative duties a couple of weeks earlier.

While the professional political class and most of political media likes to remain in perpetual campaign mode, elections are ultimately about governing.  Some are still having difficulty coming to grips with the election results.  Governing will begin with or without them.

For those who wish to remain in perpetual campaign mode, Donald Trump’s election has already brought some Georgians a bonus.  Pending Congressman Tom Price of Roswell’s confirmation as Secretary of HHS, there will be a special election for his North Suburban Atlanta Congressional seat.

Dominoes will continue to fall from there.  Several State Senators and Representatives are taking a hard look at a race to succeed Price.  Georgia law requires them to resign their seats or have them deemed vacated if they qualify for another position that begins before their current term ends.   

Depending on when qualifying is set for Price’s seat, this could leave a handful of legislative seats vacant for the bulk of the 2017 General Assembly session.  This would have some significant effects on GOP caucuses – including an election for House Speaker Pro Tem if Jan Jones of Milton decides to join the contest.

What this means for legislation remains unclear, again due to timing.  It can be assumed that the Fulton County delegations would temporarily turn from majority Republican to majority Democratic if more than a couple of the current rumored candidates officially join in and their seats vacated. 

Georgia is a big state, and the effects of the November election will go beyond Georgia’s sixth Congressional district.  November’s elections results have already scrambled the policy makers’ playbooks. 

Various business and medical interests had already geared up for a fight to bring Medicaid expansion to Georgia.  With the election of Donald Trump (and Speaker Ryan’s saying the first order of business being to repeal Obamacare), it’s doubtful that significant political capital will be expended to expand program under rules that may soon vanish.  In its place, expect the focus to shift toward fully funding the system we already have, as well as defending the state’s current Certificate of Need laws.  

While the state waits to see what the replacement for Obamacare may be (and its arrival timeline), expect a pilot project to be resubmitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that requires waivers from DC in order to treat additional patients with existing funds.  This project was quietly shelved a couple of years ago when CMS said that granting the waiver was unlikely.  This pilot will likely become a template for any block grant program that Georgia may request in lieu of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. 

The appetite to have another battle over Religious Freedom and various bathroom laws has likely subsided as a result of November’s election as well.  While Donald Trump managed to win neighboring North Carolina and Republican Senator Richard Burr won reelection, Republican NC Governor Pat McCrory is behind by about 10,000 votes in his bid for reelection.  He refuses at this writing to concede.

McCroy’s apparent loss is largely credited to his support of a controversial “bathroom bill” that negated a local ordinance in his hometown of Charlotte.  The economic costs have been apparent as the NCAA has moved seven events from North Carolina since the bill was signed into law. Georgia leaders are also watching tech jobs fill up Midtown Atlanta’s technology square, knowing that one of our biggest competitors was on the sidelines for much of the competition.   

November’s election shows that the costs of such bills may also be at the ballot box for statewide elected officials. Or, in Georgia’s case, those who hope to be in 2018.  Expect any bill that may make it to the Governor’s desk regarding religious protections to be unambiguous in their non-discrimination language. 

And finally, there was an amendment on the ballot last month that failed.  It was aimed at allowing Georgia’s worst schools to be moved into an Opportunity School District if all other measures to turn around the school had failed.  National teachers’ unions went all out to defeat the bill under the guise of protecting local control.  This will have a direct affect upon the education reform package expected for the 2017 session.  One that will likely have the unions’ own words handed back to them.  And one that deserves – and will get – its own column.

Charlie Harper is the Executive Director of PolicyBEST, a public policy think tank focused on issues of Business & Economic Development, Education, Science & Medicine, and Transportation. He’s also the publisher of, a website dedicated to State & Local politics of Georgia.