As we began 2020, lawmakers had high hopes for the regular session. The economy was booming, state revenue was up and there was even talk of a cool billion dollars from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in return for a statewide gambling concession.
COVID-19, of course, changed all that. Lawmakers interrupted the regular session in March to return home amid pandemic concerns. They returned May 4 with a limited agenda and social distancing in the first week of May to complete the state’s two major budgets. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon has predicted they’ll be back for a special session on prison issues and perhaps other things.
- Students, who should benefit from a $1.25 billion bond issue to bankroll capital projects for public K-12 schools, two-year colleges and universities. Each K-12 system should get at least $400,000.
- Science lovers, who witnessed the Legislature’s attempt to put “checks and balances” on the authority of the state health officer when it comes to ordering closures. Many said such a bill would have put politics over science in health emergencies.
- Teachers and state employees, who saw potential raises disappear when Covid-19 sucked the wind out of state revenue.
- State prisoners, who will continue to be held in institutions so awful that they amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
- Municipalities, who saw their option to implement new occupational taxes without state approval disappear. Montgomery is trying to levy such a tax.
- Gambling, which saw no floor votes in either the Poarch Band of Creek Indians proposal for casinos or the Legislature’s annual lottery consideration.
- Patients, who will have to wait a while longer for the Legislature to take up the question of legalizing medical marijuana.