Gov. Nathan Deal’s final State of the State address on Thursday isn’t expected to deliver any barn-burning new initiatives. But the Republican will use the big speech to lay out the specifics of his policy agenda, reveal his top budget priorities and – perhaps – warn lawmakers what to avoid.
He’s been tight-lipped about his agenda, though he’s said not to expect anything of “monumental significance.”
“We have confronted some very large and important issues, and the state has prospered because of it,” he said. “We’ll tweak some of those.”
Here’s what we know:
Civil and criminal justice: The governor endorsed a constitutional amendment that would create a new statewide business court system, which he said would help more speedily resolve litigation involving firms with specialized judges. He’s also likely to back legislation that would counter a landmark Georgia Supreme Court ruling that effectively bars residents from suing the state when trying to overturn a law they believe is unconstitutional. Read more about it here.
Infrastructure spending: He will put $35 million more in the state budget to deepen Savannah’s harbor to prepare for a new wave of ships docking at the bustling port. And he also wants to spend $25 million for improvements and expansions in rural airports. Read more about it here.
Amazon: The state is expected to offer an unprecedented package of incentives to lure Amazon’s second headquarters. But the governor said he’s prepared to call a special session to hash out the state’s lucrative offering – if the tech giant lists Georgia as a top contender. Read more about it here.
Budget: The governor’s budget proposal will involve about $26 billion in state revenue - and around $50 billion with federal funding – and will touch the lives of millions of Georgians. He’s set to reach his goal of a rainy day reserve fund that hovers around $2.5 billion when he leaves office, and the state will pump $350 million to $375 million more into the pension fund next year. But the state’s budget growth gives him little room for other maneuvering. Read more about it here.
Cyber-Security: The governor seems likely to tout the growing cybersecurity center on the outskirts of downtown Augusta. He announced the second phase of the project this month, breaking ground on a $35 million addition which is to be built a few steps from the $60 million centerpiece that is still under construction. Read more about it here.
Religious liberty: He’s warned repeatedly that he won’t back any “religious liberty” legislation – and that he won’t hesitate to wield the veto pen again like he did in 2016. His aides have also warned that even reviving the debate could harm the state’s bid for the Amazon project. Read more about it here.
Legacy: The governor used a key speech this week to tell the seven contenders seeking to succeed him that “if you begin firing shots, just remember that we have the ammunition.” It was a calculated warning to his wouldbe successors not to take swipes at his track record lest they risk a sharp counterattack. He’s likely to sharpen his message about his legacy and echo an argument he made earlier this week: “There’s nothing lame about this duck.”