ATLANTA (WRBL) — Seven days into the Georgia General Assembly session, Governor Brian Kemp delivered his State of the State address earlier today.
WRBL’s Chuck Williams was at the Capitol for that speech, and he joins us in the studio now. Kemp was confident as he outlined his agenda for this year. No longer in campaign mode, he carries the highest approval ratings in his tenure.
You might say he starts his second term with a swagger.
When the governor walked into the House chambers Wednesday morning he was confident and ready to tackle major issues like teacher salaries and retainment and crime centered around street gangs.
Kemp talked tough about those gangs that are a problem in Columbus and throughout the state.
“In communities across our state gangs are actively recruiting students as young as elementary school students into a life of crime,” Kemp said. “They are targeting the most innocent among us, pulling them down a dark path that often leads to a prison cell or a cemetery. That is why along with the Attorney General I am proposing legislation to try and increase penalties for those trying to recruit children into a gang. Let me be clear. You come after our children, and we will be coming after you.”
That drew bi-partisan support from the Columbus delegation.
“This is affecting everybody,” said Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus. “The perception of people who want to come to Georgia. The people who live in Georgia and want to leave their neighborhoods. They are afraid in their neighborhoods. It is a problem that affects all of us. And we need to be together on this. It’s not a Democratic problem. It’s not a Republican problem. It’s a community problem.”
Sen. Randy Robertson, a Republican from Cataula agrees.
“Sadly, the gang problem in Columbus has been caused by many years of neglect by past (city) administrations that felt there were no gang problems in Columbus,” Robertson said. “Which gave those gangs an opportunity to recruit and imbed themselves in at-risk communities in Muscogee County.”
A new gang task force has been stood up in the Attorney General’s Office to go after gang members statewide. In its first months, eight of the first 50 people prosecuted were in Muscogee County.
“He’s doing this as part of his budget,” said Rep. Carolyn Hugley, Columbus (D). “And if we support the budget, that is what we would do to support that. The attorney general highlighted Muscogee County Sheriff and the Columbus Police Department in his remarks before the budget committee of how well they have worked with him in dealing with gangs.”
Harbison says the governor is a confident man right now. And for just reason.
“To be blunt about it,” Harbison said. “A very confident governor. Prayerfully out of that will come real legislation and real efforts to curtail things such as crime and to deal with educational situations that are impacting our local school districts. Like the shortage of classified people compared to certified people. We need those things to be dealt with. And perhaps that confidence will bleed over into that and we will get some things done.”
Kemp is proposing a $2,000 dollar raise for Georgia’s classroom teachers in his budget.