On Monday afternoon, inside McCamish Pavilion at the Georgia Tech Campus, Brian P. Kemp took the oath and formally became the 83rd Governor of Georgia.

Under a backdrop of equal parts excitement and skepticism, Kemp praised his predecessors, Sonny Perdue (the first Republican governor in Georgia’s history since Reconstruction) and Nathan Deal.

Kemp has pledged to maintain the business-friendly policies Nathan Deal has in place. What was absent from his address was the fiery rhetoric that his campaign was known for, as a sign the Republican from Athens wanted to get to work.

“Wages are rising and the unemployment rate is the lowest in 18 years,” Kemp said.

“Thanks to the hard work of the legislature, Georgia is the top state for business – six years in a row. With our low taxes, a business-friendly government, and access to logistics hubs like the Port of Savannah and the Atlanta Airport, Georgia is the epicenter of job growth, the Hollywood of the South, and soon to be the Cyber Capital of the world.”

During the campaign, Kemp promised he would deliver $5,000 pay raises to public-school teachers as the state invests in education. Georgia currently ranks 23rd in the nation in average teacher salary at approximately $54,000 annually, according to a study by the National Education Association.

In 2017, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a $25 billion budget that included raises for 200,000 teachers and state employees.

Kemp also pledged to crack down on gang offenders while expanding gun rights.

Last year, House Bill 2, which is also known as the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2019 was formally introduced.

The bill would remove the weapons carry license and add language regarding a “lawful weapons carrier,” who is any person “not prohibited by law from possessing a weapon or long gun” or any person licensed in another state. and sign a “religious liberty” measure.

Even though the overall theme of his speech was unity, it remains unclear if the “religious liberty” measure would ostracize individuals in the LGBTQ community.

“We will keep our schools, our streets, and our kids safe,” Kemp added. “And put people ahead of divisive politics. We will be known as a state united. It can be done.”

The Georgia Legislature now has 42 freshmen occupying the 236 seats. The Democrats won thirteen seats in the Atlanta suburbs. Following Governor Kemp’s lead, state Republicans have promised to deliberate over economic and quality-of-life issues.

Stemming from the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, a Georgia House and Senate study committee were launched last fall to address the issue of school safety.

The two committees’ recommendations included the creation of a statewide threat management team to coordinate school safety resources and improve responses to emergency threats.

House leaders have also suggested the state develop a threat assessment model outlined in the U.S. Secret Service’s School Safety Guide. Time will tell if this issue will be discussed in this year’s legislative session.

Another issue that is most likely to appear in this year’s legislative session is medical marijuana.

In recent years, Georgia lawmakers increased the number of medical conditions legally treated with THC oils derived from the marijuana flower, including seizures, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. But access to the drug has been difficult by its lack of availability in Georgia.

The Joint Study Commission on Low THC Medical Oil Access has recommended lawmakers pursue licensing a selected number of growers, manufacturers and dispensaries for medical cannabis oil in the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly to support the 646 doctors and 5,425 patients in Georgia’s low THC oil registry.

The overall theme of Kemp’s speech Monday afternoon was “a state united”.

Coming on the heels of a contentious election, the legislative session under the Gold Dome will reveal if Governor Kemp’s platitudes and attempts to heal and bring the electorate together are genuine.

Brian Kemp waves after being sworn in as Georgia’s governor during a ceremony at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta Monday, January 14, 2019. Photo: John Bazemore/Associated Press

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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