Gov. Nathan Deal
Deal, who's now halfway into his first term in office, has mostly kept mum about his plans for the session. As CL went to press, he was expected to deliver his budget proposal to lawmakers on Jan. 17. Judging by previous comments, Deal will probably focus on how lawmakers tinker with the tight budget he's written, push for more funding for the deepening of the Savannah Port, and renewing the "bed tax."
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
In January 2011, a group of eight senators staged a coup and stripped the Hall County Republican of most of his powers as the Senate's president, rendering him virtually useless for the session. The experiment ended in dysfunction. Now, his former ally, state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, is in charge. On the first day of the legislative session, members of the upper chamber returned Cagle's duties to him, including the power to assign committees.
House Speaker David Ralston
Much like Deal, the Blue Ridge Republican has played his cards close to his chest. After letting some of the House's more right-wing members pursue red-meat legislation about abortion last year, it appears Ralston might rein in some lawmakers. Look for Ralston to weigh in on ethics reform.
House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta
For years, the Atlanta Democrat, lawyer, and romance novelist has led the minority party in the lower chamber. As the top Democrat in the state House, Abrams doesn't enjoy much sway — Republicans nearly have a supermajority — but she does serve a purpose. "We have to be the voice of reason and alternatives," Abrams says. "As the minority party, it's our job to articulate what these issues are and challenge the governing majority to make better choices."
State Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth
The hardcore Republican won a behind-the-scenes battle late last year to become the next president pro tempore of the state Senate — basically the upper chamber's top job. The fiscal conservative is one of the Senate's most careful politicians but can also sometimes throw out red-meat bills.
State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford
The Senate's only Republican woman nearly became the next Senate Rules chair, which decides what bills receive a vote. She's also played a key role in Shafer's recent election as the next president pro tempore. Both could help establish the Buford senator, a former nurse who's promised to focus on fighting sex trafficking, during the upcoming session.
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