For The Record

Ga. Senate leader sets 2022 legislative agenda as Trump casts long shadow

By: - January 5, 2022 7:06 pm

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is calling his “Less Crime” Act the cornerstone of his legislative priorities for his final session presiding over the Senate. The plan creates a tax credit program to supplement police and sheriff’s office budgets. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s to-do list during his final year includes a tax credit to boost law enforcement, more resources for foster care, and higher wages for correctional officers.

Duncan said Wednesday that his focus will remain on completing his duties and getting his priorities passed before his time in the Senate concludes at the end of 2022. Then he plans to focus on his GOP 2.0 initiative aimed at retaking the Republican Party from the grips of former president Donald Trump and moving on from the 2020 election.

During the passage of the controversial election law overhaul through Senate Bill 202 last year, Duncan refused to preside over a debate on restricting absentee voting access, but ultimately supported the final Republican measure that’s now facing multiple lawsuits over claims of voter suppression.

During the upcoming session, Duncan said lawmakers should not focus on sending political messages or dwelling on the false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I think from a political perspective, I think we should be done talking about the 2020 election cycle and we should move forward politically in a way that makes the most sense and builds more consensus,” Duncan said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference inside the state Capitol.

“I think it’s a mistake to try to relitigate the 2020 elections,” Duncan added. “It was a fair election. We were able to make some improvements in the last session.”

Additionally, Duncan elaborated on his crime-fighting plan, the “Less Crime” Act, which would set up a $250 million tax credit for individuals and businesses that donate to local police departments and sheriff’s offices through certified law enforcement foundations.

Duncan, along with Republican colleagues Gov. Brian Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston, have all called for legislation designed to combat the rising rate of violent crime in Atlanta and other areas of the state.

Duncan’s plan is for departments to use the donated money to hire more officers, increase pay, provide more training, purchase equipment and improve resources to handle mental health related emergencies.

“The Less Crime Act reaches far beyond political allegiances and allows citizens and corporations to be a partner in driving down crime rates,” Duncan said.

The lieutenant governor says he looks forward to providing better pay for corrections officers in order to combat the high turnover rate.

Professor Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Duncan’s plan to use tax credits to support law enforcement could win enough supporters to pass as lawmakers compete to show they’re tough on crime.

Duncan’s membership in the post-Trump faction of the party, however, will put him at odds with some key figures within the party and chamber, he said.

Duncan’s refusal to support conspiracy theories peddled by Trump put him at odds with a large share of Georgia Republicans and dimmed his chances of winning a second term. His public call for Republicans to move on put Duncan in the national spotlight and laid the groundwork for his GOP 2.0 concept, detailed in a 2021 book.

In May, the former Cumming state House representative announced he wouldn’t seek a second term as lieutenant governor. 

“With Duncan, that being a lame duck and ready to leave the stage, at least temporarily, he’s going to be presiding over a chamber in which there are competing candidates to succeed him,” Bullock said. “One of whom (Sen. Burt Jones) is Trump’s favorite, and the other (Sen. Butch Miller) who is not but who nonetheless seems to be moving towards the right to make it difficult for Burt Jones to be able to pass him.”

During this year, Duncan says he also hopes to create a foster care program that provides wrap-around services as teens age out of foster care.

“Whether it be just basic welfare needs, education, health, counseling, transportation and other areas to wrap around those individuals so that they can have a head start on life out of the foster care system,” Duncan said.

Another foster care initiative will be to work with Kemp and agencies to provide more resources to keep children out of extended-stay hotels when they don’t already have a foster parent.

“Another priority of ours is to end this vicious cycle by helping kids in foster care that show up with serious and significant physical or behavioral health issues,” Duncan said. 

Despite Duncan’s focus on the upcoming session, Bullock says his future duties may have a much more lasting impact on politics.

“I would presume that he realizes that if his goals for GOP 2.0 are to be realized that he’s in it for the long haul,” Bullock said. “It is not going to happen this year and maybe not until sometime after 2024 if there were then a rejection of Donald Trump’s presidential bid.”

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo.