ATLANTA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Forty days kicked of Monday as state leaders gathered in Atlanta to start the 2014 legislative session and they are hitting the ground running!
It's expected to be a short session, but there are a lot of hot topics ranging from gun control, to funding education, and legalizing medical marijuana.
The ring of the bell signals the start of a new year.
"This session we all look forward to and hopefully we'll do some good," State Representative Bubber Epps said. "I think the dedication is there to do it."
The first item on the general assembly's to-do list is to balance the budget.
"Our constitution provides only one thing," House Majority Leader Larry O'Neal said. "We absolutely have to do and that's pass a balanced budget."
"We're gong to have to deal with issues like the expanding cost of Medicaid because of Obamacare," State Senator Cecil Staton said. "We expect that to be $400 million for our state."
Many lawmakers hope to restore funding to education.
"There was close to a billion dollar surplus last year, they took a billion dollars away from education," State Representative James Beverly said. "We need to put it back in and give teachers a raise and people around the state a raise for the work that they do."
"Our local school systems are struggling and I certainly hope the governor will find a way to start to restore some of those cuts we've made to education over the last few years," State Representative Nikki Randall said.
Another hot topic expected this year will be gun control.
"I think there will be some discussion about that, about how far do we allow the carrying of guns, whether it should be in churches or on college campuses," State Representative Allen Peake said.
"You cannot have kids on college campuses carrying weapons, I think that's a bad idea," Beverly said. "Although the second amendment is absolutely necessary to protect our freedoms, we have to be smart about how we deploy the second amendment."
Legalizing medical marijuana could be brought to the floor.
"I think that's something probably worth looking at," Peake said. "I sure wouldn't want to legalize marijuana in our state, but there are may be instances for compassion's sake or for medical reason it may be worth looking at."
Plus, dotting the i's, crossing the t's, and tying up and loose ends with the Macon-Bibb consolidation charter.
"With a brand new government, we want to make sure we're doing everything we can do to make it run smoothly," Randall said.
Protecting Robins Air Force Base is always a priority for Middle Georgia lawmakers. That means getting the Gateway Center off the ground located near the base. The center is a facility to help veterans transition into civilian life.
"I think they're going to say this is the best we've seen and that's going to put a real big feather in our cap when we start talking about BRAC," O'Neal said.
Staton also filed a resolution Monday that would call on Washington to get its act together. Staton told 41NBC the federal government isn't doing its job. He says the resolution focuses on its spending practices.
If a majority of states pass similar resolutions, there would be a convention where state representatives could propose amendments to change the constitution, for example requiring Congress to pass a budget.
Staton says Georgia could be the first state to do this and believes other states are considering it too.
Governor Nathan Deal will address both the house and senate Wednesday morning during his "State of the State" speech. 41NBC will be there and bring the you latest Wednesday night during the News at 6.