By this time, almost everyone who is going to vote has an idea of who they want to be our next governor, lieutenant governor and U. S. senator.
But what about the other state-wide races on the ballot this year?
With no elected incumbents (Secretary of State Brian Kemp was appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue) running for re-election, there will be new faces in all of the seven other races for state-wide offices.
Here’s a brief description of the other state-wide offices on the ballot and the major issues they will be facing in the next few years.
Attorney General — Serves as the state’s chief legal officer and provides opinions on legal questions concerning the state of Georgia, which are binding on all state agencies and departments. The Attorney General must have been an active member of the State Bar of Georgia for at least seven years.
Perhaps one of the most important offices to be filled this election year, the next Attorney General will be faced with representing Georgia in the implementation (or opposition) of National Healthcare Insurance by the federal government and the tri-state water war between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Secretary of State — The office with one of the most wide range of services and regulatory duties, it is responsible for supervising and monitoring elections, managing and preserving public records, and licensing, monitoring, and registering professionals and businesses.
The next Secretary of State will be faced with implementing election procedures that will ensure that Georgia’s voter registration rolls contain only eligible voters. These laws must be approved by the federal courts before they can be implemented.
Superintendent of Education — Responsible for administration of the Georgia Department of Education, as well as overseeing almost 2,000 schools spread out among 180 school districts. Also sets the direction the Department of Education will take in early childhood education, school funding and the CRCT tests.
Although K-12 education accounts for nearly half of our state’s budget, implementing existing budget cuts and more likely to come, this will be a crucial office to assure our state’s educational progress continues.
Agriculture Commissioner — As head of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, this office oversees an industry that employs one out of every seven Georgians and contributes more that $57 billion, or about 16 percent annually to Georgia’s $350 billion economic output. This department regulates and monitors almost everything that has to do with food and food processing, as well as forestry.
The next agriculture commissioner will be faced with addressing the lingering questions involving a salmonella outbreak at a peanut processing factory last year.
Labor Commissioner — Heads the Georgia Department of Labor that has broad authority over industrial and occupational safety and administration of labor laws. This department administers Georgia’s unemployment insurance and employment services.
The next labor commissioner will be faced with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and the uncertainty of whether unemployment benefits will be extended by the federal government.
Insurance Commissioner — Serves as an insurance regulator as well as a consumer advocate. Also serves as the Safety Fire Commissioner,
Industrial Loan Commissioner, and Comptroller General. This office has a Consumer Services Division dedicated solely to helping Georgians who have claims disputes with their insurance companies and in times of natural disasters deploys representatives out to assist policyholders with their insurance needs.
In one of the most important roles of any office, the next insurance commissioner will be faced with implementing the National Healthcare Insurance plan.
Georgia Public Service Commission — This is a regulatory agency charged with protecting the public interest and approving the rates charged and the services provided by most intrastate, investor-owned telecommunications, gas and electric utilities operating in Georgia. Currently there are five statewide elected members with each member representing a particular district.
In recent weeks, Georgia Power has announced they will be seeking an increase in the rates that they charge customers. It will be the responsibility of this commission to approve these increases as well as any others in the future.
While these other races may not be as glamorous as governor or senator, they are important nonetheless. A list of all candidates can be found at http://qual.sos.ga.gov/QualifyingSearchResults.asp?RaceID=5.
Remember — your vote makes a difference.