ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was set to begin his second term in office Monday afternoon with plans to focus on education.
An inaugural ceremony was planned for 2 p.m. at the Capitol in Atlanta. The governor and first lady Sandra Deal planned to start the day at a 9 a.m. prayer service at Mt. Paran Church in Atlanta.
Deal, 72, was re-elected in November after a bruising campaign with Democrat Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Deal has said the race will be his final political campaign.
During his first term as the state's 82nd governor, Deal managed a GOP-dominated Legislature through three tight budget cycles and managed to restore some cuts to education funding and the HOPE scholarship program as he prepared for the 2014 campaign. Other high points included the signing of an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to begin deepening the Port of Savannah and guiding a package of changes to the criminal justice system into law.
Deal also has touted the state's ranking by a trade publication as the best place to do business, crediting low taxes and other programs for Georgia's success even as the state's unemployment rate remains higher than the national figure.
Politically, Deal remained steadfastly opposed to proposals from President Barack Obama's White House, including a refusal to expand Medicaid under the 2010 health care law. He has maintained that will not change during his second term, even as other Southern Republican governors have accepted some form of expansion.
Deal has said his administration will undertake a review of the state's complicated formula for funding education, which is expected to be a two-year process or longer. In recent weeks, the governor has urged lawmakers to consider a recovery school district that would take over failing schools or districts.
Deal also has said he plans to continue working on criminal justice issues.
The Republican with roots in Gainesville previously served as a congressman and a member of the state Senate. A gala to celebrate his second inauguration is scheduled for Thursday and is headlined by county music artist Alan Jackson.
The legislative session also kicked off Monday at the Capitol, where lawmakers are expected to consider the state's transportation needs, a medical marijuana program for some chronic diseases and bills that supporters say would protect government employees' religious freedom.