What do a snowstorm, Inaugural Address, and State of the State Address have in common? They all occurred last week in Atlanta as the General Assembly attempted to get the 2011 session underway.
Thanks to the Georgia State Patrol, 149 House members were present in the Capitol to be sworn-in at the required starting time. Without their help, many of us would have been stranded in our hotels.
Following the morning sermon by Rep. Paul Battles, we re-elected David Ralston of Blue Ridge to be the House Speaker for the next two years. The remainder of the morning was taken up with more elections and approving the rules under which the House would work during this session. Lunch was leftovers from the Sunday “Wild Hog” dinner.
At 1:30 p.m., we reconvened in the House Chambers with the Senate, Constitutional Officers, Judiciary and the Consulate Corps for the swearing-in of the new governor.
The program was a Deal family affair with wife Sandra holding the Bible as Gov.-elect Nathan Deal repeated the Oath-of-Office given by his son, Superior Court Judge Jason Deal.
Later, daughter Katie Wright sang “Georgia On My Mind” and son-in-law Chris Wright sang “God Bless America.”
Deal opened the address by recalling his first trip to the Capitol when, as a fifth grade student at Sandersville, his class rode the Nancy Hanks train to Atlanta.
It was his first train ride, as well. He noted that the awe that he felt as a fifth grader was similar to the awe he feels today as he becomes the 82nd governor of Georgia. (Incidentally, I grew up in Washington County and attended the same school as Nathan. His father was my Ag teacher.)
Most of Gov. Deal’s Inaugural Address was of his vision for our future and the changes that must be made to ensure that all of us have the life, liberty and welfare promised to all.
He spoke of healthcare, jobs, economic development, and of the drain that crime places on our personal and governmental assets.
He spoke of education as the key to a better life for all. “...our public education system in grades K through 12 has failed to make the progress we need. This failure is a stain on our efforts to recruit businesses to our state and is a contributing factor in the frightening crime statistics previously mentioned. High dropout rates and low graduation percentages are incompatible with the future I envision for Georgia.”
The snow and ice closed the Capitol on Tuesday, but we reopened Wednesday afternoon in time for the governor’s State of the State Address. The primary focus of this address was fiscal. He submitted both the Amended 2011 Budget and the 2012 Budget, which those of us on the Appropriations Committee started digesting Jan. 18.
The amended budget has an additional $27.5 million cut. The 2012 Budget is actually based on a growth of 3.75 percent. This is a conservative estimate in terms of the actual revenue growth for the first six months of FY 2011, which is in the neighborhood of 7 percent.
Deal plans to be a conservative governor, as noted in this statement: “Even though there are some signs of economic recovery, I do not believe we should spend additional revenue, if actual collections exceed the estimate. One of the driving principles behind these conservative budgets is a commitment to replenish the Revenue Shortfall Reserve, sometimes referred to as our Rainy Day Fund.”
Following the governor’s speech, the General Assembly adjourned until Jan. 24, so that the streets and parking lots could be cleaned of snow.
However, fully one-third of the General Assembly (including me) have seats on the various subcommittees of appropriations and will meet Jan. 18-20 for hearings from the governor’s staff and department heads.
The legislature will reconvene on Jan. 24 as a full body.
My Saturday morning breakfast with constituents continues at 8 a.m. on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5 at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega. On Jan. 29 we’ll meet at 8:30 a.m. at Ryan’s restaurant in Dawson County. As we get deeper into the session, I’ll let you know the rest of the Saturday morning breakfast schedule.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone (404) 657-8534; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.