Campus News

Lawmakers explore 2015 legislative agenda during Biennial Institute

Members of the Georgia General Assembly convened at UGA Dec. 7-9 for the 29th Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators. Coordinated by the university’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Biennial Institute helps lawmakers prepare for the next legislative cycle, which begins this year on Jan. 12.

More than 200 members of the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate attended presentations at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center covering economic development and other significant issues. The three-day event culminated with an address by Gov. Nathan Deal, who outlined his policy priorities for the coming year.

As in past years, the Biennial Institute offered the first opportunity following the elections for veteran and freshman legislators to come together as a group in advance of the legislative session.

In his first opportunity to address the newly elected and incumbent legislators, Deal closed the Biennial Institute Dec. 9 with a speech describing how cooperation between the state’s executive and legislative branches helped produce Georgia’s current economic vitality. He also detailed Georgia’s successes regarding criminal justice reform and outlined some specific policy initiatives he hoped the legislature would undertake during the 2015 session.

Deal concluded by describing how Georgia has established an international reputation as the best U.S. state to locate new business and industry.

“That is the reputation that precedes us, and that is the reputation I intend to build upon for the next four years,” he said.

The Biennial Institute officially came to order Dec. 7 with welcoming remarks from Speaker of the House David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, UGA President Jere W. Morehead and Vinson Institute of Government Director Laura Meadows. Christopher W. Klaus, founder and CEO of Kaneva, an Atlanta company that integrates social networking, shared media and collaborative online communities into an immersive 3-D world, delivered the keynote address about Georgia’s digital innovations.

Over the subsequent two days, the Biennial Institute sessions explored a diverse set of state priorities, including economic development and job creation, opportunities for growth in Georgia and abroad, and the roles education, transportation and health care play in Georgia’s economic vitality. Legislators attended a number of informative policy sessions featuring panels of state agency executives, legislative committee chairs and experts from universities, nonprofits and businesses. Additional speakers included University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, UGA political science professor Charles Bullock and Todd Henry, operations manager of Caterpillar Inc.

Since its inception in 1958, the Biennial Institute has been coordinated by the Vinson Institute of Government and held at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, two units in public service and outreach.