Members of Georgia’s General Assembly convened on campus last month for the 28th Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators. The gathering has been coordinated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a public service and outreach unit at UGA, since its inception in 1958.
The Biennial Institute was the first opportunity following the November 2012 elections for veteran and freshman legislators to meet and discuss significant policy issues in advance of the legislative session, which begins this week. The event culminated with an address in which Gov. Nathan Deal outlined his policy priorities for the coming year.
The Biennial officially came to order with welcoming remarks from David Ralston, speaker of the House; Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; and Laura Meadows, director of the Vinson Institute. Two keynote speakers also addressed the lawmakers. Sandra Magnus, an astronaut aboard NASA’s final space shuttle mission, shared insights on leadership gleaned from her experiences working on complex projects in the space program. Legislators got an insider’s account of the current climate in Washington, D.C., and ongoing deficit negotiations from U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Institute attendees explored a diverse list of state priorities, including economic development and job creation initiatives, the state’s natural resources, juvenile justice reform, education, transportation and the State Health Benefit Plan. Legislators attended a number of policy sessions featuring panels of state agency executives, legislative committee chairpeople and experts from universities, nonprofits and businesses.
The Biennial Institute also featured a session on the economic outlook of Georgia delivered by Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo. Other speakers included USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and UGA political science professor Charles Bullock.
Gov. Deal closed the Biennial with a speech that described Georgia’s current budgetary and economic situation. He also provided an overview of some specific policy initiatives he hoped the legislature would undertake during the 2013 session. His attention focused primarily on transportation and education-two issues he emphasized as important for economic development-and health care.