New legislative session off to strong start

Published 6:37am Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This week began the new legislative session. On Monday, Jan. 14, all the members of the legislature were sworn into office. As I read the words of the Oath of Office, I could not help but to reflect on what they stand for and to remember what we, individually and as a body, are there for.

“I do hereby solemnly swear or affirm that I will support the Constitution of this State and of the United States and, on all questions and measures which may come before me, I will so conduct myself, as will, in my judgment, be most conductive to the interest and prosperity of this state…”

There were more words about being legally eligible to hold office and to be qualified to serve, but these are the words I will remember most.

I give you my every assurance that the decisions made on behalf of our district and the great state of Georgia will be done with care. There will be many tasks and decisions before us this session, some of which will be difficult. I will follow the Constitution of Georgia and the United States (both of which I have read), and make judgments only after careful consideration and based on what is in the best interest of Georgia.

When you are a candidate and elected official, you are often asked to make pledges and to sign pledges to various organizations and issues. My “pledge” is made to you when I take the oath of office. I welcome constituent input and together with my best judgment I will endeavor to make choices based on what is best for our district and Georgia.

We immediately went to work and selected the presiding officers of the House, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) was re-elected, as was Speaker Pro-Tem, Jan Jones (R-Milton) and other House officers.

On Thursday, Jan. 17, the House and Senate convened in the House chamber for a joint session to hear Gov. Nathan Deal give the State of the State Address. This annual speech before the legislature, judiciary, special guests and the public gives the governor the opportunity to convey his or her assessment of the condition of our state government and its people. It usually contains a strong emphasis on the state budget, but this year Deal also chose to focus specifically on economic development, public safety, and education as priorities in his remarks to the General Assembly.

Concerning economic development, Deal said there are increased job opportunities, revenue growth, and the expanding prestige of the state in the international market. This positive news came on the heels of tax and regulation reforms passed by the House during last year’s legislative session, which have made the state more attractive to job creators. As a result of those reforms, which we hope to continue this year, Georgia has been ranked in the top five for business climate by Site Selection Magazine.

For public safety, Deal plans to emphasize community-based, non-confinement correctional methods for low-risk offenders. The governor also said he will propose legislation to minimize the number of annual boating fatalities by decreasing the legal blood alcohol level permitted while driving a boat and placing age limits and educational requirements on young boat operators.

Deal also addressed education, noting that although most state agencies have seen an average three-percent budget cut, K-12 education will be awarded $156 million in additional funding for enrollment growth in K-12 schools. While this additional funding is needed for schools, it will not solve all issues facing our state’s education system. For this reason, the governor is working with the General Assembly to modernize the way the state spends in this area, which will result in more students graduating and finding a job.

In addition to starting session and hearing the State of the State, my colleagues and I received our committee and office assignments for the 2013 Legislative Session. Each state representative is assigned to a committee by the Committee on Assignments. I will be returning to the serve on the Insurance Committee and to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, where I will now serve as the vice chair. Additionally, I have been assigned to the Agriculture and Governmental Affairs (as secretary) Committees and finally to Appropriation Committee – Health Sub-committee. In addition to these committee assignments, I was honored to be appointed as one of the legislative whips by House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey.

My Capitol office address is: 18 Capitol Square, Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Suite 501, Atlanta, GA 30334. Please stop by and visit if you are in Atlanta during the legislative session. I’d love to see you and hear any questions or concerns you may have about issues facing our state. You can also call my capitol office at (404) 656-0177 or email me at darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville, is the representative for State House District 173, which includes portions of Decatur County, Grady County and Thomas County. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, is the representative for State House District 171, which includes portions of Decatur County, Colquitt County and Mitchell County.

Editor's Picks