December 16, 2014 | Spotlight

State Lawmakers Explore 2015 Legislative Agenda during 29th Biennial Institute

State Lawmakers Explore 2015 Legislative Agenda during 29th Biennial Institute

Writer: Roger Nielsen

Nearly 230 members of the Georgia General Assembly attended presentations covering economic development and other significant issues at the 29th Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, coordinated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to help prepare lawmakers for the next legislative cycle.

Governor Nathan Deal, state government agency heads, and legislative leaders addressed lawmakers at the Biennial Institute, held at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education on December 7-9. Since its inception in 1958, the Biennial Institute has been coordinated by the Institute of Government.

Deal helped set the tone for the 2015 legislative session with a luncheon speech describing how cooperation between the state's executive and legislative branches have contributed to Georgia's economic vitality. He also detailed Georgia's successes regarding criminal justice reform and outlined some specific policy initiatives he hopes the legislature will undertake during the 2015 session.

The Biennial Institute officially came to order the afternoon of December 7 with welcoming remarks from Speaker of the House David Ralston, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, UGA President Jere Morehead, and 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 3D world, delivered the keynote address regarding Georgia's digital innovations.

Over the subsequent two days, the Biennial sessions, moderated by Institute faculty, explored a diverse set of state priorities, including economic development and job creation, opportunities for growth in Georgia and abroad, and the roles transportation, education, and health care play in Georgia's vibrant economy.

Additional speakers included University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, UGA political science professor Charles Bullock, and Todd Henry, operations manager of Caterpillar Inc.

Almost all of the state's 56 senators and 180 representatives attended the Biennial Institute, including nearly two dozen who are starting their first terms. The Biennial offered these freshmen legislators the chance to network with their new colleagues and learn more about key matters they will face as they represent their constituents in Atlanta. The Institute also provided a unique introduction to state government and the budget process specifically for freshmen legislators.