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January 9, 2017   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Lawmakers prepared for current legislative session…
Magnify Deal, Nathan Institute of Government’s 30th Biennial Institute-v
Gov. Nathan Deal

Lawmakers prepared for current legislative session at 30th Biennial Institute

Roger Nielsen

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By Roger Nielsen | January 9, 2017
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Georgia General Assembly members delved into critical state issues at the 30th Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, coordinated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to help lawmakers prepare for the 2017 legislative session.

The Biennial Institute, held Dec. 4-6 at UGA, concluded with Gov. Nathan Deal urging ­legislators to continue the programs that have made Georgia a national leader in job creation and economic vitality.

Georgia's economy is among the country's most robust because of infrastructure improvements the General Assembly supported, Deal told legislators at the Biennial Institute's closing luncheon at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

"While much of the nation is seeing an economic slowdown, Georgia is moving forward," Deal said.

Almost all of the state's 56 senators and 180 representatives attended the Biennial Institute, including nearly three dozen who begin their first terms as the 2017 legislative session convenes today. The Biennial Institute offered these freshman 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 Biennial Institute also provided a unique introduction to state government and budget process specifically for freshman legislators.

The Biennial Institute came to order the afternoon of Dec. 4 with welcoming remarks by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Speaker of the House David Ralston, UGA President Jere W. Morehead and Institute of Government Director Laura Meadows. Former Air Force chief of staff Mark A. Welsh III, now dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, delivered an inspirational keynote address on the importance of working on behalf of all citizens.

Over the subsequent two days, the Biennial sessions explored a diverse set of state priorities, including financing public education, transportation infrastructure needs and improving Georgians' lives through health care technology. Legislators attended a number of instructive policy sessions featuring panels of state agency executives, legislative committee chairs and experts from industry, business and higher education.

Additional speakers included University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve W. Wrigley and UGA political science professor Charles S. Bullock.

Bullock parsed the 2016 elections for lawmakers, and Wrigley described how the university system is increasing graduation rates while keeping enrollment costs in check. About 62,000 students graduated this year, up 14 percent from five years ago. Tuition remained unchanged, and the university system began offering free digital textbooks for many courses—saving students millions of dollars, he said.

Nearly 400 guests registered to attend this year's Biennial Institute. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a UGA public service and outreach unit, has coordinated the Biennial Institute since its inception in 1958. The Institute of Government works with the Georgia General Assembly to organize and assemble the resources and expertise needed for the informative Biennial presentations.

The Institute of Government provides customized assistance, applied research and professional development for government leaders and employees across Georgia and internationally.

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