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State Rep. Jon Burns: General Assembly begins with election of speaker

On Monday, January 11, 2010 we began the second session of the 150th General Assembly.  As our first order of business, the House quickly began the process of electing a new Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro Tempore, the two highest ranking positions in the Georgia House of Representatives.  After hearing the candidates, the House of Representatives elected David Ralston as House Speaker and Jan Jones as the new House Speaker Pro Tem. 
During his acceptance speech, Speaker Ralston discussed the tough challenges that we face as a state.  While we face many serious challenges, the new Speaker stated that we should view the issues we face as opportunities and as a chance to make significant changes to better our state.
Representative Jan Jones became the highest ranking woman in the history of the Georgia General Assembly.  Speaker Pro Tem Jones spoke of her commitment to all Georgians, and said hard work was needed to help us through these difficult times.  I was proud and privileged to nominate Rep Jones, a good friend, for Speaker Pro Tem.  She will do an outstanding job for our state.
On Wednesday, Governor Perdue issued his final State of the State address to the General Assembly in the House Chamber.   In the final year of his last terms as governor, his speech was surprisingly different from years past.  Typically, the governor addresses the budget and his legislative agenda for the session in this address.  To everyone’s surprise, Governor Perdue did not release his recommendations for the upcoming budget, as he has done in previous years.  He acknowledged the struggles that the state is facing in regard to the budget, but did not speak of any specifics.  The Governor also acknowledged the challenges the state of Georgia and lawmakers are approaching, with the budget crisis being one of the worst the state has ever experienced.  Perdue offered words of encouragement to the legislators then went through somewhat of a history lesson as he described our past as a nation, the challenges we have faced through the years and those that are still to come. 
As I have told my constituents before, we have a daunting task as we balance the budget for the state of Georgia.  We are fortunate that a balanced budget means that as a state we will not go into debt to fund our expenses; however, it also means that services and programs will have to be cut.  The decisions and the choices will be tough, and budget cuts are never easy.  The burden is heavy and unfortunately, we must all carry the load.  As legislators, we have pledged to try not to raise taxes on the citizens of Georgia therefore we must meet the challenge of fiscal responsibility through these cuts.  This means that departments and agencies will be required to tighten their belts and reduce their budget as we focus on the essentials. 
Next week we will not be in legislative session; however, there will be activity at the Capitol as budget hearings will take place daily.  The Governor did release recommendations for how and where the revenue for the state will be spent, but the House and Senate also have input and influence before the budget is approved.  Part of the budget process will include budget hearings and requests as each state agency and department outlay their current funding requests.  The members on the Subcommittees of Appropriations will sort through each budget and try to determine what is essential and where cuts could possibly be made within each department.  Our economy will recover, but it will take time.  We must be patient with the legislative process and vigilant in exercising fiscal responsibility as we move forward. I will keep you informed as we proceed during this legislative session.
You are welcome to contact me at my office at 404-656-5105 or at jon.burns@house.ga.gov.  Your concerns matter to me.