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Views on 2008 General Assembly session vary

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POSTED: January 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Gov. Sonny Perdue and other Georgia officials traveled the state last week to announce a lofty set of goals for the 2008 legislative session, but local state Rep. Al Williams said he’s preparing for a session “long on talk and short on substance.”
Perdue, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons) Wednesday, said leaders of the respective state branches are “unified on the issues of education, water, transportation and healthcare” and will work cooperatively to improve these areas.
“This year, we plan to give Georgians what they expect; sensible and effective legislation that will continue our progress in improving education, establish plans to protect our water resources, improve Georgia’s transportation system and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges,” the governor said.
The three GOP officials said implementing programs to help increase Georgia’s high school graduation rate, creating new ways to ensure affordable healthcare for residents and making internal changes at the Georgia Departments of Transportation were key for the state’s future.
However, a clear plan on how legislators will go about attaining these goals was not stated, which Williams (D-Midway) warned could be an early sign of “election year talk” that will end in bickering and with little being accomplished.
“It’s an election year and there’ll be a lot of rhetoric, but I don’t know how much work we’ll get done,” Williams said, adding he is not convinced divisions that flared up between the executive and legislative branches last year have diminished. “I hope we do a little less fighting and a little more legislating this year.”
The lawmaker said concern over the state’s water resources is one issue members of the general assembly could rally around.
“It’s been a long time coming, but I think more and more people are starting to realize that water is a critical issue in Georgia,” Williams said. “I don’t think we’ve come to a real workable solution yet and we’re beginning to work on it a little late, but we’re all paying attention to it now and something’s going to be done.”
Williams, who heads the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, is also hoping legislators will come together on his proposed resolution calling on Georgia to issue an official apology for slavery.
The representative has been floating the resolution amongst General Assembly members since last spring, but despite gaining the backing of Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) and Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta), has yet to garner the support needed for passage in the Legislature.
And if the resolution is not approved this year, Williams implied he would be in it for the long haul to see a slavery apology passed in Georgia.
“You just have to keep trudging along, trying to convince people, trying to work something out,” he said. “It took 18 years to get Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s birthday recognized.”
 

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