A few years ago, I read “Team of Rivals,” which documents Abraham Lincoln’s road to the White House and how he ultimately chose campaign rivals to serve in his presidential cabinet. He made friends with his political enemies, which is a rare trait much needed in today’s political arena.
More recently, I saw the movie “Lincoln,” which covered the challenges of passing the Constitutional amendment that abolished slavery. In both instances, I was impressed with Lincoln’s dedication to the Constitution, his unusual ability to see beyond himself and choose what was best for our country and his perseverance to make better the lives of those enslaved, setting our country apart as a true place of freedom.
I again thought about Lincoln when I recently listened to Dr. Michael Youssef, pastor of The Church of the Apostles, share a “chaplain of the day” message with the Senate. He pointed out that we can choose a Machiavellian-style of leadership, which means leading with force, deception, coercion, manipulation and even elimination of rivals in order to stay in power, or we can choose to lead as Jesus did by serving, encouraging and loving others. Lincoln was a servant leader. Personally, my hope is to serve like Jesus even though it is often difficult.
Our primary job as legislators is to create laws that our citizens are to live under. It jokingly has been said that the people are most in danger when the Legislature is in session. This year has been the slowest year for legislation being introduced in my memory, so the people should rest easy.
The only thing Georgia lawmakers are required to pass during a session is the budget. I wish the U.S. Senate, which hasn’t passed a budget in more than four years, was required to do the same.
Each year in Georgia, we actually pass two budgets. One budget is based on projections, and another addresses changes that may need to be made due to actual changes in revenue collections, student enrollment or the economy.
For fiscal year 2014, Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a $19.8 billion budget, which is a slight increase from last year’s budget. Our revenue-shortfall reserve, or “rainy-day” fund, stands at $378 million. This means that, in the case of an emergency, our state could continue operations for seven days. We are one of only seven states to maintain an AAA bond rating.
The following are a few additional bills passed this session:
• Senate Bill 24, also known as the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, authorizes the Department of Community Health to establish a financial structure to protect Georgia’s health-care system and obtain additional federal matching dollars for the state’s Medicaid program.
• SB 65 authorizes licensed professional counselors to perform emergency evaluations of individuals who are mentally ill or alcohol- or drug-dependent and to issue a certificate stating that such a person requires involuntary treatment. This is in response to those children who recently were killed by people with serious mental conditions that made them a danger to themselves and others.
• SB 117 provides amendments to the “Call Before You Dig” law, which was a collaborative effort between 18 different construction-related institutions and the result of more than 30 meetings. This is the first series of revisions since the original bill passed in 2005.
• House Resolution 4 is on the horizon and will be of particular interest to rural South Georgia districts. It proposes a settlement of the ongoing dispute between Georgia and Tennessee over a boundary issue that could allow Georgia to exercise riparian water rights to a portion of the Tennessee River. These water rights would alleviate North Georgia water shortages, leaving Southeast Georgia water supplies intact.
As I look forward at the rest of the session, I am focused on what I might do to make life better for the people in my district.
Williams represents the 19th District, which includes a portion of Liberty County. He can be reached by phone at 404-656-0089 or by email at email@example.com.