Georgia lawmakers begin General Assembly session in Atlanta - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Georgia lawmakers begin General Assembly session


The morning began with hugs and photos, but lawmakers knew the tone of the General Assembly will become less cordial as they get down to business over the next 40 days.

House and Senate members took their oaths of office Monday morning to begin the 2013-2014 legislative session. Among the freshmen was Effingham County's Bill Hitchens. Hitchens, the retired commander of the Georgia State Patrol and Georgia's first director of Homeland Security, said state capital was already familiar ground.

"This is a second home, I've spent so much of my time up here. I'm comfortable already with this," he explained. "It will be a different perspective for me but I know how things work and I'm excited to be a part of it from the other side."

The session could be an interesting session for freshmen and veterans alike. Gov. Nathan Deal has already asked the legislature to find more areas to cut from the upcoming budget. At the same time, a fight brews between the State of Georgia and Washington over the federal government's healthcare program.

"There will be lots of healthcare issues debated this time," explained Rep. Ben Watson of Chatham County. "With Obamacare, the Affordable Health Care Act, that is already law and we must decide how we'll react."

"It's coming down from Washington and that's not going to change," countered Rep. Al Williams of Liberty County. "We can spend lots of money and time fighting it and end up with them dictating how it's going to be rather than working with them and being able to set some parts of it ourselves."

Senate members wasted little time on ceremony Monday and began one debate quickly. A Republican majority voted to reinstate some procedural powers back to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle that another Republican faction took from him. 

Georgia lawmakers have 40 days to establish a budget and enact any laws during 2013. With breaks for hearings and conferences in Atlanta and back in their districts, the legislature traditionally concludes in mid spring.

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