ATLANTA - There were no eggs, but state leaders certainly discussed a lot of issues during the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative preview breakfast Wednesday morning. The organization decided to make the event virtual because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston all participated. The Georgia Chamber also expanded this year's event to include newly-elected Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Georgia, House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, Legislative Black Caucus Chair and State Sen. Tonya Anderson and newly-elected lawmakers State Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford and Rep. Will Wade, R-Dawsonville.
The governor spent most of his remarks reflecting on the past year and the state's handling of COVID-19.
"I faced quite a lot of criticism from all sides when I chose to begin Georgia's measured reopening, informed by the expert advice of Dr. [Kathleen] Toomey," Kemp said. "But while the media was busy amplifying the voices of critics, my focus remained on the hardworking Georgians who had spent years building their businesses and who were terrified--days away from losing everything. I knew we had to give these businesses a fighting change and I'm certainly glad that we did."
Kemp revealed that his 2022 budget proposal includes $1 million for tourism marketing to try to rebuild the state's hospitality industry. He said the pandemic has also highlighted the need for access to broadband in rural Georgia.
"We will also include substantial investments to build out the necessary infrastructure to ensure that Georgians have access to high-speed internet, no matter their zip code," Gov. Kemp explained.
Duncan said he plans to continue his work to make Georgia the technology capitol of the east coast and to try to draw high-paying jobs into the state.
Ralston said his priorities include passing a balanced budget, improving mental healthcare and restoring confidence in Georgia's election system.
"Many Georgians are concerned about the integrity of our election system. Some of those concerns may or may not be well-founded, but there may be others that are," Ralston said.
Beverly, however, said it is important for lawmakers not to spend too much time and effort on that issue.
"Yes, that's their priority, but I would caution them seriously," said Beverly. "Let's step back for a second. Let's deal with the facts--not the fraud issue--but the facts. Let's change, maybe tweak a couple rules, but we shouldn't be spending that much time on that issue when you've people really suffering right now who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own."
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