Cowsert: State Senate Reconvenes in the People’s Building

This week, the Senate convened for its first day of the 2015 legislative session, and the newly elected senators were sworn in for our two-year term of office. I paid special attention as my colleagues reminded me why I was there.

From his position on the podium as President of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle asked us to remember – and to respect – the history of the people’s building under this shining gold dome. For generations, the Lieutenant Governor pointed out, citizen legislators have briefly put aside their careers and traveled from across the state to meet in Atlanta and represent the people who sent us here.

The Capitol is a special building. It reminds each of us that what we do while we are here will have implications for years to come. Pointing to the walls, Lt. Gov. Cagle explained that the heated and air-conditioned building once used large fireplaces to keep the chamber warm. The large chandelier that hangs over the Senate floor once was lowered daily to light the candles. The desks, now retrofitted to hold microphones, instead once had ink wells where senators would dip their pens before signing a bill. Through all these changes, however, Georgia senators have always been entrusted to pass legislation that would benefit the citizens and move our state forward.

This session, I was elected by my peers to serve as the new Senate Majority Leader. In my new position, I pledge not to let down my predecessors and do my part to address the challenges that we face as a state in such a way as to leave Georgia a better place for future generations.

One of the first procedures we undertake in the General Assembly is to assign legislators to various committees. Each Senator is assigned to a minimum of four committees. As Majority Leader, I do not serve as chair of any committee, but I do sit on several. This session, I will be a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Health and Human Services Committee, the Regulated Industries Committee, and the Finance Committee. The Majority Leader also keeps a seat on the Rules Committee, which chooses the bills that come to a vote and sets the legislative agenda.

On Appropriations, I will continue the work of my predecessors: employing fiscal conservatism as we balance the budget while providing the most necessary government services that help people, businesses, schools and organizations prosper.

My votes on Health and Human Services will help advance several initiatives this session that deal with our state’s most prized assets, our children. In the coming weeks, I will outline a plan to help all children prosper and grow into hard working Georgians.

The Finance Committee deals with tax laws and policies in a way that ensures fair tax collections in the smallest amounts needed to run a state. Fortunately for Georgia, our state consistently ranks at the lowest or near lowest in tax collections per resident. In that tradition, I will work towards an even fairer and lower tax burden by helping to reduce the income tax and avoid creating any new special-interest tax breaks.

Finally, please look for some excellent bills from the Judiciary Committee, where we will work with Gov. Nathan Deal and his ongoing initiative to reform our criminal justice system. Thanks to the Governor, Georgia has become, and will continue to be, an example for all states on the rehabilitation of criminals and a guiding example on how they can be reintroduced into our society – not as people to be shunned, but as productive Georgians.

Through the next 40 legislative days, I hope all Georgians join me in pursuing one goal. Whether you drive a school bus or run a Fortune 500 company, whether you pull a plow or heal the sick, I hope we can all strive to live by our state motto: “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.”

About the author

Bill Cowsert

Sen. Bill Cowsert serves as Senate Majority Leader of the Georgia State Senate. He represents the 46th Senate District, which includes Oconee County and portions of Clarke and Walton counties. He may be reached by phone at (404) 651-7738 or via email at bill.cowsert@senate.ga.gov.