Leaders lay out priorities for 2011 during breakfast

ATLANTA --- Gov. Nathan Deal, House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov Casey Cagle elaborated on their priorities for the 2011 legislative session during the annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast on Tuesday, held by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Deal underscored the state's commitment to economic growth and announced a plan that included creating a "competitiveness initiative," five statewide education advisory councils and a water supply development program.

He said education is key to Georgia's future and is a priority in this year's budget, especially the state's troubled HOPE Scholarship.

"We have to make sure we keep HOPE alive and well and functioning in the future," he said. "We cannot allow it to be significantly diminished."

The education advisory councils will have 13 members each, consisting of parents, teachers, principals, local school superintendents and local school board members.

Lawmakers will also concentrate on getting ahead of the 2012 deadline set by a federal judge to address the tri-state water crisis. Deal signed an executive order Tuesday directing the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to develop and launch the Georgia Water Supply Development Program, which will help local governments develop new sources of water supply.

He said he is negotiating with the new governors of Florida and Alabama to resolve the gridlock.

"It's important for the state of Georgia to show good faith," Deal said. "We cannot wait on Washington."

The Georgia Competitiveness Initiative is aimed at strategies for regional, national and global ideas and will partner public officials with the business community.

Ralston and Cagle also weighed in on major challenges facing the state, including immigration reform.

Both men said a lack of action on the federal level on immigration reform has forced states to resolve the issue, but that it should not be a burden to employers.

"I believe the rule of law is important, but over-regulation on businesses would just not be right and we're not going to see it happen this session," Cagle said.

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