Originally created 01/09/01

Legislators take oath of office



ATLANTA - Amid calls for bipartisanship and mutual respect, members of the Georgia General Assembly convened at the Capitol on Monday for the 2001 legislative session.

After taking the oath of office, the 56 senators heard Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor pledge to work with lawmakers from both parties to enact an agenda in the best interests of all Georgians. In the House, newly re-elected Speaker Tom Murphy urged the 180 representatives to set aside their partisan differences and treat one another fairly and honestly.

"The common sense view of most Georgians is that it's fair to fight a hard campaign," said Mr. Taylor, a Democrat, in his opening address as presiding officer of the Senate. "But when the election season is over and the dust has settled, the focus turns to working together to make sensible decisions."

Not much has changed in the political dynamics of the Legislature in the wake of last year's hard-fought elections. Although the Republican minority gained two seats in the Senate, majority Democrats picked up two seats in the House.

Still, there's the usual crop of freshman lawmakers, six in the Senate and 20 in the House. Mr. Murphy, D-Bremen, had some advice for those newcomers.

"Your future in this institution will really depend on how you conduct yourself while you're here," he said. "If you're honorable to your members ... they will give you the respect that you are due and expect. If you're dishonest with them, you will be ostracized."

Although Monday's swearing-in ceremony was particularly exciting for the freshman legislators, they also are entering the General Assembly focused on the business that lies ahead for the remaining 39 days of the session.

Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta, who defeated veteran Republican Robin Williams in last summer's primary to win the 114th District seat, landed a seat on the House Transportation Committee, where she hopes to push for completion of the Fall Line Freeway and Savannah River Parkway.

"I know that will be, in a sense, borrowing money," she said. "But (in the) long run, the economic development road construction, when completed, will bring in will offset that."

With Democrats still in solid control of the House, Mr. Murphy was re-elected to his 14th term as speaker. He defeated the Republican nominee for the top leadership post, House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland, R-Sharpsburg, 104-74.

By an almost identical margin, 105-73, longtime Democratic Rep. Jack Connell of Augusta was re-elected speaker pro tempore, a position he has held for 24 years.

Mr. Connell brought several members of his family with him to accept the accolades of his House colleagues. Sharing the lectern with the 30-year veteran lawmaker were his wife, Nan; daughter, Andrea Collier; son-in-law, Tilden Collier; and 2-year-old granddaughter, Banks Collier.

Later Monday, Gov. Roy Barnes kicked off the yearlong celebration of the 250th anniversary of representative government in Georgia by addressing a joint session of the House and Senate.

Atlanta-based British Consul-General Peter Marshall presented the governor a copy of the minutes of the first representative assembly meeting in Georgia, held in Savannah on Jan. 15, 1751, when Georgia still was an English colony.

Reach Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424.