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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

His Excellency, Gov. Nathan Deal!

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 7:59 PM

First handshake of many to come
I'm writing this from the press box in the House chambers as Gov. Nathan Deal is speaking. With any luck, we'll both finish at the same time and I can get outa here.

The moment Deal began the annual State of the State address, a flak stepped in and handed everyone copies of his speech, which will be very helpful.

So far, he's compared Columbus, Magellan and the other "great explorers who looked to the night skies in their search for new lands" to the lawmakers seated in front of him, many of whom couldn't find their asses with both hands. No matter. That metaphor behind him, he launched into a recap of his accomplishments of the past year.

But the reason you're reading this is to find out what his plans are for this coming year, so I'll cut to the chase. Here are some of his talking points, as he's talking them:

• Deal says he wants to appropriate $146.6 million "to fully fund enrollment growth in our K-12 schools" and another $111.3 million for tech schools and state universities. Much applause.

• He pledges an extra $55.8 million in salary increases for teachers and no more cuts to QBE.

• He wants to add 10 days to the pre-K school year. Harried mothers everywhere rejoice.

• Deal aims to pour an additional $8.7 million into the state charter school program that was declared unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court last year. Obviously, that money can't be used unless the Republicans succeed in passing a constitutional amendment to restore the program.

• He announces Go Build Georgia, a public-private partnership that will focus on teaching young people useful trades or, as he puts, "abandoning the ivory tower model and adapting to meet the needs of business." Watch out, Women's Studies professors!

• He wants to reduce the traffic clusterfuck on Ga. 400 by adding "flex shoulders" in each direction — whatever those are.

• He'll set aside $46.7 million in bonds for the deepening of the Port of Savannah, on top of the $136 million already approved. I'm starting to think he's serious about this project. He also wants to spend $45.7 million on water supply projects.

• Deal is now making his case for criminal justice reform — a surprisingly progressive proposal that calls for the hiring of more parole officers; establish three new state substance abuse treatment centers; opening a new youth detention center; and create more "accountability courts," an umbrella term that includes DUI courts and the familiar drug courts. He wants to make Georgia "a place where low-level offenders are reclaimed and restored to society as functioning members of the community." Sounds good to me, but we've yet to see if the conservative, lock-'em-up crowd goes for it.

OK, after reminding us that he aims to make Georgia more competitive for businesses, Deal has left the podium. And, with that, I'm out!

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