Georgia lawmakers pick '09 leaders in return to Capitol

The 2009 session of the Georgia General Assembly is under way.

Members have been sworn to office and leadership for the Republican dominated House and Senate has been chosen.

As expected, Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson remains Speaker of the House. But in a break with tradition, Democrats declined to put their own nomination in for speaker, avoiding what would have been a symbolic vote, since they don't have the numbers to elect a speaker.

Still, the move was meant as a symbol of unity during difficult times, said state Rep. DuBose Porter, a Dublin Democrat and House minority leader.

Newly elected state Rep. Bubber Epps, D-Jeffersonville, is here this morning, despite the very recent death of his mother. Richardson publicly thanked him for being here to "do what he was elected to do" and said Epps took the oath of office on a Bible that belonged to his mother.

Not much real work gets done on this first day of the session, which can last 40 legislative days stretched out over the next several months. Much of the day is built on ceremony and small honors. For example, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, was asked to second Richardson's nomination for speaker, which is one more sign that he has quickly become well thought of despite being in just his third year in the House.

Members are also being assigned committee work today and, in the coming days, will find out what issues they'll be focusing on this year.

Legislative work on the big ticket item -- the state budget -- will start later this week. Gov. Sonny Perdue is expected to announce the details of his budget recommendations Wednesday during his state-of-the-state address.