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Deal focuses on self-reliance in tough times
His son, Jason, administers oath; daughter, Katie, sings
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Nathan Deal, now Georgia's 82nd governor, focused on self-reliance in tough budget times during his inaugural address.

"Today, as we embark on this journey to lead our state forward, I call on all Georgians to assume responsibility for themselves and their family," he said. "I call on communities and civic and religious organizations to continue and expand their efforts to serve the needs of people in their area. State government cannot and should not be expected to provide for us what we can provide for ourselves."

In an inaugural ceremony that started just before 2:30 p.m., Deal took the oath of office in the House chamber packed with lawmakers.

Deal's daughter Katie Wright sang "Georgia on My Mind" before the joint session was called to order, First Baptist Church Rev. Bill Coates gave the invocation, and Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal administered the oath of office to his father.

Before delivering his speech, the new governor administered the oath to the state's other constitutional officers, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black of Commerce.

In his speech, Deal said government is too large, and it regulates too much for this year's stringent budget.

"In times such as these, with more than one of every 10 of our employable citizens out of work, we must justify every cent that government extracts from our economy," he said. "Therefore, we must concentrate our attention and our resources on the core responsibilities of government."

Citing the Constitution, Deal noted that public safety is one of the state's primary responsibilities.

"College students should be concerned about their grades, not whether they are going to be mugged on their way home from class. Visitors to our cities should be treated as welcomed guests and protected," he said. "Families should not live in fear of gang violence and drive-by shootings, but most of all, our dedicated law enforcement officers must not be targets for criminals."

Deal also focused on education as a community effort, calling on residents to read to their children, cooperate with teachers and get involved in schools.

"Despite their best efforts and that of dedicated teachers and educators all across our state, our public education system in grades K-12 has failed to make the progress we need," he said. "This failure is a stain on our efforts to recruit businesses to our state and is a contributing factor in the frightening crime statistics previously mentioned. High dropout rates and low graduation percentages are incompatible with the future I envision for Georgia."

This includes the HOPE scholarship, which is facing a drastic financial strain and depleted reserve funds.

"I am dedicated to honoring the promise that has been made to our students through HOPE and will work with the General Assembly to tailor the program to the financial realities we face today," he said. "I was not elected to make easy decisions but difficult ones. In this legislative session we will save the HOPE for future generations."

Deal pointed to transportation and highway congestion as an ongoing deterrent to job growth.
"We will do our part to deepen the Savannah port in order to accommodate the larger vessels that will soon pass through the Panama Canal," he said. "But we must do more. Our rail capacity and cargo routes must be improved and expanded. We must not miss this opportunity to provide jobs for Georgians."

Deal put emphasis on the tri-state water wars, personal health care and job creation, promising he would do his part to help each area but encouraging residents to do their part as well.

"Let us refocus state government on its core responsibilities and relieve our taxpayers of the burden of unnecessary programs," he said. "Let us be frugal and wise. Let us restore the confidence of our citizens in a government that is limited and efficient."

Deal swore in the seven Republican constitutional officers, including Cagle, Black, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Attorney General Sam Olens, State School Superintendent John Barge, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, and Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

"Our lives are shaped by the people who makes investments in us," Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said, remembering a time when his pastor helped him attend football camp at age 15. "I've always said that the true mark of a great leader is one who leaves this place better then he found it. Let us rise up in a spirit of optimism."

Before Deal's speech, Mark Green, Gainesville's First Baptist Church minister of music, played the piano while Atlanta Opera soloist Timothy Miller sang Following his speech, Katie Wright's husband, Chris Wright, wrapped up the ceremony by singing "God Bless America" before Cagle closed the joint session.

The state Constitution requires that the General Assembly begin its business on the second Monday of January, so state patrol four-wheelers escorted legislators and their staff for the big day.

Originally planned for the Capitol steps, the event was shifted indoors and broadcast live on Georgia Public Television.

The morning prayer service at Mount Paran Church in Atlanta was canceled Sunday afternoon. The evening inaugural gala at Philips Arena will be postponed until spring.

No seating was available for the general public or ticket holders inside the Capitol. Those with tickets were able to watch at the Georgia Freight Depot.

"Today we celebrate a time-honored tradition. As we gather today, I know you share the excitement I have that even in these challenging times, Georgia has a bright, dynamic and vibrant future," said House Speaker David Ralston as he called the joint session to order. "I am excited, too, about this new beginning. (Nathan Deal) is one of the finest public servants I've ever known -- a man of integrity and good judgement."

Due to the inclement weather, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves was not able to attend the inauguration but issued a statement.

"On behalf of the 9th Congressional district, I extend my sincere congratulations to Gov.-elect Deal and his family on this happy occasion," he wrote. "During these challenging economic times, I believe Gov.-elect Deal has the knowledge and experience necessary to guide Georgia into an era of greater prosperity, and I very much look forward to working with him in the years ahead."


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