Fifty-four legislators were greeted to their new seats in the Georgia General Assembly during the Biennial Institute, a conference held at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center Sunday through Tuesday for legislative information sessions.

State Representatives Regina Quick(R-117) and Spencer Frye (D-118) received welcoming applause while being introduced by State House Speaker David Ralston.

Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, said she believed fully in the ability of the gathered legislators to solve the “complex public policy issues of today.”

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) delivered a keynote speech to the Georgia General Assembly members, addressing the many issues needing resolve and how it is “crucial for strong leadership” to take to the helm.

“We have a lot on our plate,” Chambliss said.

Fiscal cliff fears run high, with many wondering what is to come in the next few months. Chambliss said that resolution will result from both sides coming to the table.

“It’s incumbent that we have debate,” he said. “I would encourage both sides to engage in serious debate.”

In his predictions of how the next few months will shape up in terms of legislation passed, Chambliss said he believes “the president’s probably going to get his way.”

The senator listed three problems that need solutions in the coming years. The first, “spending way too much money in Washington,” received steady applause from the Georgia legislators. The second and third were entitlement and tax reform, respectively.

Looking at last year, Chambliss drew attention to federal spending being 25 percent relative to GDP, with revenues being nearly 15 percent relative to GDP. The result is a $1 trillion annual budget deficit.

“I don’t need to tell you how unsustainable that is,” Chambliss said.

In November, Chambliss said he would remove himself from the Grover Norquist Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a legislator-signed agreement to not raise taxes. Chambliss said it was not him wanting to raise taxes but instead wanting to pay down the national debt.

“I’m not going to have some lobbyist in Washington tell me ‘here’s the way you’re going to do it,'” he said.

Turning to the issues facing the gathered members of the Georgia General Assembly, Chambliss said that “the No. 1 issue you’re going to be impacted with is Medicaid.”

With several key matters coming to a head, Chambliss said that it is the responsibility of this generation to prevent the United States from slipping from their economic leader status.

“I assure you that [Sen. Johnny Isakson and I] are going to do everything we can,” he said, “to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The conference continues on Monday and Tuesday, with plenary sessions, open to the public, throughout the day on several different public policy aspects.