Legislators meet and greet
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
The Morgan County Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee hosted a “Legislative Update” Monday during which Representative Doug Holt (District 112), Representative Bob Smith (District 113), and state Senator Johnny Grant provided overviews of the spring legislative session as well as some upcoming issues.
Holt, known for his reading of every bill that comes through the state House of Representatives, admitted to reading no fewer than 464 bills during the last legislative session.
Holt thought Morgan County residents would be particularly interested in his efforts to prevent a future recurrence of the Old Buckhead Road LLC ruling. In late 2006, a regional court overturned a county commission ruling preventing a rezoning on Old Buckhead Road; the state Supreme Court later declined to hear the county’s appeal.
“It turns out that [a relevant] precedent may have been ignored,” in the ruling overturning the county decision, said Holt. “Had [the precedent] been observed, the county may have been upheld.”
Holt spent considerable time last year successfully adding the review of the relevant precedent to the judicial education program for state judges, in the hopes that future cases can benefit from the review of the precedent.
Holt also referenced House Bill 1019—which sets up a revolving, low-interest loan fund for transportation projects—and House Bill 130—which allows Georgia residents to put a “freeze” on their credit accounts when combating theft—as issues of interest to area voters.
Bob Smith talked about the recent fracas between the Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta and the “real Buckhead” in eastern Morgan County.
“Some people in Atlanta drink too much of that Chattahoochee water,” said Smith. “They forget that there is a real Buckhead…they still want your name, but they’re never going to get it.”
Smith also shared an idea he has for a new group called an EIT Board, for Emerging Innovative Technologies.
“This may be two years, three years, five years down the road,” said Smith. But he envisions a group of about 40 people, including young people, who brainstorm and implement creative solutions to problems as diverse as breast cancer and the energy crisis.
“We’ve got to think outside the box,” said Smith.
Senator Johnny Grant talked about more sobering subjects, including the state’s projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall.
“We’re not going to be able to spend [that money], because we don’t have it,” said Grant.
Grant talked about the possibility of closing a 1,000-bed state prison, a freeze on hiring at the state, and a six-percent budget cut for all departments except education (which cuts two percent) as cost-saving measures.
Madison City Council member Michael Naples decried the austerity cuts in education that have come down from the state in recent years.
“You guys are going to have to be tough,” he said to the three representatives present. “It seems to me that there is a reluctance to raise taxes, but there are some things that are sacrosanct, and education, to me, is one of those things,” said Naples.
Grant pointed out that more than half of the state budget goes to education. “I don’t think we’re neglecting education,” said Grant.