Local state legislative delegation at the Country Club

At the State Legislative Luncheon at the Country Club yesterday, sponsored by the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce, I found it more interesting what the legislators didn’t mention than what they did.

Frequent attendees told me the audience was much larger than in previous years, and one attributed that to the recent school consolidation referendum. Sitting side by side were Chamber Chair Tom Gooding and FVCS President Sam Allen.

Jeff Hanson introduced the legislators. He’s the Chair of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Council (GAC). He said they are seeking more participants. Hm, they have an Energy and Environment Policy Committee that’s chaired by someone from Georgia Power….

Tim Golden announced that the local delegation’s highest priority was to get $32 million for a Health Science Center for VSU. VSU Interim President Dr. Levy was there, as was former president “Dr. Z” as Tim Golden called him.

I was just talking to someone from SGMC in the food line about how it would be nice if the Industrial Authority would promote healthcare industries more. It’s good that the legislators are doing that, although it’s not clear that there are not other things that should be even higher priority.

Tim Golden also wants to remove a sales tax on energy for manufacturing. He said they tried to do that to save textile plants, but didn’t get it passed, and those plants are all gone now. He noted that Ellis Black is on the House tax committee.

I found it a bit dubious that they could have competed with China anyway. Seems to me that getting rid of the so-called right to work laws would help more with keeping local industry. Not that the Chamber would support that, since the leaflet they handed out with GAC policy positions says the Chamber wants to strengthen those laws.

Tim Golden wants to promote Georgia timber and forest products, made in south Georgia. Who doesn’t?

He also mentioned he’d been in the legislature 22 years. That’s a long time!

He prominently mentioned Franklin Roosevelt. If he keeps talking like that, people might think he’s a Democrat….

Ellis Black talked about T-SPLOST. He said the state’s transportation infrastructure was in sad shape since money to support it had been lacking for the past 20+ years. He harked back to when Herman Talmadge got a sales tax passed that at least brought Georgia up to par with Alabama and Mississippi. But in recent years, many state legislators signed a pledge not to raise taxes, and there’s an association threatening to run primary challengers against anyone who does vote to raise taxes. So the legislature created the T-SPLOST idea to push the tax-raising decision off on the people.

Ironic, that the very people who voted for these no-tax legislators are being pushed to vote for a tax. A state-wide gas tax would do it better anyway than taxing old ladies buying prescriptions and the like. Speaking of irony, another newly-minted Republican praising a Democrat, Herman Talmadge.

Ellis Black also mentioned that one of the reasons for the T-SPLOST regions was so Atlanta could vote to raise money for public transportation instead of building more freeways. Also that counties around Lowndes are increasingly discontented with Lowndes bragging about SPLOST revenues that mostly come from shoppers from outside Lowndes County. See above about gas tax. Plus a gas tax would promote changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Now Ellis Black didn’t say it this way, but it sounds to me like he referred to a bunch of state legislators who value their oath to Grover Norquist the First more than they value their oath of office. Maybe the people of Georgia need to elect some representatives who will serve the people.

Amy Carter was pleased to announce that for the first fiscal full year in five years the state had positive monthly revenues for 2011. Plus that while five out of the eight AAA rated states are possibly facing downgrade, Georgia is one of the three that is not. However, federal stimulus funding has ended, and the feds are cutting state funding in other ways, for a shortfall of $1 billion, so the state has to deal with that, too, which they plan to do through a 2% budget cut.

She seemed to say Georgians were healthier. I hope so, so maybe the state can move up from the bottom on health.

Amy Carter is the governor’s legislative floor leader. She got that assignment in her third term, after she switched parties after being elected.

She mentioned that people can sign up for Lowndes County’s Bird Supper, which the VDT says has been held in Atlanta for over 50 years. The local legislative delegation gets other legislators to show up for supper so people from here can go talk to them. She said people could sign up at “that big building downtown”, or, as most of us call it, the county palace.

Jason Shaw, the only newly-elected legislator (and the only one who didn’t switch parties after he was elected), said he was focussing on regulation for copper theft, and admitted that not all regulation is bad.

At the end, Tim Golden received an award from Kyle Jackson on behalf of the National Federation of Independent Business.

So what didn’t they mention?

Jason Shaw mentioned unemployment, but not a word about HB 87 causing crops to rot in the ground due to scaring off migrant workers, while enriching CCA through its private prisons.

Not a word from any of the legislators about getting fast Internet access everywhere in Georgia, especially in rural south Georgia, to promote knowledge-based business. They seemed mostly fixated on 20th century solutions when we face 21st century problems and opportunities.

Not a word about renewable energy, even though the Chamber, to its credit, has an admirable paragraph about that at the end of the GAC policy statement:

    Energy & Environment Policy Position.
To ensure that our Energy and Environmntal needs are met, bolster our economy, and enhance our national security, the Chamber supports the development of a balanced, sustainable, reliable and affordable solution to our current and future energy and environmental needs.

After they all spoke, I gave each of the legislators a paper copy of the LAKE blog post A renewable energy transparency law that enabled an industry. They all politely accepted it; one even said he’d read it. (I also offered one to Saxby Chambliss’ aide, but she declined to accept it.)

We shall see whether they will help copy what NC did, or do something else proactive, to promote the world’s fastest growing industry right here in south Georgia, where there is plenty of sun for solar power.

See also Dawn Castro’s writeup in the VDT today, page 8A, which doesn’t seem to be online yet.

-jsq with notes by Gretchen.