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Legislative delegation hears from county officials

Posted: January 9, 2013 - 1:00am
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Sen. Bill Jackson (back, left) and Rep. Tom McCall field questions from the school board during a meeting between the legislative delegation and the school board.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Sen. Bill Jackson (back, left) and Rep. Tom McCall field questions from the school board during a meeting between the legislative delegation and the school board.

Before Columbia County’s legislative delegation could get to work Monday morning, they had to set a few ground rules. That applied especially to one of the new members of the delegation, State Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton.

“I’ve been (in the Georgia Legislature) for 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve been in a delegation,” said McCall, whose previous district layout made him the sole representative in his counties.

Columbia County’s six-member delegation, which also now includes state Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, re-elected state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, as chairman and newly elected state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, as secretary.

McCall gave other members a cue for dealing with local issues from the counties that make up the lawmakers’ districts.

When handling local legislation, brought by county commissioners or city councils, he requires those bodies to first vote unanimously.

“If they can’t convince four people, how are we going to convince 91 (a House majority)?” McCall asked.

The rest of the delegation agreed, and intend to file such rules with the House and Senate when the state’s legislative session begins Jan. 14. Other members of the delegation are state Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, and state Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta.

Columbia County commissioners had no dissent in issues, including asking the lawmakers to avoid sending unfunded mandates to local counties and helping keep an eye on transportation spending.

They also asked lawmakers to look out for the county in cases where health care providers seek certificates of need for new facilities, such as those recently requested for emergency care facilities in Columbia County by Doctors Hospital and University Hospital.

“We really need something like that in Columbia County,” said Commission Chairman Ron Cross. “We almost need two.”

When Columbia County school officials met with state legislators, they expressed concerns about funding and asked for more flexibility with spending education sales tax.

Schools Superintendent Charles Nagle fears that local budgets next year will have to come up with $1.5 million to pay for additional state mandated costs for non-certified staff, such as custodians.

County schools lost nearly 70 paraprofessionals in the 2012-2013 school year to make up for previous increases, primarily in health insurance requirements from the state.

Nagle said he anticipates adding just four teaching positions next year, even though the county’s growing school population normally would call for adding about 20 educators.

School officials also asked for greater flexibility with the 1 percent education sales tax, or E-SPLOST.

“I’ve always thought that if times get tough we ought to give a little flexibility with the E-SPLOST,” agreed state Rep. Barry Fleming.

Officials from the county’s two cities also spent time with the delegation Monday, primarily bringing them up to speed on development issues.

Grovetown Mayor George James asked lawmakers to keep a close eye on spending for the tranportation sales tax, particularly when the city is counting on the money to help ease traffic flow to Fort Gordon’s Gate 2.

Harlem officials explained plans to create a walking trail along a creek through the city. The $180,000 project would create walking trails along Sandy Run Creek on city-owned property.

“It would be a fairly easy thing for us to do,” Mayor Bobby Culpepper said. “This is a project we feel like the citizens of Harlem will really take hold of.”

Officials from both cities expressed support for the proposed Downtown Renaissance Act, which could help revitalize downtown areas in smaller communities.

Staff writers Valerie Rowell and Jenna Martin contributed to this story.

CONTACT YOUR LAWMAKER

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Barry Fleming

R-Harlem

District 121

barry.fleming@house.ga.gov

Capitol Address

Coverdell Legislative Office Building

Atlanta, GA 30334

District Address

P.O. Box 2208

Evans, GA 30809

(706) 434-8770

Barbara Sims

R-Augusta

District 119

barbara.sims@house.ga.gov

Capitol Address

508 Coverdell Legislative Office Building

Atlanta, GA 30334

(404) 656-0213

District Address

10 Retreat Road,

Augusta, GA 30909

Ben Harbin

R-Evans

District 118

ben.harbin@house.ga.gov

Capitol Address

614 Coverdell Legislative Office Building

Atlanta, GA 30334

(404) 656.3949

District Address

4571-A Cox Road

Evans, GA 30809

(706) 869.1953

Tom McCall

R-Elberton

District 30

tommcall@comcast.net

Capitol Address

228 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334

(404) 656- 5099

District Address

2835 Washington Highway Elberton, GA 30635

STATE SENATE

Bill Jackson

R-Appling

District 24

bill.jackson@senate.ga.gov

Capitol Office

109 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334

(404) 651-7738

District Address

P.O. Box 528

Appling, GA 30802

(706) 863-5818

Jesse Stone

R-Waynesboro

District 23

jesse.stone@senate.ga.gov

Capitol Office

320-B Coverdell Legislative Office Building

Atlanta, GA 30334

(404) 463-1314

District Office

642 Liberty Street

Waynesboro, GA 30830

(478) 237-7029

  • Comment

Comments (4)

Little Lamb

What?

From the story:

Grovetown Mayor George James asked lawmakers to keep a close eye on spending for the tranportation sales tax. . . .

Does Mayor James know how the system works? It is the citizens who are paying the tax. It is state bureaucrats who gather in the tax and then distribute it back to these new-fangled regional commissions (un-elected, of course), who spend some of the money and who distribute non-designated funds to county commissions and cities to fritter away as they see fit.

Lawmakers have no role in keeping close eyes on transportation sales tax spending.

Barry Paschal

He knows how it works

The Grovetown mayor knows how it works. All the locals are worried that the Legislature - with pressure from communities that didn't pass the T-SPLOST and who now have to come up with 30 percent local matching funds for DOT projects, instead of 10 percent for communities that passed it - will monkey around with the formulas or try to send T-SPLOST money elsewhere. All the lawmakers are on high alert for it.

Little Lamb

Oh

Yes, I suspected that the nine regions who said, “No,” to the TSPLOST would like to have the legislature pass a new law making the DOT penalty for thumbsdowners go the way of the dodo bird.

I wonder if James was thinking that state employee accountants in the DOT would cook the books and let the nine regions who voted NO get by with the 10% formula even if the law were not to be changed? In any case, I still say James is off base in expecting part-time legislators to be able to keep their eyes on which DOT projects are being funded according to the formulae and which ones are not.

Barry Paschal

What he expects

I think mainly what he expects is our delegation, and lawmakers from the other delegations in the areas that passed the T-SPLOST, to keep an eye out for legislative manipulation from the lawmakers from the delegations that didn't.

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