The leader of Columbia County's legislative delegation believes it's time for the county to step forward in the region.
"We aren't second to anyone anymore, not in influence or ability," said state Rep. Ben Harbin. "I think it is time we stood up and made our presence known a little more aggressively."
Harbin joined state Rep. Bill Jackson and Sens. Joey Brush and Don Cheeks at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's Annual Legislative Breakfast last week, covering topics that will be at the forefront of the 2002 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
One likely battle will be over budget restraints created by the economic downturn. "It'll be a lot different than what we've done for years," Brush said of the budget.
In recent years, legislators have had a budget surplus to work with. Not this year.
"We'll have to be fiscally prudent and responsible," Harbin said.
Besides the budget, Harbin hopes to see a battle on the state's insurance premium tax. The potential loss of AFLAC - which moved its corporate address to take advantage of Nebraska's lower tax - should tell legislators something.
"It's an issue that's here to stay," he said.
Cheeks predicted a pay raise for teachers.
"You better believe teachers are going to get a raise this year," he said. "It's an election year."
And he said Georgians should expect to see more redistricting talk come January.
"When you have to have a boat or go into another state to get to your district, it's wrong," he said.
Jackson - who told the audience he's in his last term in the House of Representatives - also expects to hear about redistricting.
"The egos outran good judgment everywhere," he said.
Jackson said he also hopes someone looks at re-regulating the state's gas suppliers.
"A great mistake was made," he said. "We need to put some kind of controls back in place."
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