Columbia Countians get their chance to address local politicians before they head into the 2003 session of the General Assembly.
The Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce Pre-legislative Breakfast will take place at 7:30 a.m. Monday at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. The breakfast is a pre-cursor to the Legislative Delegation meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Probate Hearing Room of the Columbia County Justice Center in Evans.
According to state Rep. Ben Harbin, the local delegation chairman, the breakfast is an excellent way to gauge what is important to his constituents.
"(Other legislators and I) always joke that this is our chance to go and tell people what we hope to get done and then we come back later and tell them why we couldn't get it done," Harbin said. "Seriously though, it puts us on the spot. We say up-front what we're hoping to accomplish and then we go out there and try to accomplish it. It makes us want to come through for them.
"It also helps us to find out what's really important to (our constituents). Sometimes, it makes us change our priorities a little."
State Sens. Joey Brush and Don Cheeks, and Reps. Barry Fleming and Harbin are expected to be in attendance at the breakfast. Each will give a brief speech addressing their priorities for the upcoming session and then field questions from the audience.
"We talk about issues that we are going to face and how we intend to handle them," Harbin said. "It allows us to tell the business community and Columbia County citizens what our intentions are."
At Tuesday's Legislative Delegation meeting, legislators will meet with representatives from Columbia County government entities such as the school board and sheriff's office to discuss issues important to them.
"Our (legislative) sessions last for 40 days each year and then that's it," Harbin said. "The reason we have these meetings is to set our priorities and try to accomplish as much as we can during that limited time."
Issues that Harbin expects will be important for the upcoming session are tort reform, stemming slowly escalating insurance costs, the budget shortfall, government incentives to attract industries to Columbia County and obtaining funding to build a technical school within the county's borders.
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