ATLANTA -- Rep. Barry Fleming has been busy as a freshman legislator, already introducing his first bill and snagging a leadership post.
Fleming, the former chairman of the Columbia County Commission, won the seat last year to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives as a Republican. And within a week of getting sworn in, he won appointment as a deputy minority whip, a job in which he helps gain votes for Republican positions.
"He's already been a valuable asset to the caucus," said Rep. Jerry Keen, the chief minority whip from St. Simons Island.
Fleming also has introduced his own piece of legislation.
House Bill 479 would strengthen the local panels that investigate child deaths. The bill would make the local district attorney the local chairman who can convene county panels when there are no local chairmen. Several counties haven't had meetings in years, he said. The bill also would give any judge sitting on the state Child Fatality Panel the power to find people in contempt if they fail to cooperate with a local panel.
Fleming said Superior Court Judge Duncan Wheale of Augusta, who sits on the state panel, asked him to introduce the bill.
The bill is awaiting approval of the full house.
Fleming has lots of experience to draw from, both as a local politician and lawyer, but also as a former legislative aide in the General Assembly and in the U.S. Congress.
And colleagues have noticed his leadership skills.
"Barry has an ability to bring all sides together," said Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Martinez.
That skill could be handy in the diverse committees he was assigned to, Judiciary, Transportation, and State Planning and Community Affairs. Fleming, who calls Harlem home, has joined Harbin in sponsoring a number of bills designed to help attract employers to Columbia County through targeted tax breaks.
"It's going to be tough this year," Fleming said."The governor's office is amenable to it, but anyone who is going to propose a tax cut is going to find the timing tough this year."
Fleming also is co-sponsoring Harbin's bill to allow counties to use money from the special purpose localoption sales tax for sewer and water systems. Currently, only cities can use taxes that way, but since Columbia County doesn't have a dominant city, the county should have the main power, he said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.