Foreign-language classes in the county's schools to protecting Medicaid services, area residents made it known what projects they want the state to protect funding for next year.
More than 30 people showed up Thursday for a town-hall meeting with Columbia County's legislative delegation to discuss the upcoming General Assembly session.
After spending the day with county and school officials, Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, and state Sens. Joey Brush, R-Appling, and Don Cheeks, R-Augusta, turned their ears to the public as they prepare for the 40-day session to start in January.
Denise Rosenzweig, a parent of a pupil at Stevens Creek Elementary School, said there needs to be funding at the federal, state and local level available for foreign language classes in the lower grade levels.
"When we start teaching foreign language in the ninth grade, you've missed that window completely," she said. "It's so much harder to learn. When they're younger, that's when the door's open, and that's when we need to do it."
The debate over water-transfer rights also came up in the discussion.
Cheeks said he is expecting water rights and tort reform to emerge as the top issues beyond budget and education issues during the upcoming session.
Members of the delegation disagreed about whether allowing industries to sell water rights would be a good idea to promote economic development or a slippery slope that would move water resources away from communities to more urbanized areas.
Marian Moseley, a local psychologist who often treats children in foster care, told the legislators and visiting government officials that a state proposal to cut psychology, dental and optometry benefits from Medicaid funding would have a devastating impact on children in need.
The proposal was part of a suggested package to cut $400 million from the state's $6 billion Medicaid budget but has not been decided on, Georgia Department of Community Health Commissioner Tim Burgess said.
He said that though the state's tax collection situation has improved, cuts likely will have to be made at a number of state agencies with the budget expected to remain tight.
"They're only proposals at this point," Burgess said. "This debate will continue when we get to the General Assembly."
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