State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, has been selected to serve as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee of the Georgia House of Representatives.
Harbin, recently re-elected without opposition to his sixth term in the state House, was chosen Monday afternoon by the House Committee on Assignments to lead the Appropriations Committee, through which the state budget and all spending bills travel en route to consideration by the House.
With Republicans now controlling the state House for the first time since Reconstruction, Harbin becomes the first Republican ever to lead the committee.
"Columbia County will benefit; this area will benefit, Columbia County specifically," Harbin said. "But we've still got a whole state to deal with and make sure everything's funded properly there."
Harbin's ascension to the leadership, on the first day of the 2005 session, got a boost from two members of the eight-person Committee on Assign-ments who are fellow members of Harbin's Columbia County delegation: state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, and state Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta.
Fleming also serves as the house majority whip, and Burmeister is the secretary of the Republican caucus.
In the Senate, freshman state Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans, also received a plum committee assignment Monday.
He will be the vice-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
"It's unbelievable," White-head said. "I am just ecstatic because of Columbia County and the 24th District. I think I can really help. I'm going to sit on a committee that's going to be making a lot of decisions about what goes where."
Columbia County commissioners, meeting with lawmakers before the session, listed transportation projects as their top local priority for the year.
Whitehead said he also was assigned to posts on the Natural Resources, Economic Development and Special Operations committees.
The Special Operations committee works with county governments, he said, and the assignment takes advantage of his background as a former Columbia County Commission chairman.
Georgia State Rep. Ben Harbin is the new chairman of the Appropri-ations Committee.
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