Talk about good timing. Columbia County's Chamber of Commerce, for its annual Pre-Legislative Breakfast today, has landed as a speaker the state's newly elected lieutenant governor - who also happens to have set education as his "top priority" in the coming legislative session.
About the only thing bigger than education in Columbia County is growth - which, itself, is driven in large part by new residents seeking the area's best public schools.
Cagle has a special niche to fill in that regard. As a state senator, he advocated changing the state's complicated impact-fee laws to allow those fees to be charged for school construction. Coincidentally, Columbia County's builder-heavy Impact Fee Study Committee last year rejected implementation of the current type of impact fees for the county, but called on lawmakers to allow them to be charged to help pay for school construction.
Columbia County clearly is friendly territory for Cagle. While he won the lieutenant governor's race Nov. 7 with 54 percent of the statewide vote, Columbia County voters handed him nearly 74 percent of their ballots.
As a result, Columbia County - whose lawmakers already enjoy significant clout in the General Assembly - deserves plenty of access to Cagle's ear.
The lieutenant-governor elect's visit this morning is proof of that influence, and we should take every advantage of it.
In a news conference this past week, Cagle announced ambitious plans for the coming session, and said education will be his biggest priority. He's bringing that message to Columbia County and other communities today as part of a post-election tour of the state.
The real test will come next spring. That's when Cagle, and Columbia County's delegation, should follow the recommendations of the county's committee and allow local communities to charge a fee on new construction to help pay for new schools.
If Columbia County's help in cementing Cagle's victory means anything, his commitment to finding new revenue for funding fast school growth certainly would be an appropriate "payback."
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