We began week nine of the legislative session on Monday, March 6, following Crossover Day last Friday.
We started the process of reviewing legislation, passed by our colleagues in the Senate, in House committee meetings. And several such legislative bills made their way to the House floor for a vote. With only three legislative weeks remaining, we will continue to utilize our time to fully vet such legislation prior to final passage.
On Friday, the House voted unanimously to form a 15-member council of House members to look for ways to boost the economy of rural Georgia. This proposal is one of Speaker David Ralston’s top priorities for this year’s legislative session. The council will look “to improve rural Georgia’s economy by focusing on educational achievement, infrastructure needs, access to health care and economic growth incentives.” It plans to issue an initial report of findings and recommendations by the end of 2017 with a follow-up report by the end of 2018. Council members will be appointed by the Speaker. For my part, I appreciate the interest in the challenges of rural Georgia. As I stated in one of my recent legislative columns, “While Georgia is in good shape overall…business growth and expansion has been uneven across our state.” And while this is true, I believe that the Council must take a balanced approach in solving perceived challenges. It is imperative to note that while rural Georgia faces challenges that many in the urban parts of our state simply cannot understand we also have an abundance of natural resources and untapped potential. I am encouraged by Speaker’s Ralston’s own words, “I am not interested in government creating jobs. Rather, I want to create an environment in which private enterprise can create jobs in rural Georgia.” I look forward to working with the Speaker to continue to make all parts of our great State of Georgia better.
Also on Friday, I had the honor to spend the day in the woods with the 2017 class of Leadership Georgia. Now if you know me, you know that I could not have been any happier than to spend the day in the woods discussing Georgia forestry; however, Friday was much more than that. Leadership Georgia spent the weekend in Jesup-Wayne County to learn more about our state’s natural resources. Leadership Georgia is one of the nation’s oldest and most successful leadership programs. It attracts the best and brightest business, civic, and community leaders who have not only the desire but also the potential to work together for a better Georgia. To quote one of the founders, Dr. J.W. Fanning, “The purpose of Leadership Georgia is to prepare strong and effective leaders for the future development of this state. Those who participate are young people coming from every nook and cranny of Georgia...the small town, the open country, the big city.” Approximately 60 participants are selected each year from a pool of several hundred applicants and visit five Georgia communities to learn more about important issues affecting the state. I believe that the Class of 2017 participants will tell you that while rural, southeast Georgia has its challenges, it also has an abundance of possibilities. These types of programs, investing in our leaders, exposing them to all parts of Georgia and educating them on the truth that we truly are One Georgia is critical to the future success of our entire state. I was honored to be a part of the weekend and I commend the countless volunteers in Jesup-Wayne County who helped make it possible.