Posts Tagged ‘Town Hall Meeting’

Muscogee Legislators “Tell It Like It IS’

April 8, 2009

The state budget crisis,  the transportation fiasco,  a July session of the Georgia Legislature,  Sen. Harp’s plans to run for statewide office, billboards highlight the town hall meeting at the Columbus Public Library.

Muscogee County legislators made no attempt to sugarcoat what was not a satisfying session of the Georgia Legislature.

Muscogee County democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Muscogee County Democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Both state senators,  and the dean of the delegation,  all were not happy that the legislature failed to come up with a transportation plan.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre said,  “It was irresponsible.  It cannot stand. It will not stand.  I am going to make this clear in a news conference Thursday.   It will be addressed this year. ”

He predicted the legislature will be going back into session in three months to deal with the state budget,  and,  he seemed to be saying it will also deal with transportation plan.

“It is wrong for the state to tell the people of Atlanta what they can do with the penny tax they approved at the polls to expand Marta.”

Marta,  the Atlanta area public transit system whose ridership has soared,  cannot access it’s own money to improve and expand the system without the state’s approval.

“That’s wrong.  It has to be changed.”

The audience at the Muscogee County Democratic Party town hall meeting at the Columbus Library applauded enthusiastically.

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

And the Republican state senator who was at the Democratic meeting also got a few big hands, himself.  Sen. Seth Harp, said he would have voted for either of the plans, the one favored by the House or the Senate plan, but he didn’t think either would get taxpayer support.

“They waited too late.  They should have passed it last year. Now, with the recession causing pain in the pocketbook,  it is doubtful that people will vote a penny tax regionally or statewide,” Senator Harp said.  The tax is necessary to fund the plan, which advocates say is urgently needed.  All you have to do is drive to Atlanta to know that the situation is critical.

Sen. Harp might not have pleased his Republican following with one remark he made.  He joined Rep. Smyre in thanking President Obama for sending $1.6 billion in stimulus money to Georgia.  He said with the critical budget problem facing Georgia, the federal money does help. 

“I agree with Calvin.  The legislature will be going back into session in July.  The budget just approved by the legislature banks on the economy getting better. I hope it will, but I am not confident about that.  We will be making more cuts.  For instanceteachers will probably have tobe  furloughed.

“And if we have to do that, say for ten days.  I – and I hope my fellow legislators will join me – will not accept my pay as a senator for those ten days.”

That one elicited a big round of applause. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Harp looked over at Sen. Ed Harbison,  a Democrat,  and said the two of them work together probably better than any two lawmakers in the Senate.  He also let everyone know that he recently learned that he and Harbison served in the same unit in the Vietnam War.  More applause.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

And Rep.  Debbie Buckner, also a Democrat,  drew a round of applause when she said that, though some things she supported weren’t approved,  the effort that she and other lawmakers to kill the bill that would allow billboard companies to cut more trees on public property was successful.  The crowd like that one, too.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley was the first to point out that the state is in dire straights over the econ0my and that the cuts that will accompany the budget will cause pain for a lot of people.

When Sen. Harp confirmed he is not running for again for the seat he now holds,  but instead will run for either insurance commissioner and attorney general,  and will make an announcement next week on which one,  Rep. Hugley said, “Oh, go ahead and announce it tonight.”  Sen. Harp said he would wait.

All in all, I have to say I was impressed with the candor of the legislators at the town hall meeting.   They didn’t try to spin the truth about the state of the state or the legislative session that just ended.  The one they predict for  July will, no doubt,  will be a stem-winder.

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