Reflecting on 2009 session
Four of the five members of Forsyth County's state legislative delegation were asked Wednesday about the 2009 legislative session. Sen. Chip Pearson was asked how he got into politics.
The following is some of what each, all Republicans, said during the annual breakfast:
• District 9 state Rep. Amos Amerson: "What’s interesting about this session, and I think it’s the most interesting of the nine sessions that I’ve been in, is what we didn’t do. We did not raise taxes and we did not raise fees. So when you go home and you talk to your parents, you ask them about that."
• District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton: "Much of my time this past legislative session was spent on transportation issues in primarily two different areas. One was trying to identify new funding mechanisms ... Unfortunately. we were unsuccessful in getting out the final legislation, but remain confident that we’ll do this next year. The second piece was Senate Bill 200, which is the reorganization of the Department of Transportation and several other aspects of that. I’m very happy that we were able to get that out and the governor has signed it."
• District 24 state Rep. Tom Knox: "The third piece of a four-year project to establish health savings accounts, policies of health insurance that can be available to businesses and individuals on a much more affordable basis ... I’m proud to say that I think a great many more people will be served in Georgia with health insurance policies."
• District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy: "You’re talking about $500 million short that we’re short in just [March and April] ... We have to have a balanced budget. We’re not the federal government. We can’t print money ... We might have to go back into special session if the revenues keep dropping and adjust the budget some more."
• District 51 state Sen. Chip Pearson: "I may throw my hat in and [then Sen. Casey Cagle] said, 'Well, I’ll just tell you two things.' He said, ‘If you do, you’re crazy. But if you do, I’ll help you every way I can and I think you’ll do a great job.’ So I think that all three of those have been proven to be correct. But it is an honor in fact to serve and we work hard every day to do our part to keep up our end of the deal with voters."
-- Jennifer Sami
Forsyth County’s state legislators addressed chamber of commerce members and about 150 government and history students Wednesday.
But unlike past post-legislative breakfasts, the five Republicans fielded questions only from students and a handful from chamber businesses.
The change was refreshing said Bruce Logan, a member of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
“This was by far better,” he said, following the event at North Forsyth High School. “The students made it, and the questions made it, because the professional politicians, who are all very good, but their talk is the same as the talk before.
"The students added the spice, the breath of fresh air and reflected very well on their education here at the school.”
In previous years, questions from businesses focused mostly on specific bills or the impact of new legislation on small businesses.
This year, five students were selected to introduce the legislators and ask them about the previous session.
North Forsyth senior Tori Staples asked a selection of prewritten audience questions, ranging from funding for Grady Memorial Hospital, a trauma center in Atlanta, to how the Republican Party was working to attract young members.
Rep. Tom Knox of Cumming fielded a question referring to a recent poll showing a decline in Republican popularity.
“Polls tend to be a snapshot in time,” Knox said. “They’re often times measuring what’s popular at the moment.
“When I first came into the legislature … it wasn’t popular to be a Republican. It wasn’t popular to be a conservative necessarily in Georgia at that time. But my take on this is, I don’t care whether it’s popular or not. I can care less what’s popular.”
Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming noted the polls didn’t apply to Forsyth’s district, which is overwhelmingly Republican.
“Republican values are there and I think that people identify themselves as Republicans because of that,” he said. “Republicans want a balanced budget, less spending, less government control in our lives and Democrats want more spending, more taxation and more control in your life.”
Rep. Mark Hamilton of Cumming fielded a question about advice for a young person seeking a career in politics.
The key, Hamilton said, is involvement, even for those not seeking office.
“The numbers that I’ve seen indicate that probably 2 percent of the population is really engaged in what goes on in the elective process,” he said.
“When you look at some of the things that are going on, whether it’s taking prayer out of school, whether it’s the gay rights movement, very few -- a small percent of the people, actually -- support that. But yet we do things because most people are not involved.”
Chamber President James McCoy said he enjoyed the new format.
“I think involving students in it brought some fresh perspective and I think it was very energizing for the folks that were there," McCoy said. "It certainly was for me. It really did bring a positive message to the legislators, to the students and to the business community.”