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House speaker Ralston visits Rotarians
State House speaker David Ralston talks about the recent session during a Rotary meeting Wednesday. - photo by Jennifer Sami
David Ralston loves his job.

It was a bad time to take over. Challenges have been high and morale low. But in the first six months as speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Ralston is proud of his work.

“I’ve got the best job in the state of Georgia,” he said. “I get to go to work with 179 of the finest men and women in this state.”

The speaker shared his experience at the helm during lunch Wednesday with the South Forsyth Rotary Club.

“We rolled up our sleeves and we went to work, and at the end of the day produced what I believe to be one of the finest sessions that this state has had in a lot of years,” he said.

Ralston was elected as speaker by the Republican caucus in December, shortly after Glenn Richardson resigned.

When the session began in January, Ralston said he had to quickly begin putting in a new leadership team.

“Where I started was with Mark Hamilton,” he said about the Cumming Republican from District 23. “He understands the legislative process, he’s very committed to what we’re doing in the house in terms of having some reform.

“You all are very, very fortunate to have him represent you at the capitol, and I can assure you that I’m going to continue to recognize his leadership qualities every opportunity that I have.”

Ralston also commended former District 24 state Rep. Tom Knox of Cumming for his work in session. The assembly was the last for Knox, who is running for state insurance and fire safety commissioner in the July 20 Republican primary.

Hamilton said he asked Ralston to attend the meeting to offer a different perspective.

“I think it is important for our community to occasionally hear directly from House leadership, not only on what was accomplished for the people this past session, but for them to hear our vision and plans for the future,” Hamilton said after the meeting.

“It is great to have the support of our constituents and it is also nice to have such support from the speaker. He has provided great leadership for Georgia in a very difficult time, and tremendous support for our Forsyth County delegation, and in turn this will benefit the citizens of Forsyth County.”

Ralston said the session goal was to limit new legislation and focus on just a few issues, Ralston said.

With record high budget deficits, cutting spending without impacting taxes was high on the priority list, he said.

During the last two years, the state has cut more than 20 percent from the budget, Ralston said.

“That’s over $4 billion,” he said, noting taxes have not gone up. “You can’t cut a billion dollars out of the budget and make people happy.”

But he said the balancing act was only training for the year ahead, when “the budget is going to get worse.”

Until the next session begins in January, a tax reform council will take comprehensive look at the state’s tax code. The committee will report a revenue-neutral proposal to widen and expand the state’s tax base, Ralston said.

He said the committee won’t fall by the wayside because legislators must take action.

“We’re going to put this group to work,” he said. “This is about really changing our system here in Georgia in a very fundamental way, and in a way that will benefit every Georgian now and in the future.”