Budget woes, gun laws top legislators’ to-do lists
by Erin Dentmon
edentmon@cherokeetribune.com
December 27, 2012 12:18 AM | 2211 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With just more than two weeks to go until the 2013 legislative session, legislators from Cherokee County all have the state’s budget on their minds, in addition to other issues.

District 22 Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Hickory Flat) said he plans to again introduce a bill prohibiting anyone owing state, federal or local taxes from seeking any elected office in Georgia.

He first introduced the measure in 2010, when it failed to garner the 120 votes needed to become a constitutional amendment. The vote was 116 in favor to 18 against.

“Thirty-four people that were there walked,” he said. “These are the same people that are saying we have to have this ethics reform, which they’re defining is a $100 lobbyist cap.”

Hill said his bill will be introduced on its own, not as part of any ethics reform package.

In light of a recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn., there has been public chatter about safety in schools, and Hill said he has spoken with some constituents on the issue.

He said the Legislature will be looking at different options for providing more security at schools, such as training existing school personnel in weapons use and possibly looking at partnerships with private businesses to cut down on or eliminate training costs for such a program.

The National Rifle Association has argued for armed guards to be posted at all schools to ensure safety, and state School Superintendent John Barge reportedly supports the idea.

District 23 Rep.-elect Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) said she doesn’t think the addition of guards is the best idea for Cherokee County, given budget restraints and the fact that the school system already has its own police force.

“It seems like a little bit of overkill. If we had a program that trained and licensed (school staff), I think that’s something we should look at more so than an armed guard,” she said.

District 20 Rep.-elect Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) said it would be difficult to introduce new employees to already cash-strapped schools.

“The idea of training current employees and getting them familiar with being armed can only make for a safer school environment,’ he said.

For Caldwell, the state’s budget looms as the largest task for the 2013 legislative session.

“There’s a $3 million hole. No matter what the issue is, our main primary objective is to pass a budget. Everything is going to be followed with the question ‘What’s the cost?’“ he said.

Gov. Nathan Deal has called for all state agencies outside the Department of Education to cut 3 percent from their budgets for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Caldwell plans to introduce a bill on term limits during the session. He said he expects a lot of conversation during the session about judicial reform.

As for gun safety, Caldwell said he plans to make sure the Second Amendment “doesn’t get trampled.”

“My worry is that we have a knee-jerk reaction, and I worry about that on the national level, too. I worry about the impact on law-abiding citizens’ access to the Second Amendment,” he said.

During the legislative session, Caldwell will continue to have weekly coffee chats at 9 a.m. Saturdays at Copper Coin in Woodstock.

Ballinger also said budget initiatives will be at the forefront for legislators.

“We’ll be trying to make things work better with less, which is kind of a difficult situation,” she said.

Ballinger said no one had brought her concerns about specific issues yet, but she’s heard general concerns from constituents regarding health care, traffic and taxes.

Ballinger said she hopes to work on economic initiatives and try to improve Cherokee County’s economy.

“That’s what I’m there to do, is fight for Cherokee County as much as I can,” she said.

Hill said jobs in Cherokee County continue to be his top issue.

“We’ll continue working on that any way we can at the Capitol,” he said.
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