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Belton: Slow and steady wins the race
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The Session has been very slow this year. The reasons are many, but the biggest is the philosophy that conservative government – by design – should move slowly in order to avoid rash decisions. Thus, leadership has stated we will pass much less new legislation this year. Also, it seems a long way away, but there are dozens of names floating around for Governor and Lt. Governor in 2018, as well as all the other state-wide offices. Thus, many would-be candidates are posturing on where exactly they want to be… treading lightly to avoid any potential mistakes.

The largest thing coming down the pipe is a new education bill by Rep. Kevin Tanner. I cannot comment on this bill very much as it has yet to be filed, only that it will try to (again) fix failing schools; first with three years of “carrots” to help improve those schools followed by three year of “sticks” or consequences if they do not improve. I’m told this six-year process will not begin before 2018, and the end result will not have the Governor take over any schools.

Another idea that is being seriously suggested is Casino Gambling. Again, the bill has not been filed, but there is a presumption it would include only two hotels located one each in Atlanta and Savannah. The profits would be funneled into HOPE, but possibly also to law enforcement or other causes. Personally, I do not gamble and see very little value in such an enterprise, as several studies have shown that Georgia will end up paying more for crime and the sweep of failing businesses that always follows the introduction of casinos than we will ever collect. I hope you will let me know what you think about this.

Closer to home, I attended a huge Newton County Farm Bureau legislative dinner at the FFA Camp this week. 4-H students Tripp Marks and Scott Evritt impressed the very large crowd as well as Allen Miller and Emmalee Richardson from FFA. More than 600 students participate in FFA in Newton County and another 1,100 kids are in 4-H. These wonderful children are doing extraordinary things, learning life lessons that will carry them far into the future. You should also know your legislative delegation had a very large hand in bringing the FFA Camp a new activity center, dining hall, and ag center that will include a horse arena, barn, and indoor show area. America is Agriculture: if it doesn’t come from the ground it literally doesn’t exist. Agriculture is also (by far) the largest industry in the United States, Georgia, and the second largest industry in Newton County (we make a few movies here too).

Speaking of other industries, a big shout out to the Chamber for another huge win...Newton County just won the second highest number of new projects in the entire state. This is especially amazing as they missed the top spot (by a mere one project) to the city of Augusta, who has a huge advantage as the military is sinking $2 billion in new construction to their beefed-up Army Cyber Command.

I think you should know that the Newton County Board of Education wants your legislative delegation to give your BOE elected members a 67 percent increase to their salary. There will be a public hearing on this topic this Tuesday, the Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. at the BOE offices. I hope you will let me know what you think. In the interest of transparency, I also wanted you to know that most of your legislative delegation had dinner (I paid my own way) with the Newton County Commissioners this week. This is very typical between most legislative delegations and their local governments, but hasn’t been done in Newton County for many years. We had a very good, non-business discussion, which I’m sure will help us work well together for the good of Newton County.  

I hope you will continue to pray for me as I serve you under the Golden Dome. You can contact me at 706-372-4114 or