The third week of Session was very short because of Super Bowl LIII and the harsh winter scare. It’s hard to believe, but parts of the U.S. had temperatures colder than Antarctica and the surface of Mars.
I would like to comment on a few things we did accomplish. The House Appropriations Subcommittees worked hard looking for cuts to apply to the proposed budget. Public Safety, chaired by Newton County’s own Andy Welch, was able to find $5 million in cuts in our subcommittee alone. I was very impressed by how diligent our members scrutinized the requests by the various government agencies. Remember, Georgia has the second smallest state government per capita of any state, and the size of our state government is still at 1990’s levels.
I am also very pleased to report that the Rural Broadband bill passed its first hurdle: getting out of the Economic Development Committee. This is significant because it hasn’t gotten out of committee in three years. I was very honored to be on the committee that approved the measure: it passed with a unanimous vote. There is wide, bipartisan support - over the objections of the current Broadband providers - to allow electrical power companies like EMC’s, cities and counties, and other private entities to compete on a level playing field with the current providers. We are also streamlining the archaic, many-headed internet tax structure into a single rate that will be applied all across the state. There will also be grants to incentivize development in rural areas. The mood by everyone in the House is that we’ve waited long enough, and we must take real action now over the narrow angst of a few special-interests.
In my opinion, the very best thing that happened last week was the ribbon cutting of the new T.M. “Mort” Ewing Newton County Agricultural Center at the FFA/FCCLA Camp. This $5 million project was funded by a combination of county and state and private donations over the course of more than a decade of work. Representative Terry England, Senator John Wilkinson, Senator Rick Jeffares, Senator Brian Strickland, Representative Andy Welch, former Chairman Keith Ellis, and myself were particularly helpful to Todd Teasley who supervised this enormous project. The vision of former Commissioner “Mort” Ewing to provide a place for young people to learn about farming is not only good for the surrounding counties but the nation at large…who will enjoy the bounty of the fruits of their many labors. Remember: literally everything we have, everything we eat, every possession we own comes from the ground. The young men and women of the FFA and FCCLA and 4H who will benefit from Mr. Ewing’s foresight will soon be the ones growing the food you eat.
Indeed, there’s a lot going on in Newton and Morgan Counties. Shire Pharmaceuticals was just taken over by Takeda, making the new enterprise the 10th largest on the planet. The new Facebook facility was just named the “deal of the year”, making Newton and Morgan the winner of that prestigious honor twice in just a few short years. The state lengthened the airport runway in Covington, major road improvements are being done on Highway 36, new roundabouts are going in on Highway 278 and Salem Rd, Georgia Piedmont Technical College just opened up a new Manufacturing Campus, and Three Ring has poured its foundation and is about to go vertical in the creation of its new movie studio. Perhaps more importantly, Gov. Kemp’s new Chief of Staff, Tim Fleming; Chief Financial Officer, Greg Dozier; Chief Operating Officer, Lori Smith; Director of OPB, Patrick “Kelly” Farr; and Chief Scheduler, Robin Herron; all hail from Covington, suddenly making the “Hollywood of the South” perhaps the most influential city in the state.
In Morgan County, the BOE just opened up its new College and Career Academy, thanks in part to a very generous grant from the state. Morgan also opened up a brand new hospital and they’re moving dirt on the new Zoo. The DOT is doing major work widening Highway 441, repaving I-20, repairing roads in Rutledge and Bostwick, and we just opened up the new Highway441 Bypass entry to the new high school. Morgan has also received grants for low income housing, STEAM educational funding, and community development for Madison. Even more impressive, Kathryn Cardwell and the Board of the College and Career Academy have heroically raised over $1 million in the “I’m ONE” campaign for our excellent MOCO schools … which was just ranked the best charter system in the entire state.
I hope you will continue to pray for me as I serve the people of Newton and Morgan counties. You may contact me at 706-372-4114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belton is a Republican from District 112, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives.