Concerns about transportation and taxes, balancing the state's budget, unfunded mandates, and the rights of parents to discipline their children were among the issues brought by residents to the Rockdale legislative delegation meeting on Saturday morning.
More than 30 people gathered at the Rockdale Career Academy to ask questions of the legislators representing parts of Rockdale in the Georgia General Assembly, which included District 92 Rep. Pamela Stephenson, District 93 Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, District 94 Rep.-elect Dar'shun Kendrick, District 95 Rep.-elect Pam Dickerson and District 17 State Sen.-elect Rick Jeffares (Kendrick, Dickerson, and Jeffares will be sworn in at the Capitol on Monday). District 43 State Sen. Ronald Ramsey did not attend but submitted a statement and sent a representative to take down questions.
House Bill 277 on raising money for regional transportation, also known as the TSLOST or 1-cent transportation sales tax, was a topic of concern for both legislators and residents.
Resident Mike Houchard, who sits on Rockdale's SPLOST citizens advisory board, said "I don't think I could support a referendum that imposes a 1-cent sales tax and only returns $4 million as opposed to $15 million donated."
Stephenson said she and Dawkins-Haigler had opposed the bill when it was up for vote, because it did not address the eastern I-20 corridor. Rockdale, Henry, and DeKalb counties would find themselves as "donor counties," she said, meaning they would be paying more than they would receive. However, she knew the House would not be looking at the bill again.
Senator-elect Rick Jeffares said the Senate would work on adressing or amending the T-SPLOST bill.
"It is going to be looked at. I live in Henry County. I know the people in Henry County aren’t happy with it either," he said.
Resident Sherri Washington asked if legislators could look at the issue of protecting parents that discipline their children. She described situations she saw as an attorney where parents were charged with cruelty for corporal punshiment of their children - in one case, a child that was caught shoplifting.
"Now we have parents facing charges for what we consider loving their children," she said.
Resident Jim Roppo questioned why Rockdale County had an exception to the school milage rate maximum in the state and why that was not put to a vote by county residents.
School Board member Darlene Hotchkiss, who was in attendance in the audience, said Rockdale County Public School's milage rate ceiling was set by the General Assembly before she was on the board and pointed out last year was the first time in five years that the milage rate had been raised.
She also asked the delegation to be careful when looking at HOPE funds for pre-K programs and voiced opposition to public funds following students to private schools.
Sheriff Jeff Wigington brought up the issue of costs being passed onto local counties, such as housing inmates headed to the state prison system, which pays local jails $22 per inmate per day while it costs Rockdale County about $45 per day to house an inmate.