Senoia's current and future state reps speak at town hall
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Senoia’s current and future state representatives spoke about the recent Georgia General Assembly session and general state law issues at a town hall meeting hosted by the Senoia Tea Party Patriots.
The town hall meeting was held Thursday at Senoia’s public safety complex.
Starting in 2013, Senoia, as well as the Haralson and Turin areas, will be part of House District 72, represented by Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City.
Both districts changed as a result of redistricting.
Senoia Tea Party Coordinator Joe Cannin introduced Horne, calling him “truly a wonderful statesman and an American patriot. I know I can speak for all the residents of the 71st District — saying ‘thank you’ for being our state representative for eight years,” Cannin said.
“I appreciate it,” Horne said. “It’s actually a little bit of a bittersweet moment. It’s probably going to be the last time I address you as your state representative.”
“I’m going to get back to earning a living, go back to the private sector. Get back to raising my family full-time instead of just part-time,” Horne said.
“It’s been a privilege serving you,” Horne said. “I’ll be honest with you — I haven’t lost one minute’s sleep over that decision,” he said.
But “I’m sure in January, when they’re up there getting sworn in and I’m wherever I am, it’s probably going to be a little bit strange.”
His last General Assembly session was “pretty eventful.”
“We passed some pretty good legislation,” he said.
That included what is commonly known as the “sunset bill.” It created a committee to review every state agency, board, commission, etc., “with the purpose of basically being critical of it or them,” Horne said. The committee would have reviewed the spending and mission and see if the agency is accomplishing that mission. “With the purpose to maybe find some of them we can abolish, quite frankly. So we can reduce the size and scope of government.”
“Unfortunately, Gov. Deal vetoed that bill,” Horne said. “They’ll have to come back next time and take another shot at that.”
An important bill that the governor did sign sets up “zero based budgeting” for all government agencies. That means that, every five years, an agency will have to start its budget from zero and justify every dollar, instead of just justifying new spending.
Horne also mentioned the tax reform bill that replaced the yearly ad valorem tax on cars, as well as the sales tax, with a one-time title fee.
It’s called “tax reform” and “it was to some extent. But it was really more of a tax band-aid,” Horne said. “It didn’t go as far as it could have. It was a good bill I think, but not a great bill. We could have done a lot more than that but we didn’t,” he said.
“Unfortunately a legislative process gets in the way of some of my big plans.”
Horne said one thing in the package he didn’t like was stopping the expansion of an income tax exemption for senior citizens.
Currently, the first $65,000 of income for senior citizens is exempted from state income tax. That exemption was supposed to increase, but the changes made this year froze it at $65,000 per person.
Ramsey’s district shifted south with redistricting. He lost Fayetteville but gained parts of Coweta.
“I assured him it was a good trade,” said Horne.
“I can assure that you are going to be in good hands with Rep. Ramsey,” Horne said. “I think you’re going to find him to be a very conscientious, hardworking representative for you.”
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about getting the opportunity to know you,” said Ramsey. “You’re going to see a lot of me.”
Ramsey spoke about the tax bill, as well as the bill that requires drug testing for Temporary Aid to Needy Families recipients.
“If we have learned anything in the past three or four years it is that tax dollars are precious,” Ramsey said. “I know how hard it is to keep a business afloat and raise a family. When we’re sending tax money to the state, I want to have assurances that that money is being spent” on core state services.
TANF is “barebones sustenance for a short period of time,” Ramsey said. “It is meant for the children. And when an individual is taking their $200 a month and buying meth or buying crack and taking sandwiches out of the mouth of a child, that is just despicable.”
There will be lawsuits filed over the drug testing requirement, Ramsey said.
“Everything we try to do good, the ALCU is going to be waiting outside the door to file a lawsuit,” he said.
Ramsey also spoke about the illegal immigration bill passed in 2011. He was the author of the bill. “I worked very hard over a couple of years” on the illegal immigration legislation, he said.
“The whole thrust of that effort was to address the social and economic consequences of illegal immigration on Georgia citizens,” Ramsey said.
They knew it would be “another bill the ACLU is going to sue us on,” he said.
“So we took very great care in authoring the bill, knowing that they are going to sue,” he said. Of the 23 provisions of the bill, only two have been stopped from going into effect. A judge granted an injunction on two provisions while the lawsuit makes its way through the court system.
Illegal immigration is a “$2.4 billion a year problem,” Ramsey said. “It means your kids are in larger classes, there’s less money to spend on transportation, longer lines in the emergency rooms.”
Ramsey also spoke about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on it this summer.
“Something that hasn’t been talked about a whole lot is the impact that law is going to have on the states when it is fully implemented,” Ramsey said. “They’re doing this on the backs of the states at a time when we have had to reduce the size of our state government through the budget process by more than 20 percent,” he said. “I just have literally no idea in 2016 and 2017â ¦ how the state of Georgia is going to pay for it. It’s just going to be an absolute disaster.
“You think the last four years have been difficult from a budgeting standpoint? You just can’t imagine the impact that is going to have on your children, your grandchildren,” Ramsey said. “It is going to be breathtaking. The choice is going to be cuts like you couldn’t imagine to all those critical services or a tax increase,” Ramsey said.
The Supreme Court decisions are very important, he said.
“I think if the federal government would just get out of the way on health care, and let us try some bottom up, free market solutions to the problem they’re trying to fix by imposing top down government mandates — I think the results will be great.”