Speaker Ralston Names Rural Development Council

A couple of weeks ago I previewed the need to get the issues of rural Georgia into the 2018 statewide campaigns. The plight of rural Georgia affects us all, as policy decisions made in Atlanta (and often influenced by the 55% of the state that live in “Atlanta”) make a disproportional impact in that other Georgia. House Speaker David Ralston has named members of a Rural Development Council that will be looking at a variety of issues unique to rural Georgia. This isn’t your average “study committee”. Look at the names and titles of the members below. This is a serious effort to not only identify and isolate well known problems, but foster actual solutions – and translate the need for those solutions to those of us that live up here in “Atlanta”.

Press release follows:

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced the members of the House Rural Development Council. This council, which was created during the recent legislative session, will work with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth.

“Georgia is a growing and prosperous state, and we are thankful for that,” said Speaker Ralston. “But that prosperity isn’t being felt in every community across Georgia. Some of our rural areas are still struggling, and we must do everything we can to help private businesses grow jobs in every corner of our state.” Continue reading “Speaker Ralston Names Rural Development Council”

Runoff! Speakers Weigh In

The hour is late (early) and Fulton County is still Fulton Countying, but it appears most parties agree we have a June 20th runoff in CD6.

As such, we have the following statements:

From Georgia House Speaker David Ralston:

“I’m proud to support Karen Handel as our next member of Congress from Georgia. Unlike her opponent, Karen lives in the 6th District and she understands the needs and views of the citizens in that district. She will represent the 6th District in Washington — not Hollywood or Manhattan. I will ask the GOP members of the Georgia House to join with me and engage in an aggressive way to elect Karen Handel to Congress.”

From U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Expect a lot more unity to be published from the GOP side tomorrow.

Speaker Ralston Wants to Help Atlanta-Area Transit Agencies

In the aftermath of the I-85 bridge collapse, Speaker David Ralston is, once again, speaking on the need to devote more state resources to transit. In a letter sent to Governor Deal on Monday morning, Speaker Ralston wrote that MARTA and the Georgia Regional Transit Authority’s Xpress bus service are already seeing extraordinary increases in rider demand. More transit users will lead to more transit costs, something that agencies are not prepared for at the moment (which is not surprising considering that the Xpress bus is the only transit operation that receives dedicated state subsidies).

According to MARTA CEO Keith Parker, there was a 25 percent increase in riders on Friday. The AJC also reported that the stations were rather packed on Monday morning. Noting that these increases will affect the budgets of transit agencies, Ralston is calling for the agencies to “be made whole” by shifting state funds and leveraging federal dollars to pay for the rising costs. He has already assigned House Transportation Chair Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) and House Appropriations Chair Terry England (R-Auburn) to serve as liaisons to the governor’s office and is considering what the House can do in the 2018 legislative session to help.

Speaker Ralston puts in this teaser at the end of the letter:

The House of Representatives has a long and proud record of working to move our state forward. While this incident will have a short-term negative impact, it is possible we will find new ways forward, working in partnership with other stakeholders, to make long-term improvements to our transportation infrastructure.

It’s no secret that the Speaker wants more state involvement in solving Georgia’s systemic transit problems, not just ad-hoc funding for particular disasters like the I-85 collapse. SB 6 and HB 160 were two bills introduced in 2017 that would have created a regional transit commission to focus on long-term issues. Both were caught up in the squabbling between the House and the Senate, leading Ralston to push through HR 848, which establishes the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, on Day 40.  According to his letter, the Commission will “soon” begin working toward its goal of improving transit in the long term.

Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight

This week’s Courier Herald column:

There was a time in recent Georgia history when it was impolite to talk about the concept of “Two Georgias”. There was the thriving and growing Atlanta – the economic engine of the state.

Then, there was everything else. The “Other Georgia”. The people that could see the writing on the wall. The people who knew their rural grip on power was slipping. The people who could see that economic and population trends were shifting against them. The people who liked things the way they were, but knew times were changing whether they liked it or not.

With the assistance of UGA professor and Georgia political master Dr. Charles Bullock, we believe the term was popularized during the administration of Governor Joe Frank Harris by the late Doug Bachtel. “Two Georgias” was not a term of endearment. It was, in essence, perceived as a threat to those at the Capitol that they were spending too much time courting the favor of the business interests of Atlanta, and not the greater population that lived outside the area.

The 80’s were several lifetimes ago in Georgia politics. Time did march on, and political and demographic trends did shift. Continue reading “Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight”

Jon Returns To The Capitol

As we mentioned way back when, sometime just before the New Year our Editor in Chief Jon Richards was diagnosed with cancer. He’s since spent about five weeks in the hospital and another four in a skilled nursing/rehabilitation facility. They managed to get him into fighting shape, and yesterday Jon was able to make a return visit to the capitol. Many of you have asked for an update. For those that didn’t get it in person yesterday, here it is in pictures.

The day began with a stop in the Governor’s office:

Photo by Governor’s photographer

It was then off to the House, where the Speaker welcomed Jon to the House floor. Jon received a warm bipartisan welcome from members of the House.

Speaker Ralston shares a word:

Photo by House photographer

Continue reading “Jon Returns To The Capitol”