December 28, 2013

Candidate profiles: House District 2: Florence

Misty Watson

— Neal Florence believes his 34 years as a business owner and 23 years as LaFayette’s mayor will help him make the right decisions while setting the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 if he’s elected to the state House of Representatives.

Florence faces Steve Tarvin and Doug Woodruff in a special election on Tuesday, Jan. 7, to fill the unexpired term of Jay Neal for House District 2. The district includes Tunnel Hill, Trichum and Westside in Whitfield County and parts of Catoosa and Walker counties. Neal stepped down after being named executive director of the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Re-entry. The term expires at the end of 2014.

“I’m running because the opportunity has been made available because I’m not re-running for mayor,” Florence said. “My term ends (Dec. 31) and I feel like I can use my experience to help this area. I think with my business experience I can go down there and at least attempt to help with the budget process. We want to avoid spending that might be somewhat wasteful. I don’t want to waste taxpayers’ dollars.”

Florence is concerned there is too much spending in other areas, leaving education underfunded. He said educators have told him they are being given mandates but funding isn’t being provided.

“I want to make sure education is funded and spending is held to a minimum to be able to account for everything we might need, but not allow an excess,” he said, adding he doesn’t know yet any areas where spending could be cut.

Florence said if school systems receive more funding, educators will not have to take furlough days any longer. He said he is concerned with where the money is being spent if it’s not being spent on education.

During the last legislative session lawmakers passed a bill capping gifts from lobbyists at $75 per gift. With a federal grand jury looking into ethics complaints involving Gov. Nathan Deal, ethics is a topic of concern for many Georgians.

“I’ve always held myself to a high ethical standard,” Florence said. “My professional degree depends on me being honest and sincere and accurate with what I do. I have no problem doing that with the legislative thing.”

He said he doesn’t know what the appropriate cap for gifts received from lobbyists should be, but he believes there should definitely be a limit.

Florence, a native of Trion, graduated from The McCallie School in Chattanooga in 1969. He received a degree in chemistry from the University of Georgia and completed pharmacy school there in 1976. He owns Medi-Thrift in LaFayette.