January 18, 2014

Brian Anderson: State officials paying attention

“The world is not going to be saved by legislation.”

— President William Howard Taft

“One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.”

 — Thomas Reed

Both President Taft and Mr. Reed could not have been more profound in their statements. And during this time of year when the Georgia General Assembly convenes, we hear all the usual jokes like “Lock up your children, the General Assembly is in town.” But after participating in the Greater Dalton Chamber Legislative Reception for many years, I want to take a different approach in updating you on this exciting annual ritual.

As we have done for the past 14 years, the Greater Dalton Chamber has conducted “Dalton Day,” a reception honoring all members of the General Assembly and all statewide elected officials. Our local delegation comprised of Sen. Charlie Bethel, Rep. Bruce Broadrick and Rep. Tom Dickson assisted us in planning the reception and inviting their colleagues to attend. We also had more than 50 local leaders attend and spend time discussing local issues with members of the General Assembly.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of our many sponsors. We especially want to thank Shaw Industries for providing the highly sought after “rug of the year.” This year’s rug was a beautiful artistic rendition of two Georgia state symbols: the Wild Azalea and the Brown Thrasher.

Although we always have a good turnout, this year seemed to be the best ever with a good majority of both House members and Senate members (295) attending. We also had Gov. Nathan and first lady Sandra Deal attend along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Speaker of the House David Ralston, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Commissioner of Insurance Ralph Hudgens, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Senate Pro Tem Tommy Williams, Commissioner of Economic Development Chris Carr, Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs Gretchen Corbin, Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia Ron Jackson and most committee chairmen of the various House and Senate committees.

The tone of the reception was much more upbeat than in years past. Our elected officials are grateful that the state economy is improving and state revenues are increasing. The optimism is guarded, however, given that much of the new revenue will simply offset expenditure increases in state health care and retirement programs and growth in the number of students in our schools. But even guarded optimism was better than recent years when state revenues were declining, leading to drastic cuts in all programs.

In addition to hosting our “Dalton Day” Legislative Reception, chamber leaders, local community leaders and local business leaders also participated in the Georgia Chamber Annual Dinner and the Georgia Chamber’s Annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast. These events are attended by hundreds of leaders throughout the state of Georgia who come together for the good of Georgia and to participate in this annual “kickoff” of the legislative season.

During both events, Dalton and northwest Georgia were specifically mentioned in a variety of positive references. On Tuesday evening at the Georgia Chamber dinner, 2014 chair of the Georgia chamber, Earnest Greer, referenced the legacy of Catherine Evans Whitener who led to the creation of the carpet industry from tufted textiles. During the breakfast, Gov. Deal acknowledged the resurgent carpet industry and the largest transportation project in the state currently — the northwest Georgia corridor improvements on I-75.

For a community that has been pitied and spoken about in less than desirable commentary, it was refreshing to be recognized in front of the entire state leadership (government and business) for the positive actions underway. We are not where we want to be or need to be, but the trends are once again looking very favorable.

All forecasts point to a short and efficient session. Although it can last up to 40 legislative days (and usually does), those days are usually spread over the January through April time frame. Given a new and earlier primary election date, most elected officials will have to qualify in early to mid-March to run for their offices. And since Georgia law forbids campaigning and fundraising during the session, it is logical that the session will terminate as early as possible to allow sufficient time to campaign.

I will close by again agreeing with President Taft that legislation will not save the world or our great state of Georgia. But our God-given free and democratic way of life is protected through the practice of representative and free self-government.

For those that serve us honorably, I salute you. And I pray for each of you to do what is right, do what is just, and not to do what is not needed.

Brian Anderson is president and CEO of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce.