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Lawmakers hear from locals

January 3, 2007

Albany -- Less than a week to go before the 2007 legislative session kicks off, and there's lots on the agenda. But state leaders need to know what's most important for the people they represent. That's why they held work sessions with local leaders in Albany.

Starting Monday, state legislators will be pouring over information on healthcare, education, transportation, taxes. All issues that effect you and me in big ways. Dougherty County Rep. Winfred Dukes says, "Hopefully during this session, we will be able to address many concerns for the people we represent."

And that's why state representatives met with local leaders in Albany to find out what's important for those groups to succeed. One issue for schools across the state is class size restrictions.

Dougherty Superintendent Dr. Sally Whatley says, "No one would argue that a smaller classroom is advantage to the teacher and to the child, but if you have a transient population and if it's difficult to find highly qualified teachers, particularly during the middle of the year, it really places a burden on the school systems."

And although that issue may be broached again this year, Representative Lee County Ed Rynders says, it's unlikely it will change. "One size doesn't fit all, but at the end of the day, studies show that smaller class sizes work."

Another major issue is taxes. Should the ad valorem tax be done away with? And if it is, where will that money come from? Does the entire tax system need to be revamped?

Winfred Dukes says, "The main focal point this session is going to be taxes. We're going to have to decide who pays-- and who receives."

And who should pay for healthcare? Who can even afford it? Ed Rynders says, "Healthcare is an issue, not just for indigent, but for everybody. It's getting too expensive out there, and I think what we've got to do is look at changing the model, and come up with something that provides access, quality care and is affordable, and that's what my personal agenda will be when it comes to Healthcare."

Also, who will care for our environment, making sure waste waters are clean and won't pollute our rivers?  

Albany's Assistant City Manager Wes Smith says, "On the local level, it's very difficult to put together a system, whether it be a storm water utility or something of that nature, in order to provide these services, to keep clean waters going into our rivers."

While making sure not to flood local Governments with more mandates that they have to pay for.  

"If you're not going to pay for it, don't vote for it," said County Commission Chairman Jeff Bodine Sinyard. "We cannot stand anymore mandate on a local level. This is all 159 counties in Georgia, all 500 cities in Georgia. Enough is enough. We can't afford it. We want to make that loud and clear."

The state legislative session begins Monday in Atlanta.

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