The Start of Something New

Openness and straight talk are the hallmarks of good public service.

When I first ran to be your State Representative, I walked every neighborhood in our State House district to ask for your vote and provide you with direct answers to your questions.  Since then, those who have seen me in action in our community know that I have continued to deliver openness and straight talk as hallmarks of my legislative service.

When you ask me a question, even in the most public setting, you get an unvarnished answer. When you send me an e-mail, you receive a direct response from me personally.

That’s the way public service should be.

I have set up this blog to share my thoughts with you on issues affecting Georgia, DeKalb County, and our neighborhoods.  I hope you will stop by periodically and return the favor by sharing your thoughts with me.

A good way to kick off this blog is to address some persistent rumors regarding my party affiliation.

As you know, I have always strived to represent all of my constituents, Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike, to the best of my ability.  You have a right to know that the people elected to represent you, regardless of whether you voted for them, are listening and care what you have to say.

That hasn’t changed, nor will it.  What has changed is that my strong belief in fiscal responsibility and restraint – a belief that the vast majority of my constituents share – is not a good fit within the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives.

I campaigned on these principles and you responded positively.  They are principles I have put into action in my service as your State Representative.

Our district voted overwhelmingly in favor of the property tax assessment freeze, which was on the ballot in 2006 as a result of legislation I helped pass.

This year, I sponsored and passed House Bill 181.  That measure ensures you will have the right to vote in a referendum whenever the county government uses entities known as “authorities” to spend your tax dollars to finance the principal and interest on debt for new county projects.  HB 181 was a significant victory for our district, which voted against the CEO’s 2005 general obligation bond issue.

HB 181 passed a Senate committee with three Republicans voting yes, three Democrats voting no, and the Republican committee chairman casting a tie-breaking vote to save the bill from defeat.

Final passage of HB 181 in the House of Representatives likewise occurred on the strength of Republican support.  It takes 91 votes to pass a bill in the House.  HB 181 passed on a close vote of 93-64.  89 Republican legislators and 4 Democrats voted in favor of this legislation.  64 Democratic legislators voted against it.

Regarding HB 181, Senator David Shafer, who represents Duluth and part of north Fulton County, recently observed:  “I watched one Senate Democrat attempt to thwart its passage at virtually every turn, all the way making a public show of supporting the bill.  I certainly can appreciate Mike’s frustration with his former colleagues.”

An even closer vote that also broke down largely along party lines was Senate Bill 10, the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act.

This legislation enables the parents of a special needs child to send their child to a private school if the parents determine the new school is better equipped to address their child’s needs.  The program is modeled on a similar program in Florida that has been tremendously successful.

SB 10 passed on a vote of 90-84, with the Speaker of the House casting the 91st vote required to pass the billThe e-mails and phone calls I received from constituents, some of whom were parents of special needs children, uniformly supported this legislation.  Without my vote, it wouldn’t have passed.

These last two votes of the full House of Representatives, which occurred on the final day of the 2007 legislative session, have solidified my belief that I fit best with moderate Republican legislators like Jill Chambers (Chamblee, Doraville, and part of Brookhaven), Ed Lindsey (Buckhead and parts of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs), and Fran Millar (Dunwoody, Huntley Hills, and part of the Murphey Candler area).

Their districts share beliefs, boundaries, and several neighborhoods with our district.

When I first presented Representatives Chambers and Millar with the idea for HB 181, their reaction was unequivocally supportive.  They immediately asked me what they could do to help.  I’m proud to join them as a Republican member of the House.

While that’s a new development, everything you have come to expect from me will stay the same:

- A commitment to fiscal responsibility and restraint.  Tax revenues are — and always should remain — finite.  Moreover, simplification of the state tax code with an eye toward eliminating property taxes is a worthwhile idea.

- A commitment to individual liberty.  Our government has no legitimate role in citizens’ personal lives.

- A commitment to open government.  Transparency enables us to hold our government accountable.

It’s an honor to serve you in the State House.  I look forward to continuing to work with you to make our North DeKalb neighborhoods a great place to live.

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