DuBose Porter is the House Minority Leader and represents District 143, which represents parts of Johnson and Lauren Counties in the heart of the Peach State.
We’re pleased Representative Porter agreed to be the victim of our first round of ten questions.
How did you get involved in politics for the first time?
It was not to long after law school and I had just moved back to Dublin. Roy Rowland, the state representative, had decided to run for congress. I thought it would be a great opportunity to serve the people of Dublin where I grew up. It has been a great experience and I am honored that the folks back home have chosen me to represent them in Atlanta. Also my dad was the Mayor of Dublin and I grew up around local politics and I interned with Senator Sam Nunn in Washington D.C. Both have had a lasting impression on me and the good that politics can do.
While the legislative session is not over yet, some legislation will not make it through. What legislation is out there should get through, but probably won’t? Why wont it?
Where do I begin? First and foremost the General Assembly needs to adopt a state budget that restores the cuts to public education. Under this governor, $1.2 billion has been cut from public education. This has force over 100 school systems to raise local property taxes. We have $1 billion in new revenue that should be earmarked for K-12 education in the state.
We need to pass SR 801 which is the Senate Democrats version of the Lt. Governor’s bill to protect the HOPE Scholarship. SR 801, which is a constitutional amendment, would protect HOPE scholars by requiring the General Assembly to pass, by a 2/3rds vote, legislation to dip into lottery funds for anything other than the HOPE scholarship or Pre-K. It also says that up to 35% of the reserves must be used before lottery funds could be touched by lawmakers. Neither one of these provisions exists under the Governor’s bill and if we are serious about protecting the HOPE scholarship, then the General Assembly should adopt SR 801. In the House we tried to pass this amendment but it was rejected by the Republican leadership.
People are paying way too much for their home heating bills. Democrats have called for the re-regulation of the natural gas industry because it is the only way to get back to pre de-regulation prices. The Governor’s legislation that cuts the state’s natural gas tax by 50% will provides someone with about $6 to $10 in relief on $300 gas bill. This will do nothing to provide relief for those with low or fixed incomes. Our Governor is the champion of de-regulation which by all accounts has been a disaster. He should take the lead and re-regulate the natural gas industry so we can get a hold on these exorbitant bills.
Those are only some of the bills I can think of and because it is an election year I do not expect our Governor and Republican leadership to act on any of the Democratic proposals on education, healthcare, open government and ethics, which is unfortunate.
While both sides maintain their partisan vigor, there is occasional bi-partisan spirit. In this session so far, what epitomizes working together for Georgia?
It is sad but I cannot recall anything this session where we have been able to come together in a bi-partisan fashion and work together. I wish things were different but that is just where we are as a state. We need leadership at the top that will bring people together and we are not getting that right now.
While the Republicans have an advantage in pushing their agenda given their control of the General Assembly, what agenda items do you think the Republicans are ignoring and what would be at the top of your agenda if you were in charge?
Healthcare and Education are two biggest areas where the state of Georgia has suffered under this Governor and the Republican leadership. Every Governor since Joe Frank Harris has made education a priority except this one. We have postponed any improvements to education for the last three years and now that it is an election year this governor has finally seen the light. He is now claiming to be education’s savior by offering $100 gift card. With Democrats, you won’t have a second thought about education being a priority. If this Governor gets re-elected, education in Georgia will suffer for another four years.
We have seen healthcare cut under this Governor too. Under his administration some 75,000 children have been kicked off of PeachCare. These are families that pay a premium but because they are late on payment, were going to kick their kids off of their health insurance. What are our priorities as a state if we implement these kinds of policies? Democrats would work to expand the program that provides affordable healthcare to thousands of working families. We would also stabilize Medicaid and provide our state employees with a solid health plan, which is not what they are getting now.
In your legislative career, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the work I do on behalf of my constituents and having them vote for me to represent them for the last 24 years. When I help a teacher out in my district or a state employee or someone’s child get information, that is what I am the most proud of as a state representative. This can be a very hard job but also very rewarding when you go home and see people and they are so appreciative of the help you have provided.
I am also very proud of, as one of Governor Miller’s Floor Leaders, to help get the HOPE Scholarship passed in the General Assembly. It was hard work and I continue to marvel at how successful this program has been for the state of Georgia. I am also very proud of the public defender system that I sponsored in the House of Representatives. Georgia now has a public defender system that provides adequate counsel for those who cannot afford a lawyer, which is required under the constitution. Another proposal I sponsored was Preservation 2000 which protected 1000 acres of Georgia’s most environmentally sensitive land.
Outside of the legislative session, how do you balance your professional career with you duties as a representative?
I have grown accustomed to leading a very busy life but that is what it takes. It can be very demanding and you have to budget your time wisely. When there is time to get work done on either end you have to take advantage of it. Most importantly, you have to have a loving supportive family and people around you that are loyal and you can trust. I am fortunate to have all of these factors.
How do you see the Republican Lieutenant Governor’s primary shaping up?
My primary focus is retaking the Georgia House of Representatives so I have not been following the Republican Lieutenant Governor’s primary. I think Ralph Reed is pretty much emblematic of what has happened with the Republican Party. After only a year of total control in Georgia and ten years in Congress it is evident that they are drunk with power and they have abused that power and a change is needed.
How is your working relationship with Speaker Richardson?
My relationship with Speaker Richardson is cautious at best.
How is your relationship with Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown?
We have a great working relationship. We meet frequently and hold weekly press conferences together. We are on the same page of where we think this state ought to be and I have to up most respect for the Senator and his leadership team. He is doing a great job for the citizens of Georgia.
Why should Georgia vote Democrat in 2006?
Democrats are going to be the only ones to make public education a priority and the only ones to improve healthcare and the only ones to bring this state together again. This administration has failed in these three areas. We Georgia Democrats believe in protecting people’s property rights and not giving developers the right to use eminent domain to take land. We Georgia Democrats believe in making government open to the people of Georgia and we don’t think government meetings should be closed to the public. Democrats want to lead and the people of Georgia want real leadership. They are not getting it under this administration and that is why Georgia should vote Democrat in 2006.