Yesterday, Charlie, Mike, and I sat down for a candid discussion with Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) about some of the issues that he and his caucus are pushing this session.
While this was an opportunity for Sen. Rogers to relay his agenda, the discussion was very direct, yet friendly. Given that this was our first meeting, it was more of an introduction; a chance for us to have a better understanding of the Senate’s perspective on major issues facing the state in 2012 and on.
Some of the issues brought up during our discussion are familiar. Sen. Rogers told us that his Taxpayer Protection Act and zero-based budgeting are again working through the legislature and seem likely to pass.
Given the news about education and scandals in school systems in recent months, Sen. Rogers expressed support for a constitutional amendment protecting charter schools. He indicated that support existed inside his caucus to move the amendment, which is needed to fix a incredibly misguided decision by the state Supreme Court, but noted that it faced an uncertain future in the House.
Sen. Rogers also noted his support for bringing education into the 21st Century by paving the way for money online classrooms and using e-readers to save money on textbooks. These may not be things the legislature takes up this year, but Sen. Rogers indicated that Georgia has to think outside-the-box in order to use taxpayer dollars more wisely.
He also noted that some technical corrections may be needed on last year’s anti-immigration bill (HB 87), but that it wouldn’t be a broad overhaul, despite worker shortages in South Georgia. Sen. Rogers also acknowledged that the T-SPLOST faces hurdles due as voters in Metro Atlanta counties feel that they won’t receive much benefit from it as it spends too much on transit and not enough on roads. Sen. Rogers noted that a mistake was made in putting 10 years of funding into a permanent cost structure.
For our part, we expressed a desire to see real ethics reform passed by the legislature. We also noted that we felt that mixed messages were being sent by the Governor’s office and the legislature, assuming they go along, with the $400 million earmark for a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons (an issue you’ll be hearing more about in the coming days) and priorities on other issues, such as transportation. Sen. Rogers had open mind on these and other issues that we brought up, but noted that the politics surrounding them — particularly on ethics reform — are difficult to cut through.
It seems as though we will have an on-going, open dialogue with Sen. Rogers, and ostensibly the Senate Republican caucus. We will continue to meet with him during the course of the session so we can provide our readers with up-to-date, exclusive information.