The fact that I support Governor Deal for re-election should surprise no one, so let me do more here and explain why. As a State Representative and House Majority Whip, I had an opportunity to work with the governor and his team over the past four years. In so doing, I have seen Governor Deal exercise vision, tough leadership, and savvy determination to meet the needs of our state. Here are just a few examples:
It is always good politics to appear to be tough on crime; however, good policy requires you to also be smart on the issue. Governor Deal took the lead on revamping Georgia’s criminal justice system. The goal for the reforms is to distinguish between people that we are afraid of from those with whom we are merely mad at. The latter are often made up of folks who have been busted for drug related crimes. Through the expanded use of drug courts and alternative sentencing we now have a real chance at keeping a youthful mistake from becoming a first step towards a lifetime criminal profession.
In 2011, we faced a crisis in the HOPE Scholarship Program – revenue was simply not keeping up with expenditures. Governor Deal assembled a bi-partisan group of legislative leaders who included Republican Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and the Democratic Minority Leader Stacey Abrams to fashion a rescue plan. A Zell Miller Scholarship was set up to provide a full scholarship to our state’s top high school students (3.7 GPA or above). The HOPE scholarship for the remaining eligible students (3.0 or above) were pegged to Lottery revenue to insure its long term economic viability. Without these changes, the HOPE Scholarship would be in a precarious position now.
Governor Deal also took head on the issue of dysfunctional school boards. In 2011, he supported a bill that gives the Governor the power to step in when school board operations threaten the accreditation of school systems. He then deftly used the law in two different ways to restore confidence in two different urban school systems. In the case of the Atlanta School Board, he pursued bi-partisan monitoring that assisted the school board in restoring accreditation. In the case of the DeKalb School Board, he recognized that a tougher move was necessary and chose to remove and replace the school board all together. Once again, this move led to this school system’s being freed from its accreditation probation status.
In 2012, Governor Deal took the lead in fighting for the Constitutional Amendment approving the statewide charter school commission. This proposal faced strong opposition from the forces of the status quo and it took political courage to take on these forces. In the end, Georgia became the first state in the country to pass on its first try a constitutional amendment in favor of charter schools and we did so by a wide bi-partisan margin.
Last month, we finally began the dredging work on the Savannah harbor. Economic experts predict that it will have a potential long term economic impact in Georgia similar to the Atlanta International Airport. Putting together the necessary bi-partisan team that included Mayor Kasim Reed and others to secure the necessary funding did not just happen. It took a governor who understood the economic importance of the project, how Washington works, and how Georgia works to make it happen. It took Governor Deal.
By contrast, you may ask where was Senator Carter on these issues? In fairness, he voted for the criminal justice reforms although he offered no meaningful input in committee or on the Senate floor. He voted against the reforms to the HOPE Scholarship arguing instead for punitive income caps for recipients – a position he has now repudiated. In the struggle to fix his own DeKalb County School Board, Senator Carter refused to stand with other bi partisan county public officials who supported the Governor’s actions. On the Constitutional Amendment for Charter Schools, he voted no. On the dredging of the Savannah Harbor, Senator Carter voted against this year’s state budget which includes the vital necessary final state funding needed to procure federal assistance.
In short, we need Governor Deal to continue working for Georgia, and I urge you to join me in voting for him on November 4th – if not before.