State Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, and State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, spoke briefly updating the crowd gathered at Adairsville's Sage Cottage restaurant on the General Assembly's progress as the 2012 session continues.
"This year has been a challenging year in the same respect that the last few years have been challenging," Loudermilk said. "It got difficult when we had to make difficult decisions. ... All of a sudden in 2008, we didn't step on the brakes -- the brakes were slammed on us."
Recently, however, Loudermilk has seen improvement and voiced his excitement about opportunities for growth and recovery both locally and statewide. Both lawmakers gave credit to the state's constitutional mandate for a balanced budget as the key to Georgia's retention of a AAA bond rating. In his outlook for the region, Loudermilk specifically noted the proposed LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center as well as Floyd County's Lowe's Distribution Center under construction now.
"We're distancing ourselves ahead of the other states for job growth and I'm so excited for northwest Georgia too because if you look at this LakePoint, I think it's going to be a turning point for this community -- the Lowe's [Distribution] Center," Loudermilk said. "Anything in Bartow County or the surrounding area, we always benefit from that, so I'm excited for where we're going."
In a brief roundup of legislation before the House and Senate, Coomer commented on one bill with the potential to make an impact both locally and statewide, including some businesses alluded to by Coomer specifically in and around Adairsville.
"One of the things I've been most excited about this year is the elimination of the [state] sales tax on electricity use in manufacturing," Coomer said. "We have some relatively small manufacturers in our community, in north Bartow, who if this tax elimination goes through, and I believe it will and the governor will sign it, it's going to create an opportunity for those businesses in particular to hire possibly a whole new shift in their facilities."
Much of Tuesday's town hall was turned over for questions from the audience. Following Monday's decision from the Bartow County Board of Education for budget cuts and to raise the millage rate, most of the queries were directed toward education.
While one elderly resident was concerned over his property tax, a majority of Tuesday's town hall was consumed with discussion over charter schools.
Many present Tuesday were in opposition to state-funded charter schools, including Lola Weaver who raised questions about funding and the fear of segregating students by economic class.
"My biggest concern about this is I don't understand why we're trying to get two school systems going in the state of Georgia. If our public schools are so bad, why don't we clean them up," Weaver asked. "I feel like what is going to happen here is the people with money and the people with smart children are going to be segregated."
Loudermilk and Coomer both urged that charter schools, which as proposed, will come before voters in November, are not specifically intended for areas such as Bartow County. Children stuck in school districts which are consistently under performing are the target beneficiaries of charter schools while other schools may be available with specific focuses such as science and technology.
"It's just doing it the way we've been doing it for 10 years, House Bill 1162 just keeps things the way it is now," Loudermilk said, referring to last year's Georgia Supreme Court ruling against state-approved charter schools as they were structured. Voters will decide in November on a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the policy to continue.
"What Christian and I are saying is, we have to be multi-faceted to how we address this problem," he continued. "Charter schools address one portion of the problem especially in areas where you have major failing schools."