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State reps report on issues

State, national leaders answer questions at Chamber forum

    Federal and state legislators touched on a variety of issues Saturday morning at a forum organized by the Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce.
    State representatives Jon Burns (R) and Bob Lane (R) joined state senator Jack Hill (R) and United States Congressman John Barrow (D) to answer questions and update members of the chamber on the legislative session thus far.
    Barrow addressed the emerging alternative energy market as the country grapples with how to deal with higher fuel costs, saying transportation energy production needs to be similar to the production of energy for homes and businesses.
    “We’ve got energy coming, in part, from natural gas, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric plants feeding the power grid,” he said. “Contrast that with our transportation energy where we have all our transportation energy eggs in one basket.”
    He advocated using corn and pine slash that could be converted into fuel, which would, in turn, help the nation’s security by helping it become energy independent.
    Barrow was also asked about the budget deficit and trade deficit facing the United States.
    As to the budget, he said when he was a member of the county commission, they were required to have a balanced budget.
    “Congress needs to do it,” he said.
    He also said that trade agreements need to be more equitable.
    “Free trade partners need to be fair trade partners,” he said, referring to the fact that some countries that the United States trades with don’t have the same basic work standards that are enforced in this country.
    Jack Hill, chairman of the appropriations committee in the state senate, said Georgia’s economy has slowed in comparison to recent years, but the state is still near the national average for growth and should be able to meet its budget this year with no problems.
    “It’s not cause for alarm, but if you hear someone claim there’s going to be a surplus, it’s just not true,” he said.
    Hill said the state’s PeachCare program, which provides health insurance for uninsured children, faces funding problems and without help from the federal government, it would wind up dipping into reserves to continue.
    Lane addressed the idea of possibly changing the terms of state legislators from two years to four years. Lane said the two-year term lawmakers serve can make it seem like they are constantly campaigning for reelection, but it also keeps the politicians “on our toes and responsive.”
    Lane said he would be in favor of a four-year term for members of the state senate as they have a larger area to represent and it’s difficult to build relationships over such a large area and build a trust with people in a district.
    Burns spoke about the importance of technical education in Georgia as vital to keeping industries in the state as well as attracting new ones to the area.
    “I advocate maintaining and increasing spending on technical education,” he said.
    The forum was sponsored by Northland Cable Television.
    Luke Martin can be reached at  (912) 489-9454.

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