Monday, January 30, 2017

Rural Georgia gets state legislators' attention

Rural residents, who made their voices heard loud and clear during the November elections, have gotten the attention of state lawmakers in Georgia, Maggie Lee reports for The Telegraph in Macon: "There’s a phrase that more and more people are using at the state Capitol, and not everybody says it with a country twang. Rural Georgia. Lawmakers are talking about the problems that plague some of Georgia’s smaller communities. Main Street businesses that have closed. Financially struggling hospitals. Poor internet connections. Schools that don’t offer all the classes that will help students get into the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. Young people moving to cities and never coming back."

Republican House Speaker David Ralston "is calling it the rural-development initiative," Lee writes. His spokesman, Kaleb McMichen, said it "could take the form of a study group or a working group or a commission. But the speaker wants to put a focus on creating the right environment in rural Georgia for private industry to create jobs."

When the Legislature is in session, dozens of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle attend weekly Rural Caucus meetings, Lee reports. "Some of the folks are more root than trunk when it comes to rural Georgia—they grew up in a rural place but moved to the city, or they watched their home district become a suburb. They hear a different presentation every week about agriculture, rural hospitals or some other topic."

Republican state Rep. Sam Watson, the group's chairman, told Lee, “We’ve got a lot of conversation about rural Georgia and the problems that are in rural Georgia. We’ve just got to get everybody dialed in, I think, and focused. Because I think the momentum’s there, the concern is there. And a lot of (the issues) are linked together. You get the broadband, you get the health care and you’ll get the economic development.”

"The Georgia Chamber of Commerce recently announced its own rural development plans and said it would open an office in Tifton," Lee writes.

No comments: