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Lobbyist says cities must reach out for better ties to legislature

POSTED: April 21, 2009 11:47 p.m.

A top lobbyist for the Georgia Municipal Association on Tuesday told city officials from throughout Northeast Georgia that cities were spared a worse fate from the 2009 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Lamar Norton, one of the association’s representatives at the Capitol, made his remarks during a post-session meeting at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center in Gainesville.

"Cities survived the 2009 legislative session by a miracle," Norton said, adding that it remains to be seen if Gov. Sonny Perdue will veto any of the bills that were passed.

"The governor has the pen," he said. "By May 13, he has to sign, veto, or allow bills to become law without his signature. He’s got the final word and the final pen and he will make those decisions."

He said the state should include the association in important decisions.

"We feel like their should be a true partnership between cities, counties, school and the state," he said. "There are times that we scratch our head and ask why they didn’t include us. We feel like that partnership needs to be strengthened."

Norton encouraged cities to invite representatives and senators to visit their cities and give them a better understanding of the business of cities and towns.

"We made about 20 new friends that understand city business this year," Norton said of last year’s visits by lawmakers. "They didn’t always vote the way we wanted them to vote, but they had an understanding of why the city was going to be mad at them for their vote."

Gainesville Mayor pro-tem Ruth Bruner agreed with Norton.

"So much of what (the legislature) does affects the city’s ability to provide services and collect revenue on a local basis," Bruner said. "A lot of times they get into the legislature and do not understand cities run, how we do our budgets and what it takes to provide services. It’s very important that we educate them."

Norton said legislative leaders did not deliver on three issues that were discussed prior to the session. He said lawmakers could not come to terms on meaningful tax reform legislation, transportation funding and a means for funding trauma care.

He said that more than 2,700 pieces of legislation were introduced this year and many did not see action. However, because it is a two-year term, those bills still are active.

Dahlonega Mayor Gary McCullough said some lawmakers feel they should direct laws down to cities.

"At every level, state and federal, they think they know what cities, counties and states need," McCullough said. "The higher you go, the more they think they know what the citizenry needs."



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