Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, wove jokes and entertaining remarks with serious answers on policy issues at Thursday’s Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Miller gave an overview of the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session and then took questions, which mostly focused on gun legislation that failed to pass both chambers.
The legislation expanded the places where people could carry concealed weapons to include churches, bars, schools and courtrooms. Philip Whilheit asked Miller for his perspective on allowing guns on campus.
Miller said personal responsibility and good judgment are the keys to reducing gun violence. He said he strongly supports the Second Amendment, but the bill as presented was unacceptable.
He used the courtroom as an example.
“When we talk about taking guns in those emotionally charged venues, I think we’d better think long and hard,” Miller said. “Long and hard.”
Miller said the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., happened because the mother of the gunman “abdicated her personal responsibility.” He said he owns many of the guns that some people want to ban and has hunted with his children since they were small and he taught them to respect guns.
The senator highlighted several accomplishments in the session, calling it productive.
“I would say that this session was about the three E’s,” he said. “Ethics, education and economic development.”
The Senate passed a rule on the first day of the session that limited lobbyist gifts to lawmakers to $100 in value or less. Both chambers passed ethics reform legislation that surpassed the Senate rule, which Miller said shouldn’t have been required if “certain people”, whom he didn’t name, used good judgment.
“We ended up with House Bill 142 and (the cap) went to $75,” he said. “But there’s more holes in that bill than a pound of Swiss cheese.”
Miller also touted the assembly’s lowering the grade point average from 3.0 to 2.0 for HOPE grant recipients. It’s going to be a real benefit to technical colleges, he said.
“Our technical colleges are the best-kept secret in the state of Georgia and we need to advertise that and market it more, frankly,” Miller said.
After the luncheon, Miller said that the magazine U.S. News & World Report ranked several local schools in its 2013 Best High School rankings this week. The schools included Chestatee, East Hall, Johnson, West Hall and Gainesville high schools.
“It’s certainly encouraging that a neutral and respected entity like U.S. News & World Report has labeled so many local high schools as among the best in America,” Miller said.
Other accomplishments mentioned included the new boating legislation that Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law on Tuesday, new restrictions for repeat driving under influence offenders and fingerprint checks for child care workers.
Kit Dunlap, chamber CEO, asked Miller about the resolution that would allow Georgia to get water from the Tennessee River and resolve a border dispute with that state. Miller said the resolution gives Georgia negotiating power.