Members of the Houston County delegation to the General Assembly said Thursday they bear no grudges over the governor’s veto of two controversial bills.
Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed one bill that would have allowed people to carry guns on college campuses and another that was referred to as the religious liberty bill.
Thursday, seven members of Houston’s delegation, all Republicans, appeared at the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues breakfast. The event’s moderator, Telegraph editorial page editor Charles Richardson, asked members if the governor’s vetoes could mar relations in the next legislative session.
State Rep. Heath Clark, the first to address the issue, said he will consider all bills equally in the next session, including those that originate from the governor.
“I’m sick and tired of the politics of retribution,” Clark said. “That’s one of the reasons why voter turnout is so low. People are tired of retribution politics and the gotcha politics.”
His answer drew applause from the audience of about 150 people.
State Rep. Buddy Harden said he has spoken to Deal about the vetoes, and there may have been some added provisions that caused legitimate concerns, particularly on the religious liberty bill.
“Let’s step back and take time to see if we can’t perfect the bill rather than get mad at the governor’s veto,” he said. “That’s what we are there for.”
The delegation members on hand also included Sen. Larry Walker, Sen. John Kennedy, Rep. Shaw Blackmon, Rep. Robert Dickey and Rep. Bubber Epps.
Another issue the delegation addressed is the prospect of industrial growth as the result of projected growth in the Savannah port.
Walker, who served on the Houston County Development Authority prior to getting elected, said there is real potential for bringing industry to Houston County as a result of the port growth. He said investments the county has made in securing industrial tracts could pay off.
“I think Houston County is in a very good position to take advantage of this increased traffic from the port,” Walker said. “We’ve all heard the number of what they are projecting as far as freight coming through the port. It’s hard to wrap your head around it and fully understand the impact of what it is going to do for the Middle Georgia area.”
The delegation also discussed the dismal turnout in Tuesday’s primary election and whether allowing people to vote at the precinct that’s most convenient to them could help.
Most said they support making it easier to vote, but that must be weighed against the potential for voter fraud. Some also pointed out that other efforts to make voting more convenient, including early voting and Saturday voting, do not seem to have helped turnout.
Dickey said low voter turnout isn’t his biggest concern when it comes to elections.
“I’m more concerned about voters who are not informed,” he said. “If voters are not motivated enough and engaged enough to go vote, and informed enough, I don’t worry about it too much. I like those voters who want to go vote for a real reason.”