There may be plenty of partisan contention in Washington, but the congressmen representing Macon are proud of their partnership to push for expansion of the Ocmulgee National Monument into a national park.
The proposed national park was the leading question Monday morning for U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., and Austin Scott, R-Ga., at the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce’s “Good Morning Macon” breakfast meeting.
They told business leaders gathered at the Douglass Theatre they’re optimistic that lawmakers will approve the expansion plan by the end of the year.
“Austin and I have gotten the Ocmulgee National Monument bill to a place where we think that it will be soon enacted,” Bishop said.
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The measure would expand the existing boundaries along the river from 702 to 2,800 acres and “provide additional protection for archeological resources and linking two non-contiguous areas,” Bishop said.
Scott said the bill has been moved without a vote from a subcommittee to a full committee for consideration.
“The Ocmulgee project is moving in the right direction, and we certainly expect it to continue,” Scott said.
He acknowledged there are some in the Republican party who oppose expanding any federal lands, but Scott is working to persuade them.
“I met with them again and showed them the boundaries, the aerial photos, and I again think that we’re on track,” Scott said.
The third-term congressman also has assured his colleagues that no imminent domain measures will be needed to secure additional property.
“There are no federal dollars tied to the purchase of the land and we have, I think, convinced the committee that the bill is good the way it’s written and can move forward,” Scott said.
Bishop, in his 12th term in Congress, said he appreciates the partnership with Scott in pushing congressional leaders to support the expansion.
“We try to impress upon them the importance of this legislation in Middle Georgia and the state of Georgia in tourism, as well has historic preservation,” Bishop said. “We’ve got a very, very unique property here, one that probably is hard to be mirrored elsewhere in the country. But folks don’t know about it.”
On deepening the Savannah River port, funding issues and federal regulations are delaying the project which is crucial for the Southeast economy, they said.
Both congressmen are concerned a budget impasse could shut down the government and are critical of the Sequester Budget Control Act that mandates across-the-board cuts instead of prioritizing spending.
“It’s penny wise and pound foolish,” Bishop said.
Scott told the audience: “It’s not the way you would run a hotdog stand and certainly not the way we should run the country.”
Scott also is pushing for a new platform for the Joint Surveillance and Attack Radar System, commonly called J-STARS, which is based at Robins Air Force Base and provides a vital role in national security.
Both men also urge caution in reaching out to Syrian refugees without proper security measures in place.
Scott favors congressional approval to any plan to welcome those fleeing the Middle East turmoil.
“We have to do a better job with regard to the security and knowing who it is we are bringing into the United States,” Scott said. “And making sure that we do not bring cultures, if you will, into this country that threaten our way of life.”
Bishop also is concerned that accelerated Environmental Protection Agency regulations to reduce carbon emissions could hurt Georgia’s economy.
“Recognizing that we do have only one environment,” he said, “I’m deeply concerned that the states like Georgia will face a disproportionate burden in complying with these regulations.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.