Politics & Government

Macon delegation's rift widens

A rift in the Macon legislative delegation widened Thursday as the General Assembly session winds down for the year.

State Reps. James Beverly and Nikki Randall, who are both Democrats, questioned a decision by some delegation members to hold a meeting in downtown Macon Thursday afternoon. State Reps. Bubber Epps, Allen Peake and Robert Dickey -- all Republicans -- were the only legislators to attend the meeting. Epps said it was an opportunity to discuss the session and some of the recent concerns raised by Beverly and Randall.

Beverly said he was unable to attend because he had a meeting with the Georgia Department of Transportation at the same time, but he questioned whether the meeting was necessary.

"The point of a meeting when there is no benefit to the people that I represent in Bibb County is kind of ludicrous," he said. "It's kind of too little, too late. Overall, I think we could have done a lot more for Bibb had we had meetings prior to the end of the session."

Beverly has been at odds with the delegation's Republican members over some issues. Beverly has voiced his frustration over the lack of action by local GOP members to eliminate confusion over Macon-Bibb County Commission district lines. He has also pushed for this year's nonpartisan general elections to be held in November instead of May, which drew differing opinions from the legislative counsel and the Macon-Bibb County attorney.

Epps said changing the election date and district lines require a revision to the Macon-Bibb charter, but no request was made from Macon-Bibb officials. Epps also referenced a Feb. 23 Telegraph article that said Randall and Beverly were upset with some state lawmakers. Epps quoted Beverly's statement that "five middle-aged white men" were running Macon-Bibb County.

"We just wanted to meet today and see if (Randall and Beverly) would come and have a dialogue on it," Epps said during Thursday's meeting.

Randall, who said she had another appointment Thursday and could not attend, said the reason for the meeting was unclear to her.

There were some items brought to the local delegation's attention by some Macon leaders that were not addressed during this session, she said. She pointed out how Macon-Bibb commissioners overwhelmingly supported a resolution asking state officials to limit the Macon-Bibb mayor's firing powers over department heads, but it never went anywhere in the Legislature. Randall said the issue should have been taken up in Atlanta.

She said the characterization that she and Beverly were "pouting" when they called out their Republican colleagues is unfair.

Randall said that when local leaders meet with the delegation before the session, they expect their issues to be addressed.

"I thought we were for real about that," she said.

Randall also had some technical questions about the process of how some county boards are appointed to be tackled.

Epps said those issues can be addressed in the future.

"(The technical questions were) something we did not address in the charter and had a gentlemen's agreement among ourselves that it's something we would revisit," Epps said.

"Our concern is the charter we're operating on is what was voted upon by the citizens of this county," he said.

LEGISLATORS BREAK DOWN SESSION

Peake described the current legislative session as "fast and furious."

Among the highlights of the session, which ends next week, has been the medical marijuana bill Peake sponsored that would have allowed the drug to be grown in the state. He said he expects a revised version to come out of the House of Representatives on Tuesday before going back to senators. The changes to the measure would allow for liquid cannabis to be used for additional diagnoses such as autism.

"The question is whether the lieutenant governor will allow it to be voted upon," Peake said.

Dickey, Peake and Epps said it was a coup for Middle Georgia when $35 million was approved by Gov. Nathan Deal for the Mercer University Medical School. They also said they were pleased that raises would be given to public school teachers.

Dickey said he is happy with the campus carry gun bill that was approved by the House and Senate.

"It's up to the governor now," Dickey said.

To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623

An earlier version of this story mischaracterized a statement by Nikki Randall regarding  local boards.

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