Caterpillar announcement was great news for state

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When we returned to the Gold Dome on Tuesday, Feb. 21, the general assembly reached day 22 of the legislative session. We were still applauding the exciting news for the future of Georgia’s economy. On Friday, February 17, Governor Deal announced that Caterpillar Inc. will bring more than 1,400 jobs to Georgia, with the construction of a new manufacturing plant in Athens.

In addition to these jobs at the new plant, Caterpillar’s suppliers and increased retail sales are expected to create another 2,800 jobs. The announcement proves that Georgia is an internationally-competitive market, as Caterpillar will actually relocate Japanese production of small excavators and backhoes to the new Georgia plant.

We were encouraged to see this positive news after all the work my colleagues and I have put into restoring Georgia’s economy and promoting job creation. Last year, we started the process of implementing meaningful tax reform that would encourage small business growth and investment. While we continue to work on tax reform, this year we are also working to eliminate unnecessary government regulations through the Red Tape Watch initiative.

We have identified burdensome and unnecessary government regulations that prevent Georgia small businesses from thriving. Look for meaningful changes in the future. Through these combined efforts, I am confident that many more businesses will follow Caterpillar in moving jobs to Georgia.

An important part of attracting businesses to Georgia is to prepare our children to become the next generation of exceptional Georgia workers. That is why innovative schools, like charter schools, are important to our state’s education system.

Unfortunately, the future of some state-sponsored charter schools was threatened last summer when the Supreme Court of Georgia, in a close and controversial decision, ruled that local school systems have exclusive power over public education. This week, along with 123 other members of the house (only 48 of the 180 members voted “no”), we made a very difficult decision and voted to pass House Resolution 1162.   All students in Georgia are not as fortunate as we are to be blessed with the outstanding education systems that we have. Your local delegation was very active and involved in negotiating and protecting our teachers and local school boards.

House Resolution 1162 is a constitutional amendment that will allow the state to approve charter schools, when requested by parents. However, HR 1162 does not allow the state to use local school board funds for state-created charter schools. Again, no local school board funds will be used for state charter schools. HR 1162 will ensure that existing state sponsored charter schools can keep their doors open, but it also clarifies our constitution so that we maintain a system of checks and balances in state policies regarding education.

Local school boards play the major role in providing public education, and the state has a responsibility to protect its “educated workforce brand” so that businesses know that starting operations in Georgia will give them a pool of employees that are competent, qualified, and prepared to start work on day one. Because HR 1162 is a constitutional amendment, it must now receive approval from two-thirds of the Senate and the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal, before being placed on the ballot for approval from voters. If that happens, you and all other Georgia voters will have the final say on whether HR 1162 should be added to our state constitution.

In addition to passing legislation this week, we also took time to recognize the brave Georgians in uniform who protect our great state and nation. Wednesday, Feb. 22, was Georgia National Guard Day. On this day, we honored the sacrifice of our 45 fallen heroes who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and welcomed their families to the State Capitol. We also recognized our current National Guard troops who serve and protect us. It was an honor to recognize these incredible soldiers and airmen at the State Capitol. We are forever grateful for the sacrifices that they have made for our freedom.

As we move forward into our eighth legislative week, we encourage you to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have regarding our state, as well as our local community. We always welcome your comments, because they help us understand how to better serve as your state representatives. You can contact me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-0152. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, is the representative for State House District 172, which includes all of Decatur County.