The Georgia House of Representatives' Committee on Assignments recently named Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Tanner said he is glad for the appointment.
"Nine people interviewed for transportation chairman, and four of them were already chairmen of other committees," Tanner said. "In that interview process, one of the assignments members asked me why I wanted to be chairman of the transportation committee when I'm already the vice chair of motor vehicles. I said because my job is to get the best committee assignments that can serve the people that I represent the best, and there is no other issue that I can work on, other than education and transportation, that is more important to the people I serve."
Tanner will also serve as the secretary on the Intragovernmental Coordination Committee and as a member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, as well as the Education, Natural Resources & Environment and Special Rules committees.
"I am honored by the trust that Speaker [David] Ralston and the Committee on Assignments placed in me by appointing me to chair this important committee," Tanner said in a release.
"Improving our transportation infrastructure is not only important to our entire state, but it is extremely important to the citizens that I serve in Dawson, Lumpkin and Forsyth counties. I am looking forward to leading in this area."
The House Committee on Assignments, chaired by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, is charged with making all House committee assignments for the members of the Georgia House of Representatives.
Tanner held his first meeting with citizens in Dawsonville on Saturday at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
Tanner briefed attendees on the first week of the session during a free breakfast at 9 a.m.
He said that the first week in session was a time for everyone to get organized and lay the foundation for the work to be done in the coming months.
"There hasn't been any legislation passed or a lot done yet," Tanner said. "We've kind of got the foundation laid: We re-elected the speaker and the speaker pro tem, the officers of the caucuses, so for the last week or so we've got the system in place with committee assignments and caucus assignments handed out. We're elected for two years at a time, so every two years there are a lot of changes, a lot of people coming in and out...that's all got ironed out this week."
On Jan. 11 there was a joint session at the capitol, where Gov. Nathan Deal, the House, Senate, Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals met and the governor gave what is known as the State of the State address.
The governor mentioned several issues that Tanner thinks will be big in the general assembly this year.
"The first one can be kind of controversial because it can be seen as a tax, but there is what is commonly referred to by the public and media as the "bed tax," which is a fee that is attached to hospital stays. It generates about $300 million annually for Medicaid in the state. That allows the state to pull down an additional $600 million from the federal government in matching funds, which is about $900 million for Medicaid."
Tanner said that if that money was not there, it would have to come from somewhere else in the budget, and something else would be cut. Because an agreement with the Georgia Department of Community Health that allows them to levy that fee is about to end, the issue has come up again in the legislature.
"The governor encouraged us to act on that quickly during the session and I think you will see that happen," Tanner said. "I think it will get support in the general assembly. It is something we would love to not have to do, but no one has come up with a better plan."
Another issue the governor spoke about was education, something Tanner thinks will have a big role in the assembly this year.
As the opportunity school district legislation failed in the November election, Tanner said the government will have to come up with another way to help failing schools.
"One of the things I point out is that no one I've talked to disagrees that we have a problem with failing schools," Tanner said. "The debate comes in as to how we best fix that problem. The bill that I'm working on uses the existing system that we have in place while holding failing schools accountable."
Tanner said he will be the primary sponsor of the bill in the house when it comes to fruition.
Tanner's next meetings with constituents will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Wagon Wheel in Dahlonega. The next Dawsonville meeting is scheduled to be at 9 a.m. Jan. 28 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame on Hwy. 53 east.
"One of the things when I first got elected that I wanted to do was have a breakfast every Saturday morning during session," Tanner said. "You may not always agree with me and you may not always agree with the way I vote, but I don't want you to be able to say that you didn't have the opportunity to express your views and your opinions to me as your representative. I want to make myself very available."