Metro Atlanta Chamber adopts 2010 legislative agenda

By Maria Saporta

The board of the Metro Atlanta Chamber this morning adopted its 2010 legislative agenda calling for renewed initiatives related to water, transportation, education and economic development.

In the past several years, the Chamber’s legislative agenda has fared poorly in the General Assembly. And the fact that 2010 is an election year for virtually all of the state’s elected officials adds yet another complexity to the Chamber’s agenda this coming year.

John Yates, a partner of the Morris, Manning & Martin law firm who chairs the Chamber’s political action committee, said the greatest focus for 2010 likely will be water, followed closely by transportation.

The Chamber also would love to see progress on its school board governance reform recommendations, which Yates called a “motherhood and apple pie” issue. It also would like to see Georgia establish incentives for targeted industries so it can remain competitive with other states.

“These are the same issues we’ve been focused on for a while,” Yates said. “We need to focus on making progress in some key areas during this legislative session.”

When it comes to water, the Metro Atlanta Chamber has been working with Gov. Sonny Perdue on the Water Contingency Task Force to work on ways that the region can have adequate water supply for the future, either through conservation, new reservoirs or inter-basin transfers or a combination of the three.

The Chamber also is supporting full funding of a statewide water plan that passed in 2008, an investment of about $10 million.

It also supports appropriating $250,000 in state matching funds for the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District, to ensure long-term water management planning.

When it comes to transportation, the Metro Atlanta Chamber is supporting a regional funding bill.

“We call on legislative leaders to act quickly to come to an agreement on and pass a regional, voter-approved sales tax for the metro Atlanta region that contains the same opportunities for all of Georgia’s cities and counties,” the 2010 legislative agenda states.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber is partnering with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Regional Business Coalition and the Georgians for Better Transportation on pushing forward on a regional funding solution.

Last year, there was a legislative stalemate between the House of Representatives, which favored a statewide sales tax for transportation, the Georgia Senate, which favored a regional approach.

Renay Blumenthal, the Chamber’s senior vice president of public policy, said there has been “more movement towards a regional approach” because there’s growing recognition that a statewide sales tax would likely be defeated by voters.

Blumenthal is holding out hope that the legislature will pass a transportation funding bill this session.

“Water and the budget will probably take center stage this session, but we are hopeful that other issues like transportation and education can still be addressed,” she said.

The Chamber also is calling for the legislature to give MARTA the flexibility of using its one-cent sales tax as it sees fit. The tax, which is collected in only Fulton and DeKalb counties, has a state-imposed restriction that half must go towards operations and half towards capital improvements. That restriction needs to be removed, according to the Chamber’s legislative agenda.

The political dynamics of this year’s session will be intense. Last year, a stand-off between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson, both Republicans, ended up killing several of the Chamber’s initiatives.

Now the state’s Republican leadership is feeling pressure because of serious competition from Democrats — most notably former Gov. Roy Barnes, who is considered a front-runner in next year’s gubernatorial election.

The question is whether the possibility of a Barnes victory will be enough to unify Republicans in the state. For example, will Republicans be willing to work together to pass a transportation funding bill to remove a major source of criticism about their lack of leadership in the state.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

3 replies
  1. Dose of Reality says:

    I have run out of hope for any of the chamber’s agenda being passed. If anything, the election year just makes it even more unlikely anything remotely progressive will be passed. If you’re a rural legislature you can’t very well go back home to whip up your base with a good round of Atlanta bashing, if you’ve agreed to a (gulp) tax increase for the big city.

    Mark it down: by March, we’ll again be talking about how the legislature once again failed to pass anything of substance, and the chamber’s agenda will be left to whither in the wind. And Atlanta’s competitors will continue to leave us in their dust.

    If there is one thing Georgia voters prove time and again, its that solutions don’t win elections. Blame does.Report

  2. BPJ says:

    The Atlanta Chamber and its allies, especially the Georgia Chamber and the Association of County Commissioners, need to get together and make a list. Write down the name of every legislator who is afraid of losing his seat if he doesn’t do what these groups want. It’s going to be a short list. Part of the problem is that while they have good lobbyists, those lobbyists aren’t seen as able to deliver a lot of votes or campaign cash. Other interests can and do deliver cash and votes.

    Part of the solution is to mobilize influential individuals who belong to these organizations, especially the board members of the Atlanta and Georgia chambers. This has never been done effectively. When legislators who are on the fence (which is about a fourth of both houses) see a consituent walk in their office – someone who is an influential business leader in their district, who can and does raise campaign dollars – and that constituent says, “look, I’ve supported you for years, but this transportation bill is a crucial issue for me and a lot of people in our community, and if you don’t vote for it I will reluctantly go out and start recruiting and financing someone to run against you” – THAT is when the necessary transportation policies will be implemented. It hasn’t happened so far, and that is why the Chamber (a fine and well-run organization) continues to lose every year.Report

  3. Progressive Dem says:

    This year the new wrinkle is Marta. It continues to need action from the legislature to permit the broader use of the sales tax for operations. Does any Republican want to be accused of “bailing out Marta”? Then you have DeKalb and Fulton complaining they are paying for a transit system that benefits the region, but the region doesn’t contribute. The legislators from those delegations aren’t very motivated to pass an overhaul of transportion if it doesn’t include an effort expand/reform the role, governance and revenue of Marta. The Governor, who has a rather odd hands-off policy with the legislature, is even more of a lame duck this year then last. The GOP leadership doesn’t seem particularly interested in the Atlanta business community. They must be receiving campaign contributions money from somewhere else. They sure don’t seem to be listening. It is hard to predict what the governors race will focus upon in 2010, but let’s hope it isn’t an opt out provision about health care. Finally with prolongedand high rates of unemployment, no one seems very confident or bold. I’m afraid the politics are getting worse, not better. Batten down the hatches, we’re in rough seas. To use the favorite adjective of Judge Manguson, the legislatures upcoming failure to deal with Marta, will lead to draconian cuts in service. I don’t believe the politics for reform will ocurr until a lot more pain is suffered in terms of commute times, air quality, exisitng headquarters lossesReport


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