Speaker Ralston reassures Metro Atlanta Chamber board

By Maria Saporta

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston was the special guest at today’s board meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

And from the folks who attended the meeting, the word was that he impressed business leaders with his interest in moving beyond the dysfunctional (my word) politics of the last couple of years.

“He gave us a very nice overview of their agenda,” said Bill Linginfelter, this year’s Metro Atlanta Chamber chairman and Regions Bank’s area president for Georgia and South Carolina. “He seemed excited about the prospect for a transportation bill (coming out of this year’s legislative session).”

Linginfelter, however, said Ralston did not provide any specifics of what that transportation bill would include and whether it would go before voters during the 2010 elections or in 2012.

Linginfelter also said business leaders did not ask the new speaker about any details and they did not share with him their preferences.

In the past couple of years, the Metro Atlanta Chamber has urged the legislature to move forward on transportation funding because it has felt that the region already has been losing ground.

The chamber also has had a clear preference to allow regions to vote on a possible new penny sales tax for transportation rather than having a statewide referendum.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has proposed breaking up the state into different regions, having a referendum be presented statewide, but allowing a tax to be implemented in the regions where the majority of voters are willing to tax themselves.

Given the difficult economy, the governor also has suggested that it be presented to voters in 2012 rather than during the upcoming elections for governor and other state offices.

Either way, business leaders interviewed after this morning’s chamber board meeting clearly were relieved by Ralston’s willingness to work with the governor, the lt. governor and the business community.

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.

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