The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Westmoreland expects busy session


When the General Assembly convenes Monday, House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland, R-Sharpsburg, expects a busy session.

Gov. Roy Barnes has already said one of his focuses this year is going to be getting regional counties around Atlanta to focus on water resources, but Westmoreland is not quite sure how that's going to work.

"I want to make sure we don't have a 'WETA,'" Westmoreland said, in a slap at the government-intensive Georgia Regional Transportation Authority that was created two years ago.

"I just don't want to see another level of bureaucracy added," he said.

The potentially most divisive issue of the session could be the decision on whether to change the state flag. Groups around the state are already starting to focus on the flag and Westmoreland wants the issue settled early in the session.

"I just want to see it come to a floor vote. It was very divisive in South Carolina and we don't need that," he said.

He discounted reports that he is trying to get Republicans to vote all the same on the issue, and said he hopes the issue can be settled one way or the other this year.

The governor will also introduce the second part of his Education Reform Act this year, but Westmoreland has not seen a copy of the proposal yet.

"Gov. Miller used to send his proposals to the legislators before the session, but Barnes waits until we start," he said.

An issue that will hover over the session is redistricting. The newest U.S. Census figures indicate Georgia will gain two new congressional seats and redistricting will be addressed during the summer. Still, Westmoreland believes the political posturing will start during the session, with legislators talking about where the new lines should be drawn.

Barnes has also indicated he may introduce legislation to put more restrictions on teen driving.

"He's talking about raising the driving age, which is a real divisive issue. It's one that pits the rural legislators against the suburban and urban ones, so I don't know if anything will be accomplished," he said.

The legislators will end their session in mid-March.

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