The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Seabaugh: water could be key for Fayette in upcoming General Assembly session


Water use could become a significant issue for Fayette residents to watch in the 2001 Georgia legislative session, according to Mitch Seabaugh, who will represent parts of Fayette and Coweta counties this year in the House of Representatives.

A possible move to create a regional state water authority could lead to the diversion of Fayette's water resources to other counties in Georgia who haven't planned as well, Seabaugh said.

While Seabaugh approves a regional approach to water, creating a bureaucracy to govern water resources isn't a good idea, he said.

"Fayette County has done a great job of preparing to have the water resources they need," Seabaugh said. He added that there is a possibility that some of Fayette's water could be diverted to Fulton County to support its economic development.

A water authority could give Gov. Roy Barnes more power in the same way the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and education reforms did last year, Seabaugh noted.

"My grave concern is he'll do the same thing with water to have sole veto power in what is done for water resources," the freshman legislator said.

In anticipation of discussions about education reform, Seabaugh has decided that one of his staffers will communicate full-time with local teachers, school administrators and education officials. By having that be the staffer's only job, Seabaugh hopes to get more input about the effect of education reform in the classrooms.

"It's a very big issue," Seabaugh said.

There will likely be proposals to restore pay for paraprofessionals in kindergarten and first grade along with a measure designed to attract excellent teachers to teach in school systems where they're needed most, Seabaugh said. The latter could involve bringing back retired teachers to pitch in, an idea that has received a lot of support, he added.

Seabaugh does not support raising the legal driving age to 17 in what would essentially be "feel-good legislation," he said. Rather, he would like to lower the minimum age for getting a learner's permit from 15 to 14.

"Why pass a law that would penalize good, responsible teen drivers for the actions of a few irresponsible teen drivers?" Seabaugh said.

Also, if the state decides to require all teens to take driver's education, it should fund the system and use state troopers to teach the courses since they are the best qualified people to do so, he said.

Seabaugh also does not support a movement to change the state flag, which has been criticized as having racial undertones since it uses the Confederate emblem. The current proposal would change the state's flag to its pre-1959 version, which also was used by the Confederacy, Seabaugh said.

If the Democrats pursue that issue, they don't need the Republicans' votes to do so, Seabaugh said, noting that Democrats control both the state House and the Senate.

In light of the election mess that occurred in Florida over the U.S. presidency, Georgia's election laws may be revised, Seabaugh said. Currently, there is no deadline to certify vote totals and that must be corrected, he said.

If there is a push to create an electronic voting system, Seabaugh wants it to have the best security available so the system can't be compromised.

Seabaugh also wants to help small business owners on several issues, including a possible raise in the compensation they receive for collecting state taxes.

Seabaugh urged local residents to contact him and share their views on issues so he can better represent his district. He has spent a lot of time since winning the election in November "just listening" to constituents and interested groups.

"That's how I get my best ideas and how I can understand the issues better," he said.

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