Chamber Members Sound Off on Legislative Issues

| September 16, 2014

Valdosta-Lowndes-County-Chamber-of-CommerceVALDOSTA — Transportation, charter schools, sales tax collection for online sales and funding for Wiregrass Georgia Tech’s technical engineering program – Chamber members let their voices be heard on all of these issues at the second Members To Be Heard of 2014 on Sept.11 at the City Hall Annex.

This meeting provided Chamber members with a platform to voice their concerns and opinions regarding local, state, and federal legislation that may have an impact on their businesses. Chamber members were encouraged to present any issues they would like the Chamber to support or oppose.

image004Members discussed the need for a dependable method of funding essential maintenance for our roads and bridges, as well as future transportation improvements. Some possible sources of additional revenue Georgia is considering include a sales tax dedicated to transportation, or an increase in the motor fuels tax. The Chamber participated in a Joint House and Senate Committee in Tifton to discuss this issue.

Local small business owners and local government officials are concerned about the unfair competition created for local bricks-and-mortar retailers when forced to compete with online retailers who are not required, as local businesses are, to collect sales tax. Current law requires consumers to pay online sales tax, but does not require online retailers to collect it. Estimates place the lost revenue to Georgia at more than $800 million each year. The Chamber was asked to support the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act, currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate.

The Chamber was asked to support Wiregrass Georgia Tech’s effort to further develop a program that will produce more technical engineering graduates, for which an abundance of jobs are available in this area.

Leaders of Scintilla Charter Academy asked the Chamber to support their efforts to provide another choice for public education in our community. Scintilla’s request for a charter is being reviewed by the State Charter Commission with an anticipated decision on Sept. 25.

“What a great turn-out from the Chamber members!” said Bruce Allred, Chairman of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Council. “Several very important issues were brought to light. To be effective, the GAC has to understand what issues are of concern to the business leaders of Valdosta-Lowndes County. With the information gleaned from the Members To Be Heard meeting, we will be able to create an effective game plan for our visits to Atlanta and Washington to ask for support on these issues.”

The Council will take the input received during this semi-annual activity under advisement and determine the Chamber’s stance on each presented issue. The information presented guides the Chamber’s legislative agenda and helps to determine support for future legislation and candidates. The Chamber supports strong business practices and encourages citizens to actively participate in the voting process on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.

In addition to Members To Be Heard, which is a platform intended for its members, the Chamber engages the community at large, encouraging citizens to vote for legislators and practices that will support the local economy. Co-sponsored by the Home Builders Association of South Georgia and the Valdosta Board of REALTOR®, the Chamber President’s Partners invite all citizens to Meet The Candidates on Oct. 7 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Rainwater Conference Center. Meet The Candidates is a free opportunity for voters to meet local, state and national candidates face-to-face and to hear a brief platform presentation from those seeking election.

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