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Ga. Senate District 16 Republican runoff candidate Marty Harbin responds to questions from The Citizen

The July 22 Republican runoff election for the Georgia State Senate, District 16 nomination is just two weeks away. To give voters the opportunity to hear from the candidates, The Citizen asked Republican runoff candidates Marty Harbin and David Studdard to respond to seven questions with short answers of 100 words or less to each query.

Below are the questions and the responses from candidate Marty Harbin.

1. What are your spending priorities for state government? Do they require a tax hike or a tax decrease and explain your justification.

Harbin: I would want to review programs and spending first to determine if we are making the most efficient use of the resources already directed to them. I don’t believe we can simply say, “raise this tax” or “decrease this spending” without first understanding what we are doing today. My priorities with respect to the programs and services for review would be:

(a) Educational systems at the elementary, secondary, and college levels — are we making the best use of current facilities, technology, and funding?

(b) Transportation and infrastructure — we must take a long-term view now to ensure the best economic benefit for the entire state. I favor funding options that direct the costs toward those who benefit most from improvements. One example would be user fees to fund additional lanes or bonds to fund improvements to the transportation corridor from the port of Savannah to the rest of the state. I would not be in favor local or regional TSPLOSTs to fund these types of projects.

2. What are your priorities to scale back state government, if any? Please be specific.

Harbin: (a) Privatize services where it is feasible to do so — both from an economic standpoint and a quality of service standpoint. The city of Sandy Springs has successfully outsourced virtually all government services; while I don’t suggest that can be done on a state-wide level, I do believe the idea deserves to be examined and implemented where possible.

(b) Where privatization may not be feasible, we need to conduct a cost/benefit analysis of state services and permits and the fees associated with them.

(c) Review of all state social welfare programs, with an eye toward giving people a hand up rather than a hand-out — we need to provide an incentive for those who need assistance to use such programs as a stepping stone to move beyond dependency on government.

3. What lawmaking do you expect to be involved in and what are your legislative priorities for the first session if you are elected?

Harbin: (a) Review of Georgia’s participation in the Common Core Standards for K-12 education. I believe educational standards should be determined at the local level. A federal bureaucracy that can’t adequately direct government divisions for which it is directly responsible (the IRS, for example) is hardly the best choice to set and measure standards outside its direct jurisdiction.

(b) Affordable Health Care — I believe we need to move away from a federally-mandated “one-size-fits-all” program that does not truly address the needs of the people of this state with market-based solutions.

(c) Elimination of the state income tax in favor of a consumption or Fair Tax method. Georgia has bordering states that do not have a state income tax that are drawing retirees away from the state.

(d) Strengthening incentives for businesses to locate or relocate to Georgia to create jobs and additional revenue.

4. If elected in the fall, if legislation comes up in your current professional field, how will you respond? Do you intend to serve on any committee regulating or overseeing your profession and if so, how do you justify that?

Harbin: As an independent insurance and investment services professional, I am not employed by any insurance securities company or securities firm. I represent the interests of my clients, not the companies. In 37 years as an independent advisor, I have often stood between the client and the company to ensure a fair and equitable outcome in claims and other matters. I have gone to the state Insurance Commissioner to advocate for changes that protect the consumer.

In the same way, it is the duty of an elected official to be an advocate for his or her constituents. I believe my knowledge and experience in the insurance and securities field would help to secure the rights and legal protections of those I was elected to serve and so would actively participate in legislative matters related to them.

5. Does the state need an independent ethics commission and how would you fund it to keep it from being controlled or influenced by any elected official?

Harbin: I do believe there should be clearly independent oversight of ethical matters. At a minimum, it would need to be bipartisan, and ideally would include independent members unaffiliated with any political party. Much like a corporate board of directors, such a commission could be comprised of individuals from various walks of life, including citizens and business leaders who would serve on a part-time, as-needed basis. This would help limit or completely avoid the need for additional offices or staff. Funding would have to come from the state’s general funds, but costs should be minimized if the commission is formed as I have described.

6. Do you think current open records and open meetings laws are sufficient, need to be expanded to allow more public scrutiny or do they need to be curtailed to decreased public scrutiny? Explain your answer.

Harbin: All matters related to government spending and legislation need to be fully transparent. Where the people’s money and the people’s interests are involved, they have an absolute right to know where and to whom that money goes and how the decisions that affect their lives are made.

I would not support efforts to curtail the people’s right to know. In fact, I would recommend additional options to open the process to the public. For example, live streaming of committee meetings, with archived copies available on the General Assembly website. I’d also like to see all sponsors of a bill listed publicly, rather than only the first five sponsors as is currently the case — the people should know everyone who stood behind a piece of legislation.

7. If elected, do you intend to impose term limits on yourself and what would they be? Or do you support a statewide term limits law?

Harbin: I would support legislation to institute statewide term limits. I do not believe the Founding Fathers ever intended that elected office be a full-time or lifetime job.

[Marty Harbin is an independent insurance and investment services professional who runs the family business headquartered in Fayetteville. Harbin graduated Georgia State University in 1977 with a BBA. Harbin has lived in Tyrone with his wife Debbie for 36 years. Harbin has served as a district representative for the Fayette County Republican Party and as 3rd and 1st vice chair of the 3rd Congressional District. Harbin has also been active in the South Atlanta Tea Party. He is a member of Fayetteville First Baptist.]

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