SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Chatham County lawmakers are laying out their priorities ahead of the 2022 legislative session.
The delegation and Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce shared their goals for the county over breakfast on Wednesday morning.
Next month, the six state representatives and two senators that make up Chatham County’s delegation will reconvene under the gold dome in Atlanta.
“Even though we are Democrats and Republicans, we still have to work together in order to bring the funds here into our communities,” said Rep. Edna Jackson (D-District 165).
Lawmakers, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, are laying out 21 priorities. Among them are affordable housing, improvement projects at local universities, expanded ferry services and funding to finish work at the Savannah Convention Center.
The 2022 session comes on the heels of new congressional maps drawn by Republicans. Based on the reapportionment, Chatham County is set to get a third senator — a Republican. It’s a point of contention among legislators.
“We think it was a back-door deal,” said Sen. Lester Jackson (D-District 2). “They came out with maps and it was forced upon us at the 12th hour. So we’re looking for transparency and that didn’t happen in these maps.”
Republicans stand their ground that the maps are drawn fairly.
“The redistricting process, nobody’s happy,” said Rep. Ron Stephens (R-District 164). “But we did follow the guidelines, we’re all within the Voting Rights Act and we reapportioned people with communities and mostly counties, whole counties where we could, we kept those folks whole.”
Another piece of legislation expected to be addressed next year is a proposal to legalize sports betting, which was spearheaded by Rep. Stephens.
“You can get on your phone today and legally place a sports wager,” Stephens said. “The only thing we’re not doing is collecting the revenue for our kids and education and most importantly is we’re not regulating it.”
In a legislative year largely dominated by COVID-19 and voting integrity, those in power said they are ready to move forward next year.
“We’ve got continued work,” said Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-District 162). “We’ve got the dredging of the port, we’ve got the expansion of the trade center but more importantly Medicaid expansion needs to be on the forefront.”
The 2022 legislative session is set to begin on Jan. 10 and run through the end of March.