Former councilman ready for his debut as legislator

LAWRENCEVILLE - Being the new kid in school is always intimidating, but it helps when you're already friends with the class president and the star quarterback.

That's the way Melvin Everson feels beginning his first session of the General Assembly.

Everson is the only legislator from Gwinnett entering the mid-term session, but during his race to become the first black Republican to win a contested battle for the General Assembly in Georgia history, he had House Speaker Glenn Richardson backing his campaign along with other powerful legislators.

In his preparations for opening day, Everson has already spent time with Richardson, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen and Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Everson said he's spent at least one day a week at the Capitol since his November victory, reading and researching legislation.

He's working on a bill to take away taxpayer-funded support to illegal immigrants, which is similar to a proposal in the Senate. He'll also carry a proposal from the Snellville City Council, where he began his political career. The council wants to put up cameras to catch speeders in school zones, similar to the emerging red-light camera trend.

"I think I will come under some scrutiny," Everson said, commenting on his place in history. "But I don't focus on that. I'll focus on the job at hand. My mission is to be a public servant for all the people."

Last week, he became the only Gwinnettian on the House's transportation committee.

"It gives us inroads for much-needed funding," Everson said.

Richardson also appointed Everson to the Education and Judiciary Non-Civil committees.

With Everson at their side, local Republicans may be more willing to flex their political muscle, a year after the GOP took over the House and two years after the same happened in the Senate.

Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville, said one of his top priorities will be to get Gwinnett its "fair share" of money in the state budget.

Both the school system and the health department have complained about a lack of state funding even though the departments are at the top in the number of people they have to serve.

"That's one of the main things I want to do is to get Gwinnett out of the donor mode," Heard said of the school system.

Rep. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula, has the same goal for the county's health department.

Chairman Charles Bannister said he hopes to see some action on a year-old proposal to change Gwinnett's form of government to a county-manager style.

The county is also interested in the creation of a stormwater authority to take control of the new utility that will charge land owners beginning this year. Legislators could also work on adding a new State Court judge to the busy bench.

Barrow County officials will once again work on the Ten Commandments issue. Reps. Tommy Benton and Terry England have introduced a bill that would allow hanging the document, which was taken down from the county courthouse after a lawsuit was settled.