Chamber talks with legislators
Trauma, transportation funds at top of agenda

DULUTH - Money, officials half-joked Thursday, would solve many of Gwinnett's biggest issues. But money will be hard to come by this legislative session.

During a legislative kickoff session Thursday at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, officials appealed to legislators' business sense for help on causes from public health to education and transportation.

"We think it's a safety issue," Gwinnett Medical Center President Philip Wolfe said of the desire to create a statewide trauma network. Saving lives is the crux of the issue, but Wolfe said the lack of a trauma system could be a problem for businesses considering locating in Georgia.

"The sticking point for trauma, as well as anything else we're talking about here, is money," Wolfe said.

This is the second year the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce - a nonpartisan business organization - has set a legislative agenda.

The top priority, said vice president Demming Bass, is transportation funding, after a measure for a sales tax failed by three votes late in the last session.

But the agenda also includes the support of measures on water, education, health care and revitalization, all with the purpose of bringing high-wage jobs to the county.

At the event, officials from both the local school system and Gwinnett Technical College asked legislators to spare their budgets from cuts in the current economic climate. And Georgia Gwinnett College President Dan Kaufman asked legislators to protect a needed budget hike to grow the young college - a line item that could be a target in budget debates.

Rep. Clay Cox said the funding call has been heard, but he appreciates that officials realize the dire financial strains on the state.

"We're going to tighten our belt," he said, adding that transportation and trauma funding were two of his top priorities.

"We need to pass that bill and fund those important issues," Cox said.