The Georgia House of Representatives recognized 8 new committee chairmen, with House Democrats earning one chair. State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) was appointed to chair the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Overview Committee (MARTOC), a statutory body overseeing the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) budget.
Oliver was the only Democrat appointed to chair a committee; no Democrats chair any of the subcommittees or special committees either. MARTOC’s designation as a joint committee means that it doesn’t handle legislation, and members don’t vote with the MARTA Board of Directors.
The only other member listed on the committee currently is State Representative John Carson (R-Marietta). Carson served on the committee during the last session as well.
In an interview with The Georgia Star News, Oliver commended Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) for honoring the traditional means of appointing the MARTOC chair and bipartisanship.
“David Ralston should be congratulated for making this small step in history. There’s never been, on the House side, an appointment of a minority party to chair a commission by the majority party,” stated Oliver. “I’m pleased with the appointment and the credit goes to Speaker Ralston for changing something that needed to be changed. It’s a small step toward bipartisanship in the house. The history of the MARTOC committee is that the chairs have alternated [between] DeKalb and Fulton County. Based on the defeat of Deborah Silcox last year, this year it’s DeKalb County[‘s turn].”
In the last session for 2019-2020, the committee was composed of Republican representatives exclusively. State Representative Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) served as the chair. In addition to Carson, State Representatives Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) and Jimmy Pruett (R-Eastman) were members.
Oliver also told The Star News that MARTOC is facing growth due to the changing landscape of the state. She noted that some of that growth has to do with Cobb and Gwinnett counties, who are not yet partnered with MARTA.
“The expansion of a population to over 5 million people is making every county around us look for new ways to deal with transit issues. MARTA is poised to be a greater system,” explained Oliver. “For the first time, our state budget is now funding transportation. We have new conversations that need to happen.”
The landscape of the Georgia House has changed as well, with Democrats increasing their presence. In all, Democrats flipped 4 seats and Republicans flipped 1 seat.
Two of the members from the last session’s MARTOC, Silcox and Harrell, were displaced by State Representatives Shea Roberts (D-Atlanta) and Rebecca Mitchell (D-Snellville). Republicans retained Pruett’s seat with State Representative Robert Pruitt (R-Eastman).
Other new chairmen include State Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) for the Ways and Means Committee, State Representative Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) for the Governmental Affairs Committee, State Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) for the Transportation Committee, State Representative Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville) for the Education Committee, State Representative Robert Dickey (R-Musella) for the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, State Representative James Burchett (R-Waycross) for the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, State Representative Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) for the House Judiciary Committee.
Ralston didn’t respond with comment by press time.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mary Margaret Oliver” by Mary Margaret Oliver. Background Photo “Georgia Capitol” by Autiger. CC BY-SA 2.0.