Taylor Bennett won the District 80 seat in the state House of Representatives in a special runoff election Aug. 11. He will represent Brookhaven and portions of Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Dunwoody when the Legislature reconvenes in January. The Sandy Springs Reporter asked him five questions about his legislative plans. Here are his answers:
How are you preparing for the upcoming legislative session?
Well, first and foremost, I’m finalizing a community outreach plan. We made a point during our campaign of trying to touch and connect with every voter we could regardless of party or any other characteristic, and I intend to carry that approach forward as a state representative. In order for me to be the best representative I can be for the people of Brookhaven, Sandy Springs and Chamblee, I’m going to have to be accessible, open, and listen and solicit input on all decisions. I’m really looking forward to that dialogue, and we’re going to roll out our community schedule very soon, so stay tuned.
What do you plan to do as your first action in the House?
I’m not sure there is a singular first action, but there’s a lot to be done between now and the start of session. First and foremost, I’m looking forward to establishing relationships with my new colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There are a number of bipartisan bills already in the works that I think would improve the lives of people in our district and in our state, and I’m anxious to see how I can support those ideas and hopefully move them along. I’ve also got several ideas of my own I’d like to submit for consideration, which will mean meeting with party leadership on both sides of the aisle and working closely with legislative counsel to craft strong legislation. As soon as I get my committee assignments I’ll immediately get together with the respective chairpersons and other members so I can learn as quickly as I can and be the best representative I can be for my constituents. There’s a lot to do, but I believe I’m up to the task.
The House District 80 seat has been held for many years by a Republican. What will you do differently as a Democrat?
I don’t think that my party affiliation has much to do with “how” I’ll approach my responsibilities as a representative for House District 80. Judge [Mike] Jacobs was a strong and responsible representative who served our district well regardless of his own affiliation, and I’ll be looking to do the same. Being open, transparent and accountable doesn’t have anything to do with my being a Democrat or another representative being a Republican, it’s just the way elected officials ought to conduct themselves.
Your election gives Democrats numerical control of the Fulton County delegation. Very little of the campaign centered on Sandy Springs, the portion of your district in Fulton, and relatively few Sandy Springs voters turned out. What do you think you’ll be able to add to the discussion in the Fulton delegation?
I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the Fulton County delegation regardless of what party they belong to. Even with the shift in numbers brought on by my election, it’s still nearly even and we’re going to have to work together to make the best decisions for Fulton County that we can. For all of the partisan talk brought on by this election and the numerical ramifications of my seat, I’m truly just committed to being the best representative I can be and bringing an open, cooperative, and forward-thinking attitude and approach to the General Assembly in January.
You’ve said publicly that your family and your objection to the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act” were among the things that originally interested you in running for a seat in the House. Do you expect similar legislation to come up again next session? If so, what do you see as your role in the debate?
I do see RFRA coming up again this session, and I will withhold any specific comment until we have its most recent iteration in print and in the House or Senate hopper. I’m not going to speculate as to the specifics of what exists currently as a hypothetical, however likely it may be to arise. As I’ve said many times before, however, there are no shades of gray in discrimination, and I’m always going to oppose any legislation that allows for any individual group to be discriminated against on the basis of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or any other such characteristic.