Winning the Senate District 30 seat less than a week before the session kicked off Monday, the freshman legislator had just days to get ready.
Some of his colleagues have been in the Legislature for more than two decades. Dugan, R-Carrollton, said the first day was a rush, but he’s catching up as fast as possible.
“The best thing to compare it to is the first day of school,” he said. “You pick out your classrooms and your office, and you see and meet people for the first time. I won’t lie, it was exciting. I’ve never done it before, it’s all new and fresh.”
Dugan said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he hopes to introduce term limits in the General Assembly. He hopes to work toward this goal in 2013.
“What I’d like is a maximum of 10 years, which is five terms,” Dugan said. “The longest a person can be president is 10 years.
He can assume two years of a predecessor’s term and run for two terms on his own. My thought process is this can’t be more complicated than being president. If we limit that position then I think we can limit these others. There are also term limits on the Georgia governor.”
If 10 years are served, Dugan feels it should be required that a legislator sit out two terms, or four years, before running again.
“The common refrain is that we do have term limits — they are called voters,” said Dugan. “The way campaign contributions are set up now it’s really not that way. The other side is, if you have 10 years to get something done, instead of worrying about getting reelected in perpetuity you will actually make the tough decisions.”
The state Senate on day one of the new session passed a $100 cap on gifts to legislators from lobbyists during the session, which Dugan voted for. He said ethics reform is important, and another bill he hopes to introduce this year will address the money given to legislators in the form of campaign contributions in between sessions. The two bills combined are what he calls the “cornerstone” issue he ran on.
“I want campaign contributions capped,” Dugan said. “When an organization or a body of organizations can match contributions to a candidate that sits on a committee, I have concerns about who our representative is listening to at that point. I’m not saying anyone is corrupt but I’m saying we are human.”
He hopes to introduce a $100 cap on campaign contributions from individual donors for each calendar year, matching the new cap on lobbyist gifts.
The Legislature this session will consider funding for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium. Dugan said he needs to see more detail before making a final decision.
“What I’ve seen is that a vast majority of the funds come from a hotel tax in Atlanta,” said Dugan. “When I hear vast majority, I want to see what is taken into consideration. If it’s just a vast majority of the physical structure and not the roads going in, which aren’t covered, I want to see what the real cost is going to be.”
Similarly, he will study the HOPE scholarship further before forming his opinion on the program’s future.
“I want to see a breakdown of the money coming in and going out and how it’s spent before I pass judgment on that,” said
Dugan, who has two college-age children receiving the scholarship. “What I’d like to see is how much school fees and tuition have risen comparable to the HOPE scholarship contributions.”
The idea of legalizing horse racing in Georgia has been kicked around for the last several years. Dugan is not a fan.
“People say that it brings money to your state, but what I’ve found is that it really does not,” Dugan said. “I looked at Alabama, Massachusetts and Michigan. Alabama later got rid of it because it never made any money. Massachusetts and Michigan supplemented it through their budget until they brought in gambling machines, and I’m not ready to cross that bridge.”
Committees Dugan hopes to serve on are Military Affairs, Higher Education, Ethics, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
The 2013 legislative session began Monday and will conclude in the spring. Senate District 30 covers parts of Carroll, Paulding and Douglas counties.