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Senator-elect Colton Moore outlines his early legislative goals

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Colton Moore spent four days in Montana helping to auction off hundreds of pieces of heavy construction equipment. On January 9, he’ll be in Atlanta taking the oath of office to serve as state senator for District 53.

Immediately after being sworn in, Moore plans to start filing legislation in hopes of making some changes. Is he nervous? “Anybody doing this gets some butterflies in their stomach,” he says.

Moore has been studying up, meeting people and attending conferences, like a recent one in Texas where he spoke to a legislator about immigration problems. “It used to be the cartels would charge people $2,500 each to get them here,” he says. “Now it’s thousands more that the people don’t have, so they basically become indentured servants.”

Moore says the legislator told him that cartel members make arrangements with restaurants and other businesses ahead of time to provide them with employees, then they act as enforcers to make sure the illegal employees stay on the job and pay them back while being paid substandard wages.

The immigration problem has reached closer to home, too, says Moore. He said he was told by a school official that there were 50 illegal immigrants in the Catoosa County school system. Closer to home yet, Moore said his parents rent out a house on Airbnb. “They thought they were renting to a nice Mexican family, but it turned out to be a crowd of 20 illegal immigrants who ransacked the place. It took them a long time to get them out.”

Moore says both Americans and illegals are being exploited by the cartels, who are “bigger and meaner than any mafia.” He wants what is going on at the border declared an invasion by the cartels.

Other things Moore plans to introduce as bills include the following.

♦ A full repeal of the certificate of need requirement for new hospitals and health care facilities to open up, which he said new District 3 state representative Mitchell Horner will be co-sponsoring. “You can’t have economic development in an area that can’t provide good healthcare.”

♦ Election integrity. Moore wants a way citizens and groups can fully audit election results to make sure no fraud took place, as well as a way to eliminate voter machine failure.

♦ Moore wants the state income tax in Georgia repealed. “Georgia has six billion dollars in surplus revenue right now. Tennessee and Florida have no income tax. Georgia can do it, too.”

♦ Defend the Guard. The National Guard, that is. “I want to protect the National Guard from our rogue, authoritarian president Joe Biden, by making sure they cannot be called up for foreign service unless Congress declares war and that they will remain in Georgia and be available to protect their home state from the cartels.”

♦ Transgender issues. “I want children to be protected from mutilation surgery and prevent minors from attending drag shows.”

♦ Second Amendment protection. Moore wants legislation that says that Georgia will not infringe on a citizen’s right to bear arms even if the federal government does.

♦ School choice. “Parents and children deserve options. There are many ways to make it work. We need to look at what other places are doing and see what works.”

♦ Full repeal of the film tax credit. Moore says the tax credit is costing taxpayers $250 each every year and bringing no value to the state financially or culturally.

♦ Eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbying. As it is now, says Moore, lobbyists from state-funded institutions and organizations can appeal to Senate or House members for legislation favorable to their causes and get more funding in the budget for their own institutions. “This is what I call the self-licking ice cream cone,” says Moore. “It needs to end.”

♦ Bicycles on highways. “This is a safety issue,” Moore says. “Bicycles should not have the right of way on roads where the speed limit is 50 or higher. It’s dangerous for cyclists and drivers. The risk of an accident is high.”

"There’s no guarantee I can get these bills passed,” says Moore, “but I’ll fight for them.”

400 balsam fir Christmas trees at Ringgold Florist

About a year ago, Pam Catherman packed up and moved from Rochester, N.Y., to Ringgold, Ga., to be close to her daughter and grandchildren.

Shortly after relocating, Pam, and her daughter Jamie Huggins, were looking to go into business together. “We looked at a lot of options,” says Catherman. “Then we saw that Ringgold Florist was for sale.”

The owner of the florist wasn’t searching for just any buyer. She wanted someone who would carry on the traditions of the business and be part of the community. It was a perfect fit for Catherman and Huggins.

Catherman knew she wanted to sell Christmas trees, but she had no space for it. “Ringgold has a wonderful Christmas spirit and festivities throughout December. I wanted to add to that.”

Fortunately, the city had some land next to the florist shop. Catherman made arrangements to lease the land for what she calls her chunky trees. “They’re very full trees,” she says.

The trees range from five to eight feet tall and from $45 to $150. “I envision people coming to downtown Ringgold for shopping and events and wrapping up the day with buying their Christmas tree to take home and decorate,” Catherman says.

Christmas trees make up just one part of what Catherman loves about becoming a florist. “I grew up on a farm picking apples and cherries and running a farm stand. Then I got a ‘real’ job in accounting and worked for a long time as a business manager. Now I’m back to working with plants and people.”

“I love my employees and my customers,” Catherman says. “We make a lot of flower arrangements for funerals or as gestures of sympathy. I try to make it as easy as possible for people during the hardest parts of their lives. I’ve been there, so I understand.”

The entire floral business is more personal than many. Catherman orders her flowers not online but in person or by telephone from local wholesalers who import from places like Canada and South America. She says that 75 percent of the design of arrangements is “designer’s choice.”

“I’ve never had a complaint about an arrangement,” says Catherman. “We talk with people about what they want, what colors they’d like, and we create something they can love.”

In addition to floral arrangements for every occasion from birthdays to weddings, proms, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day and beyond, Ringgold Florist sells Christmas and other wreaths, including theme-based wreaths, home décor, plants and planters, stuffed animals, candles, mugs and a whole lot more.

LaFayette man convicted of voter fraud, sentenced to 25 years

A Walker County man convicted of trying to cast someone else’s absentee ballot was sentenced to 25 years — with a minimum of 15 behind bars.

“This prosecution, along with the stiff prison sentence, will hopefully send a clear message that we do not tolerate voter fraud in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit,” District Attorney Chris A. Arnt said in a release Monday, Nov. 28.

William Clifford Chase, 62, was found guilty Nov. 16 in Walker County Superior Court of first-degree forgery, illegal acts regarding election documents, unlawful acts regarding elector’s vote and repeat voting in the same election.

Arnt said it took the jury less than an hour of deliberations to convict Chase, who already had several felony convictions ranging from forgery and fraud to stealing public documents and impersonating an officer.

Chief Judge Kristina Graham sentenced him following the two-day trial.

The incident started when a Walker County resident’s absentee ballot for the January 2021 runoff election was sent by mistake to an old address, a PO Box in LaFayette.

When her ballot never arrived but her husband’s did, she called the Walker County Elections Office. They discovered they had received, but had not yet counted, an absentee ballot that appeared to have her signature on the Oath of Elector section.

The resident went to the elections office to view the ballot and immediately noticed it was not her signature. The forged ballot was canceled and a new one sent to her current address.

The elections office secured the suspect ballot and contacted the Secretary of State’s Office. Investigator Paul Cain was assigned to the case and determined Chase was the owner of the post office box the absentee ballot was sent to.

Chase had already submitted his own ballot for the January 2021 runoff election, and he told Cain no one else had access to the box.

Cain took the sealed absentee ballot to the GBI crime lab for fingerprint analysis and an expert found a print inside that matched Chase’s.

The State of Georgia was represented at trial by Assistant District Attorney Winston Franklin. Arnt praised his efforts and the investigation conducted by Secretary of State Raffensperger’s office.

“This defendant sought to disenfranchise a Walker County citizen. Thankfully Mr. Chase’s voter fraud was caught and we had sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute him,” Arnt said.

Charlsie McElhaney and Kaitlyn Wagoner battle an Armuchee player for possession of the ball during last Tuesday’s game in Chickamauga.