CUMBERLAND — The Cobb County Chamber of Commerce met for breakfast in smaller numbers and spaced out Monday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic canceled its Marquee Monday events.
The gathering at the Coca-Cola Roxy at the Battery, which saw about 100 people, featured Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and a panel of Cobb County state lawmakers reflecting on this year’s legislative session. Panelists from the Cobb delegation included state Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta and state Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett, D-Marietta.
January through March, before chamber events were canceled, the Marquee Monday brought 500-600 attendees, according to a chamber spokesperson.
The event was designed to be a hybrid in-person and virtual event, where attendees could sign up for a seat at the Roxy or watch a live stream, though there were technical issues and the video didn’t broadcast live.
A video of the chamber event is available on the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Youtube channel.
Those that attended in-person went through a temperature check and security screening. Attendees received a boxed breakfast with a chicken biscuit, yogurt and fruit, and beverages were available at the bar. Tables were spaced out. Attendees wore masks into the event and as they talked with other guests, though most did not wear one while seated during the program.
On stage, Cobb legislators pointed to the hate crimes bill as a bipartisan effort that passed in the last two weeks of the legislative session that could signal an opportunity for lawmakers to work together next session.
“Historically, the General Assembly has always transcended that and I think we really still do,” Anulewicz said of partisan division.
Reeves, who voted against the hate crimes bill in 2019, said he voted for it this session because “it was the right thing to do.”
Rhett said his banking bill, which would establish incentives for banks to open in underserved communities, passed with unanimous support and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
“That’s building coalitions with people. You may have your differences, but you don’t take it personally, you take it professionally and move on,” he said. “If we move in that same way we moved forward in the last two weeks in this session when we came back, I think we’ll be able to move Georgia.”
Reeves praised the Veterans Career Transition Resource (VECTR) program, a veteran training program that will be housed at Chattahoochee Technical College’s Marietta campus. The project received $2.25 million in state funds, with help from chamber leaders who advocated for it.
“This is going to be an important part of our military presence in Cobb County,” he said.
Kirkpatrick, a physician who is on the Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, said the Legislature passed 23 health care bills.
“I am very proud of what we accomplished on healthcare again this year,” she said.
Anulewicz said she was proud of how lawmakers came together to pass the budget, though she later added that they cut nearly $1 billion from public education and will continue to see budget challenges, with no guarantee that revenues will be restored or that the state will receive federal assistance again.
“I don’t think there’s any way that the budget situation that we look at for FY2022, less than a year from now is going to be any different or brighter than the situation we just dealt with a couple of weeks ago at the Capitol,” she said.
Lawmakers, including Ralston, highlighted some of the efforts that passed this year, such as the state budget and the hate crimes bill, despite the coronavirus interrupting the session and causing revenue shortfalls.
“I truly believe that we’ll come through our current challenges and with your help, we will emerge more united and stronger than ever,” Ralston said.
Also at the event, Kim Gresh, president of S.A. White Oil Company, was named the 2020 Woman of Distinction by Cobb Executive Women.