9 Questions for Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates

Sarah Riggs Amico (D)

Sarah Riggs Amico Georgia Lieutenant Governor Candidate
Sarah Riggs Amico

Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico is executive chair of Jack Cooper, a trucking and logistics provider. This would be her first elected office.

1. The lieutenant governor can use their bully pulpit to push issues. Casey Cagle, for example, has been a vocal advocate of technical colleges. How would you use this power of the office?

The power of the bully pulpit is one of the lieutenant governor’s most useful tools to advance their agenda. I applaud Lieutenant Governor Cagle’s focus on apprenticeships and technical colleges while in office. I would like to further stress career and technical training while in office, including expanding the opportunities available to deliver in-demand skills to students at no cost to them or the Georgia taxpayer. But in addition to this, I would advocate strongly for more funding for public education, Medicaid expansion, and independent regional development plans so that every region of Georgia can build a 21st-Century economy.

2. The state has only recently started investing in transit and at negligible amounts relative to spending on roads. What types of transit projects—bus, rail, commuter rail—does Georgia need, how much would the state contribute to building them, and what role can the lieutenant governor play in those efforts?

As someone whose business [transportation company Jack Cooper] has 2,000 drivers on the road, transportation infrastructure is something I think about daily. Traffic not only costs me personally; it costs all Georgians $3.2 billion dollars in lost economic output every year. State investments in highway improvements are a positive step to alleviate some traffic, but transit funding is necessary to move people around the state most efficiently. Commuter and light rail investments must be made at the state level to ensure that such a project reaches all communities and is adequately funded. State investments in this area will pay off in economic growth by promoting density, mobility, and activity in our most productive corridors. The lieutenant governor can bring communities from across the state together to listen to and address their concerns and advocate on their behalf with the legislator and the governor.

3. Healthcare advocates have called Medicaid expansion a smart strategy to improve healthcare for Georgians living on low incomes, keep rural hospitals open, and create jobs. Should Georgia expand Medicaid? If not, what specifically should the state do to address the coverage gap and crisis facing many rural hospitals?

The lack of Medicaid expansion has been a big mistake for Georgia. Refusing a program that is over 90 percent federally funded makes no fiscal sense, and has resulted in the most vulnerable Georgia residents being denied healthcare, the threatened closure of rural hospitals, and the state foregoing more than $3 billion in federal funds per year. Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do both morally and fiscally. As lieutenant governor, I would do everything I can to expand Medicaid within the state.

4. Should Georgia continue the overhaul of Georgia’s criminal justice system that was started under Governor Nathan Deal? If so, what would you advocate? If not, what do you propose to do involving the criminal justice system?

Governor Deal’s efforts at criminal justice reform were a step in the right direction, including allowing judges to impose community service in lieu of bail, sentencing reform, promoting in-home treatment options, and improved probation services. But we should go further, especially in following through on the recommendations of his Council on Criminal Justice Reform—including greater access to mental health care, limiting cash bail, and promoting community policing programs.

5. Businesses, including the lucrative film industry, have threatened to boycott or leave Georgia if religious liberty legislation passes the General Assembly and is signed by the governor. Critics of such legislation have claimed it would essentially allow discrimination. How do you balance someone’s beliefs with another person’s right to live free of discrimination, plus the economic well-being of the state?

Georgia should be open to business for all. That means promoting all of Georgia’s thriving communities. Recent efforts at “religious liberty” laws threaten our growing entertainment industry, as well as our state’s standing as home to many large corporations. I was glad to see many Georgia businesses stand up and push against such policies as a backwards step that would discourage investment and affect the state’s ability to attract the workforce of the future. I agree with this assessment, and I think that Georgia should pursue worker protections against discrimination. As an Evangelical Christian, I believe that tolerance and acceptance are Christian values, and they should be affirmed as Georgia values as well.

6. Following the 2020 census, Georgia will conduct the decennial redistricting process to determine new political districts. Advocates for redistricting reform have urged lawmakers to give control of the highly political process to an independent commission to prevent gerrymandering. Do you support the current process or favor reform? If it’s the latter, what do you propose?

This issue is integral to our democracy. Voters should select their representatives, not the other way around. In order to reduce partisan gerrymandering, I am open to an “all of the above” strategy. Looking at independent commissions, algorithmic methods, and court challenges all could be used to ensure that representation in Georgia is fair across the population.

7. Georgia has made baby steps in allowing patients to use medical marijuana, yet it’s stopped short of in-state cultivation. What are your views on medical marijuana in Georgia and should the state allow regulated and taxed recreational marijuana? If not, why?

I believe that there is promising research on marijuana’s ability to treat those who suffer from seizures as well as other preliminary findings around pain and opiate addiction that demonstrate marijuana’s usefulness as a medicine. I believe cultivation in Georgia makes sense under this medical categorization. Furthermore, I think that possession of small amounts of marijuana should be decriminalized. By doing so we can lower our prison populations, save taxpayer dollars, increase police focus on more serious crime, and begin closing the racial gap in drug arrests.

8. Study after study projects sea levels along Georgia’s coast will rise over the coming decades. What should the state do to reduce the effects of climate change and prepare residents across Georgia for what researchers predict will be a hotter future?

For too long Georgia’s politicians have failed to listen to scientists when it comes to our changing climate. Rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms threaten our coastal residents and their local economies. Engineering coastal protection in Georgia would include increased coastal wetlands and living shorelines, as well as seawalls and storm surge management techniques. Above all, we should be proactive in working with scientists and engineers to direct public money and increase public awareness of the dangers of a rising sea and changing climate so that all of Georgia’s citizens and businesses can prepare themselves for a changing climate.

9. In August, AJC columnist Jim Galloway reported that some state senators were discussing stripping the lieutenant governor of some of their powers, such as assigning committees and naming senators to lead committees. If this happens, how will it affect your ability to address these issues?

It is a sad commentary on the state of politics in Georgia that the already-disempowered Office of Lieutenant Governor has been rumored to face additional restrictions on its duties. If put in place, these additional measures would hamper the ability of the office to work for the people of Georgia. I would hope that current lawmakers refrain from these actions because the citizens of Georgia will be electing their next lieutenant governor to fulfill their promises, not to be penned in by previous legislators. I believe the current state senators are only considering this option because they are worried that for the first time in a long time, their party might lose this election. After [13] years of unified Republican control and a whole host of unaddressed problems, the people are Georgia want to bring accountability to the state House.