Deffenbaugh is a former Dade County commissioner (1998-2002). He beat Democrat Tom McMahan (also from Dade County) in the November elections for the House post.
House District 1 includes all of Dade County and the western part of Walker County.
Deffenbaugh attended a number of procedural meetings in Atlanta for freshman legislators during recent weeks and said he plans to represent the district more vigorously than it has been during the past few years.
His first priority is to maintain the campaign pledge of tackling Georgia’s budget woes.
“There is a (budget) shortfall for the next six months, so we’re going to have to reduce the budget,” Deffenbaugh said. “Next year is already way over budget, so there is going to be much work to be done on that before July.”
Job creation for the region is also a concern for Deffenbaugh, and most importantly the unemployment rate.
“(Unemployment) is dropping some, but it’s still not acceptable,” he said. “Getting it down to four or five percent would be great for everybody.”
He expects school funding and criminal justice reforms to be focus areas that Gov. Nathan Deal has put on the agenda for this term.
Taking a comprehensive look at the expense of imprisoning an increasing number of inmates appears to be a priority from the governor’s office, according to Deffenbaugh.
He also expects that legislators will discuss and possibly draft legislation regarding school safety measures in reaction to the mass murders that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
“With what happened in Connecticut, I am sure that’s going to be an issue that comes before the House (of Representatives),” he said. “In what form, I do not know. It has to be a combination of a school safety and gun issue.”
Deffenbaugh wants to ease state-mandated rules regarding library funding for two years, which require local matching funds to fully receive state-budgeted dollars for libraries.
“The libraries are being hit real hard right now,” he said, understanding the gravity of Georgia’s deficit problems. “The library can’t get matching funds, unless they get local funds.” The libraries have had to reduce employee hours as well as the hours of operation.
He views the role of schools and libraries as a key in educating children and a vital way to avoid becoming a burden to society through being incarcerated.
“There is no desire from anybody I talked to about raising taxes, and that’s good,” he said.
Preliminary conversations for legislators are primarily focused on budget reductions.
“It has all been, ‘Where can we cut? How can we deal with this?’ so far,” Deffenbaugh said.
While there is no consideration of raising taxes to improve reduced state revenues, Deffenbaugh acknowledges that “the more people you put out of work, the less there are to tax,” by cutting budgets. “You need the money, but you also don’t want to make it more difficult to get money. It’s a balancing act where to get it from.
“I am sure I will be blindsided by some issues that I wasn’t even aware of, but I will deal with those as they come up,” Deffenbaugh said.
He doesn’t have any specific plans to author a piece of legislation at present.
Deffenbaugh will be eligible to be on three House committees. He has requested the transportation, licensure, education and veterans committees.
“Eventually we are going to have to do something about getting some of the cars and trucks off of the road,” he said. “Even if that began today, it would be ten or twenty years before there were any results on that.”
He is lukewarm on the potentials of light rail transportation in the near future. “It’s a noisy system, a super-expensive system and probably will never pay for itself by rider-ship. But still it is a step at getting cars off the road.”
“Being a (Navy) veteran, I want people that fought for us, and that served us, to be treated well,” Deffenbaugh said. “Sometimes they get the short end of the stick when they come home wounded. I want to make sure we can do what we can for them.”
His committee assignments have yet to be determined by David Ralston, speaker of the House. Deffenbaugh has yet to receive an office or legislative email address. Meanwhile, he urges constituents to contact him at email@example.com or at his cell phone 423-400-8128.
Rep. John Deffenbaugh of Lookout Mountain
Represents House District 1, which includes all of Dade County and the western part of Walker County.
Committees: To be determined
Local mailing address: 97 Wayside Lane Lookout Mountain, Ga. 30750
Local phone: 423-400-8128