GDOT’s New Planning Director Jay Roberts On the heels of his appointment by Governor Deal to Planning Director for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), it’s clear that former State Representative Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) has had his feet firmly planted on this “road to success” all along… Jay Roberts learned the values of hard work and teamwork at an early age on the farm and baseball fields of South Georgia’s Irwin County, where the future state representative was born and raised. That same combined spirit of dedication and collaboration would stay with this steadfast son of a farming family for years to come. While attending Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and later Valdosta State University, he played college baseball – rising to the rank of Captain of the Valdosta State Blazers as a senior. After graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice, Roberts found his true calling in public service when he was sworn in to the Georgia State House of Representatives on January 13, 2003 to represent the citizens of District 155. During his time in the House, the Republican representative from Ocilla has served on a number of committees, including Agriculture & Consumer Affairs, Appropriations and Rules. But since 2010, he has been best known as Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. WHAT IS THE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING ACT OF 2015? The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (TFA2015) will generate $1 billion per year in new transportation infrastructure funding. TFA2015 was authored and sponsored by Representative Jay Roberts in the House; Senator Steve Gooch sponsored the bill in the Senate. The new revenue will be created by combining Georgia’s existing 7.5 cent per gallon excise tax and four percent sales tax on motor fuel and converting them to a combined excise tax of 26 cents per gallon for gasoline and 29 cents per gallon for diesel. The new excise tax will also be adjusted annually based on federal fuel efficiency standards and the Consumer Price Index. Alternative fuel vehicle owners will pay a user fee of $200 for non-commercial vehicles and $300 for commercial vehicles each year. Heavy trucks will pay an annual highway impact fee of either $50 or $100, based on weight. A $5 per night hotel/motel fee was also created. “This legislation will go beyond transportation – this is a measure that will ultimately boost Georgia’s economy and create jobs across our state,” said Representative Jay Roberts following TFA2015’s passage in the House. Chairman of the Transportation Committee for the past five years, Roberts got an education in transportation policy, planning and funding. His already impressive transportation knowledge was taken to a new level over the past year. First, he co-chaired the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding with State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), which held eight meetings in every part of Georgia and heard presentations from a variety of transportation policy experts, local officials and citizens. That process culminated in a set of committee recommendations on how to increase transportation funding. Then in January, Roberts took those recommendations to author and introduce House Bill 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015. Roberts spent countless hours shepherding the bill through the legislative process, listening to the concerns of interested parties, as well as the feedback from his Capitol colleagues. This led to multiple drafts and revisions of the bill to address those concerns. Ultimately, he was successful in leading the House and Senate to agree on a compromise version of the bill, which was passed by constitutional majorities in both chambers. Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill into law May 4, 2015. Jay Roberts’ extensive transportation knowledge made him the right man for the job of helping lead Georgia’s transportation future. On May 8, 2015, Governor Nathan Deal appointed him to the position of Director of Planning for GDOT. Roberts became the fourth person to take on this role since its creation in 2009 by then- Governor Sonny Perdue, and follows in the footsteps of former GDOT planning directors: GDOT Deputy Commissioner Todd Long, Toby Carr (now Associate Vice President for Government Relations at the University of Georgia) and current GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry. Working for GDOT won’t sever Jay Roberts’ love for or connection to his hometown of Ocilla, where he lives with his wife, Sarah and their children, Justin and Jana. He has served on the Board of Irwin County-Ocilla Chamber of Commerce, Irwin County Farm Bureau, Ocilla Rotary Club and Agriculture Advisory Board of Irwin C.A.S.E. He has also served as President of the Irwin County Young Farmers for five years, and is a proud graduate of the Georgia Academy of Economic Development and the Georgia Agri-Leaders Forum. His devotion to teamwork came full circle when he was presented with the Circle of Peers Leadership Award in 2002. Roberts also serves his fellow church members as head of the Brotherhood and is a member of the Building and Grounds Committee at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Ocilla. GOING OUT WITH A BANG! While Representative Roberts has to give up his House seat to tackle this new appointment, he leaves the passage of one last bill as a “sparkling” tribute to his 12 years in the General Assembly of Georgia. As the chief sponsor of House Bill 110, Roberts and his co-sponsors sought the legalization of the sale offireworks in the state of Georgia. Not only will this move make it possible for Georgians to purchase their fireworks within state lines, but Roberts projects that the inevitable addition of retail stores across the state will lead to the creation of 1,000 to 1,500 jobs. The new law will go into effect july 1, 2015 – just in time for Independence Day celebrations.
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