That’s because representatives of coastal trade associations, cultural landmarks and the environment fed the officials a seafood lunch. And Rep. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, wheeled a cooler around filled with wild-shrimp cocktails for anyone who missed out on the feast.
The groups gathered Thursday in a Capitol hallway by stairs used by lawmakers with displays, demonstrations and slithering critters from Georgia’s seaside. Politicians, lobbyists and aides paused to examine the snakes, basket-weaving demonstrations or try their luck on a virtual-fishing game.
“You picked a time when the Capitol is rather busy,” Deal joked.
He said he recognized the economic and cultural importance of the coast, totaling a yearly economic impact of $2 billion.
“We all know that these are activities that have a huge economic benefit because people come to our state to hunt, fish, to enjoy our coastline, to swim and to do all of the things that we have the opportunity to offer to them,” he said.
House Speaker David Ralston praised the groups and Department of Natural Resources experts present.
“You are the people we lean on and look to for advice when we make these decisions,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.
Among the groups participating were newcomers the Georgia Shellfish Growers Association, who contributed oysters for the legislators’ lunch.
“They’re doing a lot of innovative and entrepreneurial things to try to grow that industry,” said Spud Woodward, director of coastal resources for the Department of Natural Resources.