Politics

Yes, There’s A Reason Why People Are Rolling A Big Tire Around The State Capitol

Rome attorney Robert Rutledge is one of the volunteers taking turns rolling a tire around the state Capitol for 24 hours to draw attention to a resolution that would help fund tire cleanups.
Rome attorney Robert Rutledge is one of the volunteers taking turns rolling a tire around the state Capitol for 24 hours to draw attention to a resolution that would help fund tire cleanups.
Credit Molly Samuel / WABE

Wednesday is Crossover Day at the Georgia legislature, the deadline for bills to make it out of either the state Senate or House. Things can get a little wacky in the state Capitol as votes get down to the wire. And outside the building, there’s a group taking turns rolling a large tire in circles around the block for 24 hours.

The tire roll is to draw attention to a resolution that would require fees to fund the things they say they’re funding, instead of that money being used elsewhere in the state budget.

The state’s Hazardous Waste Trust Fund and Solid Waste Trust Fund are examples of programs that have raised money that sometimes ends up going to fund other things, instead of towards environmental cleanups, said Joe Cook with the Coosa River Basin Initiative.

“The fees you tell voters you’re going to use for a specific purpose shouldn’t be used as de facto taxes, and that’s essentially what’s happening,” Cook said. “It’s about good government. It’s about being honest to voters.”

Wednesday morning, Robert Rutledge, an attorney from Rome, in overalls and work gloves, was taking a turn with the waist-height tire.

Rutledge said he first found out about the issue a few years ago when he was a public defender, and the statewide public defender’s system wasn’t getting as much money from court document filing fees as it was collecting. Since then, that particular problem has been resolved, Rutledge said, but he’s still interested in the bigger picture.

“Every time a person gets a new set of tires, money is collected by the state, and it’s supposed to go to the disposal of tires,” he said. “Yet there’s place after place after place that has old tires sitting there.”

The resolution, HR 158, has already passed out of the House and gone to the state Senate. If it passes there, it would go to a vote as a constitutional amendment.

This proposal is in its second year. Last year, it didn’t make much headway in the legislature. It’s made more progress this year, and Cook said he’s honed his tire stunt planning, too.

“Last year we built a replica of the state Capitol, and we had to haul 500 tires from Rome down to Atlanta, unload them, build the ‘scrapitol.’ We were thinking, well, how could we do this a little easier? So we brought one tire down.”

They plan to roll the tire for 24 hours, until 8 a.m. Thursday.