Collins wants to focus on youth, elderly issues

COVINGTON -- Former state Rep. Toney Collins is vying for a second term in elective politics.

Collins, a Democrat who currently lives in Conyers, represented the 95th House District from 2008-10, but lost his re-election bid to current state Rep. Pam Dickerson, D-Conyers. As a result of redistricting, Collins and Dickerson will face each other again in the July 31 primary, this time in their bids to represent the new 113th District. Covington resident Sharon Sawyer is also seeking to represent the new district. No Republican qualified to run for the seat.

"During my campaign in 2010, my dad passed away, and I really didn't get out and campaign at that time," Collins said.

He also suffered serious health problems during that time, which he said also contributed to his electoral loss.

But now, Collins said he is on the rebound and ready to jump back into action.

He said he believes his first term in office was a success and laid the groundwork for a new term.

"I have experience, I have relationships and I have results," Collins said. "If you don't have relationships, you don't have results and people are not going to work with you. I'm a down-the-middle type of guy. I'm conservative on some things and liberal on others. Both sides can work with me and I have proven results."

Collins said his signature accomplishment was a bill he sponsored that would have allowed citizens to opt to donate any state tax refund toward research of lupus, kidney disease and multiple sclerosis.

He said his bill passed with an overwhelming majority in the House and without opposition in the Senate. However, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed the measure.

"I want to get back with Gov. (Nathan) Deal and I feel it would definitely get passed," Collins said, pointing out that Gov. Deal appointed him in 2010 to serve on the Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council.

Moving forward, Collins said he plans to continue his focus on health issues and advocating for the elderly.

"I have always been about helping the elderly and helping those with health issues," he said. "You never know when you will have health problems yourself. I have always had a heart for health care, and am a big advocate of preventive health care."

Collins said he has heard a lot of concerns from seniors, in particular that they are struggling to make ends meet and they need transportation options to help them get to the doctor or pick up prescriptions.

"Seniors are strong people, but at same time, they have worked for the last 60 years and they deserve to have a good life and should not have to worry about health care and worry about paying for their bills and medicine," Collins said.

He said he would advocate eliminating all property taxes for seniors and disabled veterans so they could use that savings toward their medical needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, Collins said he wants to work to provide recreational options for youth and improve education.

He said he has heard from a number of constituents in the district that they need a recreational center or a swimming pool.

"We have to get some type of Boys and Girls Club so kids will have something to do," Collins said. "Their energy level is so high, but they stay in the house, but they need to do something productive and get their energy out in a controlled environment where they can learn something."

Collins, a former engineer with experience working with large Fortune 500 companies like Hewlett Packard, Texas Instruments and Intel, said it is important that the local school systems are able to prepare students to enter the workforce, particularly with Baxter International poised to locate a bio-pharmaceutical facility in Stanton Springs.

"We need to make sure our kids are ready to handle this global environment and make sure our kids are ready and educated to be a part of the workforce," Collins said. "We need to make sure Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties are ready to bring the infrastructure and the education system must be ready so we have jobs here within the community. ... The main thing is keeping the economy up by keeping our roads looking nice, keeping our schools strong -- we have to get our graduation rate higher so that companies will keep coming here."