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Five takeaways from this year’s legislative session, as told by the Forsyth County delegation

State lawmakers speak at post-legislative breakfast

 
POSTED: April 19, 2017 5:00 a.m.
Kelly Whitmire/

From left: District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch, District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams, District 26 state Sen. Geoff Duncan, District 24 state Rep. Sheri Gilligan and District 9 state Rep. Kevin Tanner.

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CUMMING -- With this year’s legislative session behind them, local lawmakers took a look back this week at what was accomplished in 2017.

On Tuesday, members of the Forsyth County delegation to the Georgia General Assembly covered numerous issues facing the county at a post-legislative breakfast at Sawnee EMC hosted by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

Present at the event were state Sens. Michael Williams, District 27, and Steve Gooch, District 51, and state Reps. Sheri Gilligan, District 24, Geoff Duncan, District 26, and Kevin Tanner, District 9.

State Reps. Todd Jones, District 25, and Wes Cantrell, District 22, were not able to attend due to conflicts. Attendees were allowed to ask questions by pre-submitting or via text message.

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1: NEW CITIES

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In March, Jones introduced new legislation for the proposed city of Sharon Springs in south Forsyth, the area of the county he represents. The matter has previously been a contentious issue in the county, and a study committee is slated to begin looking at the proposal this summer.

“The study can’t be done unless the legislation is introduced,” Gilligan said. “Having it introduced does not make the city of Sharon Springs tomorrow. It does not make the city of Cumming go away. It doesn’t do anything; it sits there and allows the studies and the conversations to continue.”

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2: LAKE DROUGHT

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With Lake Lanier low due to an ongoing drought, the delegation was asked what the impact would be if the lake saw a similar drought to the record low of 1,050.79 feet in December 2007.

“It’s devastating … it’s economically devastating. It’s just our way of life,” Duncan said. “It’s a concern, right; it’s people’s businesses. It’s their homes. It’s resale value. It’s recreation. We’ve got to have a game plan. We need the federal government to wake up and help us understand what is the plan, help us understand how to move forward.”

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3: SCHOOL IMPACT FEES

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School systems in the state cannot collect impact fees, which are fees assessed on builders for new developments, to be used to finance public school construction. Williams, who previously carried legislation to change that, said it could make a return.

“Last year, I actually had a constitutional amendment to address that issue; we got through one discussion in the finance committee, and it died in the second committee,” he said. “It’s something I agree we should have and hopefully we can approach again.”

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4: GA. 400 WIDENING

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Ground was broken on new northbound lanes on Ga. 400 in November 2015, a year after voters approved a $200 million traffic bond. Gooch said the recent collapse of Interstate-85 could affect crews, as the projects are contracted by the same company, but that the Ga. 400 project is progressing so far.

“The southbound lanes are going in; the northbound lanes are almost complete except for a little bit of tie-in and tapering up at Hwy. 369,” said Gooch, who noted the widening has shaved 20 minutes off his commute from Atlanta to Dahlonega. “The [Hwy. 369] interchange is designed; I believe it will go out for bid. Forsyth County, again, has taken the lead on this project.

“With your money locally and with the state and federal match, that projects is going to really make an impact on all of our lives.”

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5: PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

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With the traffic issues caused by the bridge collapse, questions were raised on alternate transportation methods, such as light rail.
“By the year 2040, there will be another 2 million people that will move to Georgia, primarily to Atlanta. We’ve got to prepare for that,” Gooch said. “I think people have finally realized it is an important part of transportation, so there is going to have to be a serious effort made by the general assembly in the near future, not five-10 years from now, but next year and the next four years.”

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