The General Assembly’s Crossover Day on Wednesday was a big one for Forsyth County.
On the last day for legislation to clear either the House or Senate to be considered for approval this session, a bill was passed to provide an additional judge to the county’s superior court.
Senate Bill 356, authored by District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, will provide a third judge to join Jeffrey Bagley and David Dickinson.
“There are six judgeships that have been approved and we’re No. 1, according to their formula. We almost qualified for two,” Murphy said. “With the backup of our domestic cases in the county, and getting backed up on other judicial matters, it’s important that we get this judgeship.”
District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said “there are still a lot of things that need to happen” for a judge to come to the county in January. Funding for the court is currently about $400,000 for six months. “So in a $19 billion budget, it doesn’t seem like a large amount.” Hamilton said.
“But that’s a pretty important thing for our community because of the tremendous growth we’ve had in our area,” he added. “And unfortunately, along with that growth has come a need for expanding the judicial system.”
Forsyth also had a hand in House Bill 1114, which also passed Wednesday. The legislation establishes criminal penalties for assisting in a suicide. The bill was inspired by the Final Exit Network, which was linked to the 2008 suicide of a Forsyth County resident.
The Georgia Supreme court sided with the network, saying state law criminalizes only those assisted suicide cases which include public advertisement or offering of assistance.
Hamilton said the case in “Forsyth County was mentioned several times in the debate and testimony.”
“Georgia presently does not have a provision for making assisted suicide a crime,” he said. But this bill would change that.
District 24 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Cumming, said while it won’t likely impact Forsyth County, he was a strong advocate for House Bill 797, which revises funding and the submittal process for charter schools.
“I think it will help move the ball forward in education in other parts of Georgia where public education maybe not quite so good,” Dudgeon said.
In a recent statement, District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, talked about several bills that made it through Crossover Day. Among them was Senate Bill 312.
That measure requires recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, to work toward a general education development diploma, pursue technical education, attend self-development classes, enroll in adult literacy classes or seek other similar professional growth activities.
Recipients of the TANF program were the target of two similar measures in both House Bill 861 and Senate Bill 292, requiring them to take a drug test before being approved for assistance.
Gooch said it “would not only provide a greater level of accountability for the individual welfare recipient, but would also curb illicit drug use in the state. If passed, this legislation would set a precedent for the operation of state-run welfare programs.”
There is also House Bill 954, dubbed the Fetal Pain Bill, basically making late-term abortions illegal.
Hamilton said success in other states inspired a similar measure in Georgia.
“About seven other states have passed a similar fetal pain bill and the abortion proponents have yet to file or appeal that ruling in those other states,” he said. “They’re afraid if they open it back up, that there could actually be a realistic attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“So right to life groups have said this is a good time to push for this cause.”
The legislature’s focus on social issues has received recent attention, but Dudgeon said it hasn’t been the highlight for legislators.
“Social issues, because they become debatable, they tend to be looked at as the big issues,” he said. “There’s a misperception that we spend all our time on that … but it’s well out of proportion.”
There were nearly 1,240 House bills and more than 520 Senate bills introduced this session, in addition to resolutions in both chambers. But the most important bill to pass was the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, said Murphy.
“That’s the most important thing we can do is pass out a balanced budget, which we’re required to do by law.”