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Forsyth County legislators reflect on session after Crossover Day

ATLANTA — With the 2016 legislative session in Georgia passing Crossover Day on Monday, many bills reached a make-or-break milestone.

“Crossover” refers to the deadline for bills to pass the chamber in which they were introduced — the Georgia Senate or House of Representatives — for the other chamber to have enough time to consider it for a full floor vote before Sine Die, the last day of the session.

A handful of bills that passed the House should be of interest to local residents, said District 25 state. Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth.

Commonly referred to as the Fireworks Bill, House Bill 727 would place further restrictions on a law that was originally passed last year.

The original bill allowed aerial fireworks to be sold and used in Georgia. Residents of Forsyth and throughout the state voiced concerns about them being shot off too late at night.

If the bill passes, fireworks could be used on New Year’s Eve until 1 a.m., on Jan. 1 from 10 a.m. to midnight and on July 3-4 until midnight. On all other nights, they could be used from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Currently, fireworks are allowed from 10 a.m. to midnight on every day except those four dates, when they are permitted until 2 a.m.

Another notable change in the bill would be to allow governing authorities of a county or city to further restrict fireworks through local noise ordinances.

Other restrictions address distance to treatment plants, health care facilities and government-owned property.

A medical marijuana bill that passed last year to allow access to cannabis oil for people with certain disorders or conditions may have its list of eligible health conditions expanded to include autism, post-traumatic stress disorder and certain terminal illnesses, among others.

The amendment would also no longer permit growing medical marijuana of any kind in Georgia.

Another bill addressing terminal illnesses that passed the House was HB 34, Dudgeon said.

The “Right to Try Bill” would allow terminal patients access to experimental medications and treatments, as long as it is voluntary.

Dudgeon said a bill written by fellow Republican lawmaker, District 9 state Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, addresses how to regulate drones.

“[It is written] so you respect [people’s] privacy and you can’t fly a drone and look through someone’s window,” he said. “But at the same time, there’s common sense things. Like if you just happen to be going over something and don’t ever use a picture, that’s OK.

“You can’t take off and land in other people’s property … it’s a respect for privacy, but also being able to use that technology.”


What did not pass the House


Dudgeon said bills that did not make it out of the House included one to bring casino gambling to Georgia.

“It is dead for the year, which is a very good thing,” he said. “I know my constituents, in general, did not support it. So I’m happy that we didn’t go down that road.”

A bill to allow Georgia to create a township model of a governing body and another to allow local boards of education to collect impact fees for educational facilities also did not make it to a vote.


What passed the Senate


The two senators whose districts include part of Forsyth County sponsored a bill meant to bring tax cuts to Georgians.

Senate Resolution 756 would reduce the individual state income tax on all taxpayers by 0.1 percent in 2018 if the net amount of revenue deposited in the general fund the fiscal year before exceeds $23.6 billion.

An additional reduction of the same amount would be added in 2020 if the net amount of revenue deposited in the general fund the previous fiscal year exceeds $24.2 billion.

District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams, who represents most of Forsyth, said the idea is that after recovering from the 2008 recession, state income taxes should be lowered conditionally as tax collections go up.

“It’s time to start letting taxpayers keep more money,” he said.

Though he did not sponsor it, Williams noted SR 604 is an attempt to cut taxes, too.

This constitutional amendment would prohibit the state from levying annual state ad valorem taxes.

If they pass, both resolutions would be placed on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

Williams said he is more confident the second bill will pass.

“The House feels strongly that tax bills need to start in the House,” he said.

Williams sponsored another bill that he said would save taxpayers money.

Senate Bill 356 authorizes animal control agencies to impose a fee on owners of impounded animals who are being investigated for animal cruelty.

“The fee would cover all anticipated costs of impoundment and care and will be refunded if the person is not found guilty,” he said. “SB 356 does not affect animal owners whose pets become lost and are temporarily impounded.”

An education bill Williams sponsored has been passed to the House.

SB 348 would allow a local school system to create and receive funding for a college and career academy to be part of a new strategic waivers school system or charter school system.

“This bill provides a new hope for Forsyth County,” Williams said. “We will be able to propose a new college and career academy … once approved by the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia and the State Board of Education, we will be able to build a new high school to ease the populations in our schools.”

If the bill is approved, the Alliance Academy for Innovation would be slated to open in fall 2018.