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Lawmakers pleased with session so far
Work remains on many bills
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Forsyth County News

Legislation at a glance

The following are among the other bills that have cleared at least one chamber during the first 30 days of the 2013 Georgia General Assembly. To read the full measure, visit

• HB 407: Would require mandatory use of ignition interlock devices for individuals convicted twice of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

• HB 202: Would change the formula for funding transportation projects, allowing certain regional and interstate projects to be funded without counting against the congressional district rule, which requires an equal amount of state funding to be split between the state’s 14 districts.

• HR 107: Would create a joint study committee on Medicaid to determine the best way to handle its reform, to determine if current programs are being efficiently implemented and to determine appropriate levels of service and expenses.

• HB 242: Would create comprehensive juvenile justice reforms to alter the way the state responds to youth who commit crimes, including replacing jail time with alternate penalties.

• SB 136: Would lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for hunters and boaters to be below .08.

• SB 24: Would attempt to fix the state’s funding of Medicaid by extending the bed tax to avoid an increase in the state’s budget. The measure would allow the Department of Community Health to charge the tax through fees to supplement the gap in Medicaid funding.

The Georgia Legislature will return to work Monday following a busy end to the week.

After Thursday’s “crossover day,” the 30th of 40 days in the annual legislative session, the only bills that can become law are those that have cleared either the state House of Representatives or Senate.

Among those is House Bill 327, co-sponsored by District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon.

The measure, dubbed Flexibility and Accountability Act for Student Achievement, would provide flexibility from state mandates for school systems that receive a rating of an 80 or above.

The changes would work much like the current Investing in Education Excellence, or IE2, contract Forsyth County has with the state, but wouldn’t require a contract or as much documentation.

Dudgeon, a south Forsyth Republican who previously served a term on the local school board, said he thinks “this is a big deal for Forsyth County.”

“We anticipate surely Forsyth County will be one of our best school systems and this will give the local school board more flexibility and not having to deal with all the state bureaucracy,” Dudgeon said.

Over on the Senate side, District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch praised the passage of SB 136, which aims to increase boating and hunting safety.

The measure would lower the limit on boating and hunting under the influence to a .08 instead of a .10.

“I think that’s pretty significant considering the tragedies we’ve had on [Lake Lanier] with several accidents in the past few years,” said Gooch, a Republican from Dahlonega whose district includes north Forsyth.

Gooch, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he was also pleased with the passage of SB 70, which would give the state’s transportation department the ability to change the types of projects eligible for design-build contracts.

“They would submit the proposal to the DOT and then the DOT could take the best project that is submitted, not necessarily the best price but the best value,” Gooch said.

“This opens up the opportunity for better projects that will be done cheaper and ultimately quicker because of the different technologies that would be implemented into the plan.”

District 26 state Rep. Geoff Duncan said he enjoyed the experience of House Resolution 411 being read aloud. The measure honored fallen officers within the state.

“They read the resolution out on the House floor and every member stood up in silence and listened to the names being read off and it was just an impactful reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that these fallen police officers gave to the state,” Duncan said.

Duncan, a Republican from Forsyth County, said he was also glad to see HB 512 pass. The Safe Carry Act would remove some limits on locations where weapons can be carried by licensed owners.

The measure would allow guns to be carried in certain government buildings, bars and places of worship. It would also remove fingerprinting requirements for those seeking license renewals and would allow local school boards to authorize personnel to carry weapons within school safety zones, among other changes.

Duncan said he supported the measure because of the way it was enacted.

“It essentially doesn’t mandate anything,” he said. “It just drives the decision process down to the local level.

“As far as in places of worship, it allows the church to decide if they feel like guns are appropriate or not. In schools, it drives the decision down to the local school board … to me, it was more about letting the local levels decide.”

To Dudgeon, ethics reform was an important measure this session. The House and Senate both passed ethics measures, which likely will be combined into one bill.

“Ethics is one of those things you can always do better with and I think cutting down on the amount of gifts … that has the appearance of problems with lobbyists is good,” Dudgeon said.

“Anything we can do to add more trust in government with our citizens is going to be good, so hopefully by cracking down a little on ethics will help people establish more trust.”