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Lawmakers stay informed over summer
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Forsyth County News

They may still take family vacations, but state lawmakers from Forsyth County spend much of their summer working.

District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton has spoken to two county Rotary clubs since the 2013 legislative session ended, with a third appearance slated for later this month.

“I typically speak to most if not all of them,” said Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming. “Most of the time it’s a legislative update ... about the previous session and things that are going on for the coming legislative session.”

Having just finished his first General Assembly, District 26 state Rep. Geoff Duncan will also address Rotarians this month.

The Forsyth County Republican recently spoke at a recent Georgia Mountain Regional Commission dinner with other Forsyth delegates and met with a local business owner to talk about growth strategies.

“My goal is to stay continuously engaged with citizens and businesses throughout the district so I can continue to have great perspective on the opportunities and the challenges that are facing north Georgia,” Duncan said.

“This kind of constant interaction is very important to me because I always want to approach my decisions at the Capitol as a citizen and small business owner instead of as a politician.

Later this week, Duncan plans to meet with U.S. District 9 Rep. Doug Collins to offer help for the congressman’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study commission.

He will also meet with the county’s other congressman, U.S. District 7 Rep. Rob Woodall, to talk about strategies to eliminate or reduce Georgia’s dependency on federal money.

In the other chamber, District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, has a busy summer ahead.

“We did manage to get away one week in May to take a vacation,” Murphy said.

But since then, the senator estimates about 65 percent of his time goes toward his legislative capacity.

He still heads to the state Capitol once or twice a week and spends about two hours a day fielding calls from his constituents, something to which Hamilton said he also dedicates a lot of time.

“[Last week] I was dealing with a constituent that was having some difficulties with the new driver’s license law,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes we like to hold their hand through the process to let them know government does care.”

Both Murphy and Hamilton will be doing some summer traveling, heading to different conventions and events to gather information or participate in panels.

Hamilton will head to conferences for Georgia China Clay Producers, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Chicago and the National Conference of State Legislators, being held this year in Atlanta.

Murphy will attend some of those same conferences as well as others, including panels on the beer and wine industry and dental association he said.

“Between June and July, I have 19 days I’ll be away on legislative issues, mainly to do with my committees,” Murphy said. “You have to stay active if you’re going to keep abreast of things and what’s going on. You can’t just sit out there and not do anything, and then be blindsided by some issue you had no knowledge of.

“People elect us to stay informed ... it’s our job to do that.”

District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon said he spends about 10 to 15 hours a week handling legislative issues when session’s over.

“I’m the policy guy so I spend a lot of time working on policy during the off-session,” Dudgeon said. “I do a ton of meetings at the Capitol.”

Duncan and Dudgeon, a south Forsyth Republican, balance their legislative careers with work and raising three sons apiece.

It can be challenging, but Dudgeon said he manages to spend about an hour a day answering e-mails and phone calls.

“If I was retired or my kids were grown and I had a less demanding business, I could spend more time,” Dudgeon said. “I don’t go to my office at the Capitol and sit there all day, but I certainly do a lot of work ... wherever I happen to be.”

Hamilton said the goal is to do as much research and discussion as possible before the 2014 session starts in January.

“There’s enough pressure built up for those 40 days of session,” Hamilton said. “There’s a lot of work that leads up to session, so ... the better I can be prepared and plan for that, the smoother the transition is.”