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Legislators discuss session
Wide range of topics covered
Legis Bfast 640
Local legislators spent Monday morning with area business and civic leaders discussing the Georgia Legislature. - photo by Jennifer Sami

About 100 Rotarians and business leaders gathered at the Forsyth Conference Center Tuesday morning to hear from the county’s legislators about a variety of topics.


Forsyth’s delegates highlighted the recent session and fielded questions from the audience during the joint event hosted by the county’s five Rotary clubs and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.


Topics ranged from protecting children from motor vehicle accidents to immigration.


Fran Forehand, regional manager for Georgia Power, said she attended the event to get “their take on how the legislative session went.”


“But more importantly, it was really good to hear their comments about what they’re going to do in the upcoming session to help move things further along,” she said. “It’s a good way to make sure that we know that they’re being held accountable for getting things done at the capitol.”


District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, responded to a question about the future of Georgia’s photo identification requirement for all voters, given the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a similar measure in Arizona. Hamilton said he’s confident Georgia’s law, passed in 2009, will move past its pending status.


“It almost defies common sense, but that just shows you what happens when these things get to the court system. I do know with the way the Georgia law was written, that we still feel pretty good about the pending Supreme Court case,” he said. “But again, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It’s crazy to think that people [are] contesting this.”


District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, was asked about new boating laws passed this session, including reducing the blood alcohol content to allow a boating under the influence charge from .1 to .08, and more stringent life vest requirements for children.


“We needed this desperately and what we need to do is just make sure that it’s enforced,” Murphy said. “I don’t think that at this time we need any more laws on the lake ... we’ll just kind of see how the current laws that we just passed work and then we can go from there.”


Health care was a big discussion during the event, particularly with all pieces of the federal Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, set to take effect next year.


District 9 state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dahlonega, said the state can only do so much when “the federal government continues to put these demands on the states, and I think the governor made the right decision on not increasing the state’s Medicaid rolls.”


Tanner noted said one thing that can be done at the state level is to stop a very common practice of using emergency rooms  for routine health care.


Tanner, who authored a resolution establishing a mental health study commission, addressed the emergency room issue from that perspective as well.


“Our emergency rooms are often times used as our primary care providers for many of our citizens. Hospitals are the catch-all for all those [mental health] individuals and that’s a high cost ... we’ve got to continue to revamp that system and find better ways to deal with those individuals,” Tanner said.


Like Tanner, it was the first legislative session for District 26 state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming. The freshman legislator, whose profession is in building, was appointed to the Banks and Banking Committee, something he was asked about during the breakfast.


“Building is going to be one of those economic engines that pulls us through whatever we’re going through right now. It’s going to be a huge growth opportunity for the state,” he said. “What we hear from bankers and builders and from folks everywhere in the industry is that the regulation is just unbearable and so I wanted to be in that committee to look for ways to get out of the way of regulation and allow small business owners to build their products.”


District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Suwanee, was asked about his work on an income tax credit and getting an “angel” investor credit passed through this past session. Dudgeon, a technology business owner, said like building, technology jobs will help bolster Georgia’s economy.


“We really are working on a policy at the state that draws economic development in, especially in the part I pay a lot of attention to, being a high-tech guy, is [finding] how can we make Atlanta and the metro area in Georgia more and more attractive to high-tech businesses so we can grow the high-paying jobs we all want to see,” he said.