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Legislators prepare for session
Many issues await General Assembly
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Forsyth County News


Taxes, jobs, judicial reform and, of course, the budget are just a few of the issues state lawmakers will take up Monday as they begin the 2012 legislative session.

The members of Forsyth County’s state legislative delegation, which includes three representatives and two senators, all Republicans, are ready.

Talks have begun and some bills have been pre-filed for what’s expected to be a productive session, said District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming.

“It seems like we’re having meetings to just look and see what we’re going to do in this session, what’s going to be required and what our priorities should be,” Murphy said.

“I’m hoping that we are really productive this year in doing something positive for Georgia.”

With the state’s unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, job creation is going to be key this year, said District 24 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth.

Dudgeon plans to introduce an education bill and will be working with colleagues on other measures. But jobs and the economy will be at the forefront.

“We need to make sure our laws are as conducive as possible to economic growth in our state,” he said. “Perhaps most importantly, we will hopefully see legislation from the Governor’s Competitiveness Initiative.”

The tax structure will also come up this session, as will judicial reform.

There’s talk of changing sentencing for non-violent offenders to relieve overcrowded jails, an option local delegates appear open to, especially District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega.

“Right now we’re paying about $18,000 a year to house an inmate in the state prison and we’re only spending $8,000 to educate a child in our public schools,” Gooch said. “So you can see that things seem to be upside down here in a lot of ways. It’s going to bring out a lot of debate, but it needs to be discussed.

“We’re not going to be soft on crime, we’re just going to look at alternative ways to deal with this.”

District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton of Cumming said he expects the budget to be passed without having to raise taxes.

While a balanced budget is the only measure that must come out of the General Assembly, Hamilton said he’s got his work cut out.

“I have a very busy session with my normal committee work and the budget process,” he said. “The new city of Brookhaven legislation is in the Governmental Affairs Committee that I chair and that will require a great deal of work.

“Of course, there is still plenty of time to address unforeseen issues that may come up over the next several months.”