Among the more than 400 bills passed by the House and Senate this legislative session and now awaiting the governor's signature or veto, is one that could rename two Forsyth County roads.
HR 336, if approved by Gov. Sonny Perdue, will rename portions of various roads in honor of more than a dozen Georgians. The measure is a culmination of multiple resolutions, including two from Cumming Republican Reps. Mark Hamilton and Tom Knox honoring Forsyth County Judge Richard Stan Gault and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. David Land.
Gault, who passed away in 2003, served for 14 years as judge of the Superior Court of the Blue Ridge Circuit. The husband of former Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Paula Gault was instrumental in the 1998 formation of the Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit.
In March 2003, Sgt. Land, 32, was killed in a crash on Hwy. 20 while responding to an emergency via motorcycle.
Barring a veto by the governor, the Hwy. 20 bridge over Haw Creek Road will be named the Sgt. D.P. Land Memorial Bridge in honor of Land’s service. The portion of Hwy. 20 passing over Ga. 400 will also be named the Judge Richard S. Gault Memorial Interchange.
“[Paula Gault] told me that several organizations had approached her and offered to raise the money through private donations. I told her I was certainly glad because the Georgia House had just adopted a position that same day of requiring that all road/interchange namings would have to be paid for through private donations,” said Hamilton. “I was also honored to sign on to Representative Knox’s naming request for Sgt. David Land, an officer that gave his life in the line of duty.
“It really worked out well to be able to honor such great community public servants and at no cost to the citizens of Georgia.”
Other bills under consideration by Gov. Perdue include allowing foreclosed properties to be used in county assessments, a tax credit for Georgians purchasing a home within the next six months and allowing deductions from a jail inmate account to pay for certain medication costs.
Not every bill is awaiting the governor’s signature. Some have already been approved, including Hamilton’s measure to change some Forsyth County elections. Commission and school board members will now be elected by district, rather than at large. The bill was a response to voter support and aims to bring the county more in line with similar-sized counties.
Between the House and Senate, nearly 1,000 votes were cast on various measures during this session. But not all the votes were good news for the legislation authors.
A bill authored by District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, to offer driver’s license exams only in English failed, as did his legislation to impose a $5 surcharge on strip club patrons.
A handful of bills cosponsored by District 9 state Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, also failed, including one that would have piloted a program electronically transmitting absentee ballots from military and overseas citizens during the 2010 elections.
Next session, Amerson said he’s going to focus on education, specifically the HOPE scholarship.
“Currently, 65 percent of students lose HOPE their first year in college,” he said. “They are not prepared to maintain a ‘B’ average in college.
High schools are not the filter they should be for grades. I will introduce legislation to include either the ACT or SAT scores in a formula to qualify for HOPE scholarships.”
Whether the remaining bills are approved by the governor or not, he must sign the state budget.
“We’re down 8 percent in our budget this year over last year and we have asked the agencies to cut their budgets by 10 percent,” said Murphy.
“We have received money for roads, education and we also received money for Medicaid, so all of those put together is going to have a positive impact on our budget, and save us from having to make more cuts.”
Money received came from the federal government, including more than $930 million in road improvement funding. While the funding has helped supplement gaps in the budget, programs saved this year due to the extra funding are not guaranteed to be funded next year.
District 24 Rep. Tox Knox isn’t a fan of the stimulus, calling it a “successful accounting exercise.”
“No real money came to the state in light of the fact that the federal government is sending out dollars that they have no way of paying now or in the foreseeable future,” he said.
District 51 state Sen. Chip Pearson, R-Dawsonville, said he agrees with the way Perdue is taking the money “a piece at a time and being careful about it.”
“We’ve got to be careful, because it could set us up for having to make larger budget cuts down the road than we otherwise would want if we get reliant 100 percent on that stimulus money,” he said.
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