FORSYTH COUNTY — Lawmakers are navigating the 2014 Georgia General Assembly in record time.
With about eight days remaining, some of the members of Forsyth County’s state legislative delegation recently paused to assess some of the bills that have made it through either the Senate or House of Representatives.
For District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth, the education bill was among the session’s accomplishments so far. Debate over Senate Bill 167, which he plans to sponsor in the House, has been intense.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever worked more on a bill,” Dudgeon said. “It clarifies pretty loudly that Georgia will maintain control … without being entangled with federal [Common Core] standards ... we’re not going to make any sudden changes.
“If the review shows 90 percent of what we’re doing is good, then the review could keep the 90 percent. Georgia will own this document in the end.”
Dudgeon said he wanted to see passage of House Bill 1, which deals with civil forfeiture laws, but there was too much opposition this session.
Fellow Republican and District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton of Cumming said he is pleased three of his bills made it through crossover day.
They included HB 715, which would grant flexibility for development on Jekyll Island, and HB 714, which he said could save the state’s unemployment trust fund as much as $10 million annually. He also was authored HB 837, a misdemeanor probation bill.
In addition, Hamilton supported the medical cannabis measure, HB 885, which cleared the House. Hamilton said the measure is not like those in other states.
“It’s important to remember this is just the creation of a possibility for a medical trial. It’s not allowing this to happen statewide. It’s going to be very well controlled,” he said.
“My main concern on that bill was securing language that protects employers, so that for working-age adults, if they participate in the program, that we don’t have unintended consequences in the workplace.”
District 26 state Rep. Geoff Duncan had his first legislation pass the House recently in the form of HB 749. The Cargo Theft Act deals with Georgia being third in the nation in cargo theft.
“This bill takes the crime of cargo theft and the criminals that carry it out head on,” said Duncan, a Republican from Cumming. “It correlates the value of the cargo stolen to the penalty that is given out. In addition, it gives the GBI original jurisdiction, so they can handle the multi-jurisdictional nature of these crimes.”
Duncan, as well as Forsyth’s other delegates, said they’re glad HB 707, the Obamacare Non-Compliance Act has passed. The measure essentially prevents any state resources from being used to implement the Affordable Care Act.
“If the federal government wants Obamacare, then they are going to have to use federal assets and not Georgia assets,” Duncan said.
In the other chamber, Republican state Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming said he was disappointed SB 335, a bill that addressed wine and beer tastings, didn’t pass.
However, Murphy was glad his SB 286, which would allow wineries to fortify their own wines using Georgia distilleries, made it through. Under current law, wineries must send their wine to out-of-state distilleries to fortify their wines.
“I don’t know where that law originated, but it wasn’t a good one,” said Murphy, who represents District 27. “It’s going to help with our economic development of Georgia wineries and stop sending our revenue and tax dollars to another state.”
With the final day of the session set for March 20, Murphy said legislators must proceed cautiously.
“We’ve got to really watch attachments to bills,” he said. “We’ve got to watch what we’re doing as far as the bills are concerned and make sure the bills we started with are the bills we end up with.”
District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch of said he was glad to see the Convention of the States bill, which would require the federal government to balance its budget, get through.
“I think Georgia may be the first state in the nation to pass that in both the House and the Senate,” said Gooch, a Republican from Dahlonega. “It’s something we have to do in the state ... and I think it’s something the federal government should do too.”
Gooch also was pleased with the passage of SR 1064. The measure establishes a critical transportation infrastructure joint funding study committee that will take input from across the state and suggest legislation for “alternative methods of funding transportation.”
“We have a major congestion problem and it’s getting worse by the day because the economy’s beginning to grow again,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to fix the congestion issue, and it’s going to take money to do so.”