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South Forsyth's first-year legislator busy from the start
District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones introduces bill to address overcrowding in schools
District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones speaks with District 24 state Rep. Sheri Gilligan on the House floor in the Georgia General Assembly. - photo by Isabel Hughes

ATLANTA — It was 10:35 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones, who represents south Forsyth and Johns Creek, pulled out his laptop, scrolling through emails as the House reader presented the House Rules Calendar to the floor.

The calendar, which determines what bills will be debated and voted on each day, is read at the beginning of each day of the legislative session.

This was the 22nd reading.

Though his bill had a few more hoops to jump through before reaching the House floor, Jones was already reviewing the calendar for upcoming days and reading constituent feedback on his legislation.

House Bill 194 — legislation co-sponsored by District 22 state Rep. Wes Cantrell — that would require counties and municipalities to work with local school boards to alleviate potential overcrowding of schools — would be heard by a House committee later that day, and, if favorably reported, move to the Rules Committee, after which it will travel to the House floor for debate and a vote.

The bill is one of Jones’ first he wrote after taking his first-ever political office this January. He ran unopposed last year to succeed Mike Dudgeon, who had been the senior legislator in Forsyth’s seven-member delegation.

It comes, in part, in response to concerns the Forsyth County planning board and Board of Commissioners hear at least once per meeting: schools are already overcrowded, and building new subdivisions will only increase the problem.

“What I’m trying to do with HB 194 is create a dialogue between zoning authorities and the school board,” Jones said. “The fact of the matter is K-12 education is absolutely critical. But we also know that a detriment to K-12 education is overcrowded classrooms. There is study after study [showing] the inability of teachers to provide individual type education in [overcrowded] classrooms, so asking for the zoning authorities to consider what that impact would possibly be we think is good in terms of how that will affect the K-12 students within the state of Georgia.”

With four children — three currently in Forsyth County Schools — the bill is important to Jones. It represents part of the reason he ran for the seat.

“I believe that citizens should go, serve, do right and then let the next person step up,” he said. “My job should be — assuming I’m re-elected — to help mentor the next person, however much that person wants to accept from me. Then I feel [I’ll have] done my part and that’s what I do believe our founding fathers had in mind when they made two-year terms.”

He said being a lawmaker means taking a local problem and finding a solution for everyone; not by dividing the General Assembly, but by keeping promises and finding common ground with other lawmakers, officials and voters.

“I’d like to show my constituents I made the [term limit] commitment and that I live by it,” Jones said. “I think they’d appreciate I made the commitment.”

They will also hopefully appreciate HB 194, he added, pleased a House committee reported favorably on the bill at the hearing Wednesday afternoon.

With Crossover Day looming — the last day for legislation to pass the chamber in which it was introduced and transfer to the other chamber for consideration — Jones, like many others, is working hard.

With more bills in the works, it was unclear on Wednesday how many would make it to the floor before Friday.
But for a freshman representative, one is an accomplishment under the Gold Dome.