According to state Rep. Kevin Tanner, the 2018 legislative session should have some positives for Forsyth County residents.
The session recently began, and Tanner — whose district includes a portion of northwest Forsyth — said there are several items he believes could impact Forsyth County in the coming year.
“I’m excited about the 2018 session,” Tanner said. “I think we have some big items on the agenda to work on and to address, and [I’m] looking forward to continue to get that started and being able to accomplish some good things this year.”
Tanner was first elected in 2012 and is a member of the appropriations, education, intragovernmental coordination, natural resources, special rules and transportation (for which he serves as chairman) committees.
He said the transportation committee would be looking at all types of transportation — including ride-sharing services, bus, rail autonomous vehicles and others — and will consider forming groups to look at the needs of metro Atlanta
“We’re taking a look at everything, and we want to form a regional authority that all those counties would be able to have a seat at the table for input,” he said. “That group then would be able to create the regional transit plan that would help guide decision making as we go forward and help have a regional approach to that.”
Tanner said Georgia has traditionally ranked low in transit funding, and increased transit options are a selling point for attracting new businesses to the state.
“Chairing the transpiration committee is a way I think I can benefit Forsyth County, in particular,” he said. “There are very few counties across our state that have more transportation need than Forsyth County, which we have a lot of work going on now.”
In 2017, Tanner sponsored House Bill 249, which gives new rules for doctors and pharmacists checking a state database when dealing with opioid prescriptions and moves responsibility and management of the monitoring program and database from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics agency to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
The bill was one of three signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal last year to deal with the opioid abuse issue, and Tanner said more legislation on the opioid issue could be coming this year.
“Talking to doctors and other healthcare workers, one of the things that I’ve found is sometimes when they have a patient that they know has become addicted, many times people are really not sure what to do about it, so we want to try to find ways to improve that system,” he said.
Another issue that could potentially impact Forsyth County, though it would require an amendment to the state constitution, is a special local option sales tax for schools, or ESPLOST.
“One of the things I’d like to see is to be able to give the schools a portion of that money for certain types of [operation and maintenance.]” Tanner said. “Of course, that would require voter approval. When they went out for the ESPLOST vote, they would have to tell the voters, just like we do now, ‘here’s a list of projects. Here’s a list of how we’re going to spend this money. Do you support us collecting this or not?’”
Another statewide initiative is updating the state's adoption laws, which Tanner said needed to be reworked since many Georgians opted to go out of the state to adopt due to the process.
“That’s important because we've got a lot of families that would like to adopt, but the process is so long and drawn out,” he said. “That legislation, that policy has not been updated since Gov. [Nathan] Deal was actually a state senator.
Deal served as state senator from 1981-1993, during which he represented Forsyth County, and Tanner pointed out Deal had since served in congress, from 1993-2011, and governor for seven years.
Tanner said 2018 being a big election year in the state could also have an impact on legislation
“It’s the first time in many years that we will have an election for a new governor, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner and, of course, all the senate and house members are up for reelection,” Tanner said. “Sometimes election years are tough, especially when you’ve got a governor’s election, but we’re there to do business and get things done, so that’s what the intention of the house is this year.”