With a year of experience under his belt, District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones is expecting a busy session this year at the Capitol.
“I’m excited about the current session,” said District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones. “It is my second session, so there was a lot to learn from the first session. I believe it being an election year for most of the state offices creates a unique opportunity for us to do material change and material help for the citizens of Georgia and for the citizens of Forsyth County and Fulton County.”
Jones, whose district makes up a large portion of south Forsyth and a bit of north Fulton, said he sees five key things affecting Forsyth County that could come up this session: education and funding, transportation, opioids, new technological advancements and the proposed city of Sharon Springs.
House Bill 626 was introduced by Jones last year and could lead to the creation of Sharon Springs, a new municipality in south Forsyth. A committee called for by the bill met over the summer and delivered a recommendation in October to let residents living in the area of the proposed city vote on the matter, which would need to be approved by at least 57.5 percent of those voters.
“What they said was, ‘if we’re going to change government fundamentally in the county of Forsyth, then what we need to do is make sure there is a mandate,’” Jones said.
To be voted on by the community, the bill would need to be passed by both houses of the assembly and signed by the governor.
Jones said for schools the two main initiatives he saw this year were improving educational opportunities for those living in rural areas and tackling how schools are funded.
“We’re going to be looking at the capital funding around how it is specific schools are built and how we can change that formula so we can move cash in a more efficient and fast way into those counties that are growing so fast,” he said. “Clearly, when you look at Forsyth County, that is one of those counties and one of those school districts I think could potentially benefit from that focus.”
Traffic issues, Jones said, could be better dealt with by focusing the needs of metro-Atlanta counties rather than working through various state agencies.
For opiates, a growing issue across the country, Jones wants much tougher penalties for those who sell users substances other than what they are looking for, such as heroin being mixed with fentanyl, which is much more deadly.
“Instead of just being prosecuted for the distribution of an illegal substance, we want to come after you for second-degree murder,” Jones said. “We feel as is five-to-10 isn’t enough. We feel 25-to-life is what you should be facing if you do that.”
Jones said the state also needs to be prepared for how new technology will impact future jobs, which he called the fourth industrial revolution.
“I talk a lot about the fourth industrial revolution,” he said. “To me, that is the confluence of augmented intelligence — or artificial intelligence some people call it — the 3D printing or distributed manufacturing and it is autonomous [or self-driving] vehicles.”
He said the state should be making moves to be ahead of those advancements to make sure the workforce is trained and ready.
“We need to make sure we are producing the labor force necessary to really be able to provide for these companies who are cutting-edge,” Jones said. “We are putting together an initiative to make sure we have a concerted effort amongst all our educational entities that we are producing the right type of talent to be able to allow these companies to grow and prosper here.”