By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
These are the bills Forsyth lawmakers plan to introduce in 2020

Between budget decisions, a potential push for allowing gaming in the state and a myriad of other issues, it looks to be a busy next couple of months under the Gold Dome.

On Monday, the 40-day legislative session for the Georgia General Assembly kicks off the 2020 session for state lawmakers.

Before that, state Sen. Greg Dolezal and state Reps. Marc Morris, Todd Jones and Sheri Gilligan responded to a few questions about what could be expected in the coming session.

In the coming session, lawmakers representing Forsyth are expected to drop a variety of legislation, ranging from pay raises for local school board members to proposals to address health care issues to a bill to allow home-schooled kids to participate in public school athletics.

Other bills likely to come in the session will have a statewide impact, including the push for casino and horse racing gambling; new rules that would limit what zoning standards local elected officials can implement; state education standards; and making cuts to and passing a balanced budget – which the legislature is required to pass each year by the state constitution.

Here’s what the members of the local delegation had to say about the session. 

Marc Morris

Marc Morris

State representative, District 26

What are your thoughts going into this year’s session?

“I fully expect competing agendas will make the environment contentious among and within each party.”

Are you planning on carrying any legislation this session, and, if so, can you describe what it is?

“I have an interest in presenting local legislation that would modernize compensation for the Forsyth County school board members. There is a great deal of work yet to be done on this issue and consensus to be gained among the delegation. However, it is clear that we are not competitive with surrounding school systems that perform at a lesser level.”

What other pieces of legislation do you think will be important this term?

“I would expect the revised 2020 budget and the 2021 budget to take center stage. Also, according to recent AJC articles, a legalized gambling bill could make its way to the floor.”

Sheri Gilligan
District 24 state Rep. Sheri Gilligan

Sheri Gilligan

State representative, District 24

What are your thoughts going into this year’s session?

“I'm looking forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to work on policy that keeps Georgia on track and helps Georgians to succeed. This is my fifth year in the Georgia General Assembly and every year brings its own set of challenges but it is rewarding to serve Forsyth County and the people of the 24th House District.”

Are you planning on carrying any legislation this session, and, if so, can you describe what it is?

“I am still working on legislation that will declare Sept. 1 as Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month but it is not as well-known as October and its Pink Ribbon campaign. The goal is to bring as much awareness to the No. 1 killer of children by disease as the Pink Ribbon campaign has brought to breast cancer.”

What other pieces of legislation do you think will be important this term?

“Nothing is more important than the budget. It is possible that in the budget discussions that tax credits could be scrutinized to ensure that the economic impact is worth the loss in revenue these credits represent.

“One issue is gambling. Casinos and horse racing may be discussed at great length again and would require 2/3 vote in both chambers to put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

“Another issue that is very important but may not get a lot of headlines is workers compensation and ensuring that employees who are injured at work are able to get the medical treatment they need.”

District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones
District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones

Todd Jones

State representative, District 25

What are your thoughts going into this year’s session?

“We must continue to diversify and strengthen the industries that drive Georgia’s economy. This will lead to greater predictability and likely soften the effects of any downturn that may adversely impact the country.

“Ensuring our workforce is able to deliver for the broad spectrum of Georgia companies – from the Fortune 500s to the technology start-ups. This means a greater focus on technical college curriculum and higher education majors that are applicable to industry in the 2020s.

“Further, our K-12 education system must change. Today, it accounts for nearly 50 cents of every state dollar expenditure. Yet, very little has changed in terms of educational outcomes across the 181 school districts. The introduction of seamless integration between K-12, the technical colleges and our university system needs to be an imperative. Introducing flipped classrooms and hybrid learning constructs throughout the state will fundamentally change the learning paradigm, allowing teachers to focus on learning rather than state-mandated testing and soul-draining paperwork.

“This all must be encapsulated by a health care system that works for everyone. Medical access and coverage need to be addressed by expanding treatment responsibilities to nurse practitioners, pharmacists and other critical medical personnel in Georgia. A framework aimed at providing real coverage to people at 200% of the federal poverty line and below must be implemented to cover the hole in our medical net.

“These are possible by believing in big, needle moving ideas that will change the landscape of each Georgian.”

Are you planning on carrying legislation this session, and, if so, can you describe it?

“This year I am carrying a first in the country: indigent and charitable care healthcare bill that introduces the concept of floor and trade. This bill will require all non-profit hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to meet a defined minimum amount of care for Georgians who are at 200% of the federal poverty line and below.

“The next bill I am carrying is the technology sandbox framework that will permit Georgia’s technology companies to quickly and efficiently implement proof of concept projects with Georgia consumers. The projects will be vetted and approved within 90 days of submittal and will be granted a 24-month window to complete. 

“The education focus of my legislative work this session will be to get the ‘Tim Tebow’ bill across the line where home-schooled children are permitted to participate in extracurricular activities at their public school; where our 181 school districts will be able to share teachers via virtual learning throughout the state – providing greatly-needed STEM and computer science teachers to our underserved areas and providing the necessary rigor to all Georgia students; and introducing a defined framework to include technical college and university virtual courses within all Georgia high schools – creating greater opportunities for our high school-aged children to gain post-secondary credits and ultimately reduce the time and investment for a degree.”

What other pieces of legislation do you think will be important this term?

“The budget will be a big topic because of the reduction in overall state revenue. Today, the state spends less on a per capita basis than it did in 2007. This has led to a near $3 billion rainy day fund and the maintenance of the state’s AAA bond rating. However, the state revenue projections for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 are below expectations.

“Hence, the governor has called for a 4% cut in all the state’s expenditures – what is a luxury to some districts is a necessity to others. So, there will be a lot of discussion around key focus items within the budget to ensure the state remains competitive within the Southeast and the remainder of the country.

“Two other pieces of legislation will likely cross our desks – casino gambling and the state takeover of community design standards. The former is relatively self-explanatory so I will focus on the latter.

“There are some in the General Assembly who believe the state should take away home rule from our county commissioners and city councilmen as it relates to how a local government can mandate a design standard for an area within the county or municipality. I am deeply disappointed that some of my colleagues believe that local government issues should be settled under the Gold Dome.

“We elect our local officials so we have ‘government closer to the people.’ This apparent hijacking attempt of their responsibilities is the classic definition of overreach.”

District 27 state Sen. Greg Dolezal - photo by For the FCN

Greg Dolezal

State senator, District 27

What are your thoughts going into this year’s session?

“As Georgia enjoys record low unemployment and strong economic growth, we have a tremendous opportunity to embrace pro-growth policies to bolster our strong economy. After last year’s historic teacher pay raise and investment in school safety, we are well positioned to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s careers.

“Transportation is always on my mind, and my focus will continue to be on working with state and county leaders on unlocking traffic gridlock throughout Forsyth County.

“Finally, we have an opportunity to lower taxes for all hard-working Georgians while passing a balanced budget.”

Are you planning on carrying any legislation this session, and, if so, can you describe what it is?

“I am working with my colleagues on legislation to address price transparency and surprise billing in healthcare.

“As well, I am working on legislation to allow school impact fees to help us to get all of our students out of trailers and into classrooms as well as keeping taxes low for homeowners in Forsyth County.

“Finally, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and I have worked on legislation to term limit the office of lieutenant governor, which is not currently subject to term limits.”

What other pieces of legislation do you think will be important this term?

“The budget is always the most important work of the legislature.

“Gov. Kemp has outlined his desire to dismantle Common Core in Georgia and reduce the number of high-stakes tests, which will likely come before the Education Committee I serve on.

“Finally, I always like to say that what legislation we stop is often more important than legislation we pass. No doubt, we will stop many bills that increase the size and scope of government, raise taxes, and infringe on the liberty of Georgians.”