Buckhead, Sandy Springs legislators: Session could include bills on Fulton health, affordable housingJulio Burnett
The Georgia General Assembly’s 2019 session begins Jan. 14, and local lawmakers are preparing to introduce bills on a variety of topics, including local ones.
District 52 State Rep. Deb Silcox, R-Sandy Springs, said she plans to co-sponsor a bill regarding behavioral health in Fulton County.
“The speaker pro tem (Jan Jones) put me in charge of a Fulton county behavior health working committee,” she said. “We had four meetings this fall and we looked at addressing mental health in Fulton County in a more effective manner. We met extensively with all the county officials, particularly Dick Anderson, the county manager, and Anna Roach, the COO. We had discussed drafting some legislation, but that’s (still) in the works.”
District 51 State Rep. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, said affordable housing in Fulton County is one issue that could be addressed at this year’s session.
“There are a couple of big issues that distinguish House District 51 from the rest of the state,” he said. “Affordable housing is a particularly acute problem as is the question of what type of transportation solution we will want in the coming years. The Fulton County delegation has new membership and will be in a position to take a fresh look at problems like these. I look forward to participating in discussions with legislators from the entire county about what makes sense.”
District 54 State Rep. Betsy Holland, D-Atlanta, said property taxes and development remain hot local topics.
“Even though the session hasn’t officially begun, we are already talking about how property taxes and new development are disproportionately burdening some of the people in our community,” she said. “Expect to see legislation that continues the work already begun by legislators like Rep. David Dreyer and Sen. Jen Jordan aimed at reforming our property taxes for fairer assessments, reduced burden on private homeowners and better funding streams for critical services like public safety and public education.”
District 80 State Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven, said while he couldn’t report on specific local legislation, he said he’s been “reaching out to local elected officials throughout the district to discuss legislative priorities directly affecting our community.”
On a statewide level, District 56 State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, said school safety will be at top of mind after he led a Senate study committee on that subject.
“I believe we will continue focusing on keeping Georgia the best state to do business and continuing the remarkable trajectory,” he said. “We should all be proud of Georgia leading the way and we will continue to work positively and professionally to solve problems and serve families.”
Silcox said House members recently heard the Senate study committee on school safety’s findings/recommendations.
“Part of that is to place counseling in all the schools,” she said. “They would not be regular counselors but would be mental health counselors, which I think would be a great thing given the number of teens impacted by the opioid crisis and other issues. I think it would help with a whole host of issues including bullying, drug issues and potential mass shooters.”
Silcox also said whether or not the Legislature sides with the House Rural Development Council on some issues could impact the session.
“They just had a biannual meeting last (month). The rural development council did (say) they wanted to end the certificate-of-need law outside of the metro Atlanta area,” she said, referring to the law that requires new hospitals to get that certificate from the state. “So any healthcare facility would be under a stricter license requirement but not under a certificate of need. I know 15 states have eliminated their certificate-of-need laws, but I don’t know if this will pass or not. It will be a very big issue in terms of the House Health and Human Services Committee.”
McLaurin said he’s “relieved to see that so-called religions freedom legislation doesn’t stand much of a chance this year only because we need to be honest with ourselves about what proponents of that legislation are trying to accomplish.” Holland echoed those sentiments.
“I’m hopeful that in a time when the country is experiencing a lot of division that the General Assembly can continue to be a civil, collegial body where the primary focus is getting the work done,” McLaurin said.
Holland said transportation will also be on the agenda.
“This year presents huge opportunities for transit expansion and infrastructure improvements,” she said. “Expect to see decisions made about transit across the state that will impact generations to come. We’re also at a critical juncture when it comes to healthcare – we must pass legislation that closes the insurance gap for working Georgians.”
Wilson said election reform in preparation for the 2020 presidential campaign “will be a key priority.”
“The Legislature will have to appropriate funds for our new voting system and determine what that new system will be,” he said. “We also have to look at ways we can make it easier for our citizens to vote, rather than our current system of ‘gotcha’ laws that effectively suppress turnout. I expect there to be significant talk about public school funding and fixing our healthcare and transportation systems, as well.”
Deborah "Deb" Silcox