Henry County lawmakers and hopefuls look toward Gold Dome

The Georgia State Capitol at night.

Jan. 8 at 10 a.m. marks the beginning of the Georgia Legislature session, in which Henry County delegates are ready to introduce and amend state laws.

Bills introduced in 2017 but not approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives will get a second chance.

District 78 State Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, said he will work to get House Bill 273, “the recess legislation” passed out of the Senate.

If enacted, it will require kindergarten through fifth grade classes to include unstructured activity time, preferably outdoors, which could not be withheld as punishment for academic or disciplinary issues.

The Atlanta and Fulton County school systems recently approved similar policies.

The 2017 bill, an amendment to the Quality Basic Education Act, passed the House 147-17 but was tabled in the Senate.

“Also, I’m introducing legislation that will allow nursing home residents to purchase and install monitoring devices in their rooms,” Douglas said.

District 109 State Rep. Dale Rutledge, R-McDonough, said he will focus on the Ways and Means committee, of which he is the secretary, “evaluating tax credits and sales tax exemptions.”

He said he wants gauge their effectiveness and their impact on taxpayers and communities.

“As chairman of the study committee on low-income housing tax credits, I plan on introducing legislation to at least sunset this program or eliminating the state match to this tax credit,” he said.

Rutledge said after its sunset, or stoppage, it will be in line with other tax credits, “which have to be reinstated after each sunset by a vote of the Legislature.”

According to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, its housing tax credit program “allocates federal and state tax credits to owners of qualified rental properties who reserve all or a portion of their units for occupancy for low-income tenants.”

House District 111 candidates are on the campaign trail, seeking to replace Brian Strickland, who threw his hat in the ring for the Senate District 17 seat.

Election Day is Jan. 9, the day after the Legislature convenes, for both seats.

Henry County elections under way for House, Senate seats

House candidate Geoff Cauble said, if elected, he will concentrate on business, transportation, education and the Constitution.

“As a representative of District 111, my priorities would be to support job creators, businesses and employees by keeping taxes low and simplifying regulations; work with our delegation to secure transportation funding to build the road infrastructure we need in Henry County; prioritize the development of a highly skilled workforce through education opportunities (and) protect the rights of all Georgians, particularly their right to the free exercise of religion, right to keep and bear arms and right to life from conception to natural death,” he said.

House candidate El-Mahdi Holly said, if elected, he will push to fund public schools better and to support working families.

“As an educator, I see first-hand the difficulties that teachers and staff endure just to teach and the difficulties students endure to learn,” he said. “Every child in this state deserves a top-notch education no matter what ZIP code they live in.”

Holly said he wants to update a funding formula and make sure the district gets its fair share of the education budget.

“I will also push to increase support and protections for working families,” he said. “Working families are the backbone of this state and they deserve better. I will fight for a livable wage, for increased job training opportunities and for equal pay among women and men.”

House candidate Larry Morey said, if elected, he will put traffic, public safety and education at the top of his priorities.

“The traffic situation in Henry County concerning trucks will be addressed immediately once I’m elected,” he said. “The state will place more money and effort to address this situation.”

Morey said he will be tough on crime.

“I will immediately bring state resources here to stop a criminal element from destroying our way of life,” he said, “and will work at the same time to reverse a decline in our public school system. We cannot afford 29 failing schools with D and F grades on the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement school reports website.”

Comments from House candidate Tarji Leonard Dunn are pending.

+2 D.C. group seeks to redraw Henry district lines

District 111 is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in Atlanta’s federal court, now in the deposition stage, which charges its 2015 redistricting created gerrymandering, or the redrawing of lines to favor white incumbents.

Senate District 17 hopefuls are also looking forward to the 40-day session.

Senate candidate Phyllis Hatcher said, if elected, her top priorities will be health insurance and veterans.

According to her campaign website, nearly 9 percent of Georgia veterans are unemployed, nearly 8 percent live in poverty and more than 25 percent pay too much for housing.

“While some progress has been made in recent years, especially in regard to veteran homelessness, these statistics show that more needs to be done,” Hatcher said in a statement. “Our state government must continue to look for ways to help in this.”

She said she wants to help the district improve its health outcomes, in which Henry County ranks 14th in the state.

Hatcher’s website states her concerns are Medicaid expansion, legal access to medical marijuana and the impact of federal decisions on affordable health care.

Senate candidate Nelva Lee, Ph.D., said, if elected, she will fight for health care access and expanding the small business sector.

According to her campaign website, she is a former director of patient advocacy for the Grady Health System who started her own medical-related business.

“I want to bring that expertise and leadership to revitalize small businesses in our district,” she said in a statement.

Her proposed three-step initiative is to encourage small business incubators and accelerators to open branches in the district; remove red tape and bureaucracy; and expand tax abatement programs for small business to hire employees skilled in science, technology, engineering and math “so that workers right here in our community can have a leg up on the global competition for those quality jobs.”

Senate candidate Strickland said, if elected, he anticipates the work involved in balancing the state fiscal 2018-19 budget – the sole constitutional duty of the Legislature – and its impact on education and trade.

He said he wants to ascertain that “while we focus on giving our school the resources that they need, we keep our state government from growing and continue to support fiscal policies which allow Georgia to remain the No. 1 state in which to do business.”

Strickland also has carry-over legislation from the 2017 session and said he will focus on an adoption bill he sponsored that now sits in the Senate.

“This bill will reform our outdated adoption laws and help make it easier for children to transfer out of our foster system into loving homes,” he said.

Senate candidate Ed Toney said, if elected, he will also focus on the state’s spending plan, which last year was $25 billion.

Toney said he will scrutinize its impact on transportation infrastructure, basic education equalization, assist low-income schools, child protective services recruiting, pension funding for state employees and teachers, and mass transit.

“Public transportation options make it possible to move more people through central areas to maintain economic activity and spur future growth,” he said. “Public transit plays a key role in attracting, nurturing and maintaining these ingredients to build a stronger state. There is a growing need to consider the implementation of more public transportation to be used to augment and generate employment opportunities for disadvantaged workers, boost workforce development and enable more efficient job training.”

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