FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Charitable donations, school choice and transportation were among the key topics state legislators for Forsyth County addressed at a Dec. 15 information session.
The virtual event, sponsored by the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the Lanier Forsyth Rotary Club, comes in advance of the 2021 Georgia Legislative Session, which convenes Jan. 11.
A wide array of topics were on the table, and most officials outlined what they would like to see accomplished in the upcoming session.
Rep.-elect Will Wade shared some doubts a bill he hopes to introduce would pass in 2021, but he outlined a plan to double the tax credit on charitable donations. Wade suggests that for a two-year period, donations made to nonprofits would receive twice the amount of the donation in tax breaks, with caps. Under Wade’s proposal, a person making a $500 donation to a nonprofit would receive $1,000 in tax credits during the two-year period.
Rep. Wes Cantrell said he will continue his calls to end the time change in the state and support ranked-choice voting for overseas and military ballots and in presidential elections. He also said he would introduce a school-choice bill that would include a caveat for families who have children attending schools that did not offer full face-to-face instruction during the pandemic.
Rep. Sheri Gilligan said one priority will be encouraging charitable giving, and one way to encouraging it is to lower taxes so people have more money in their pockets. She said she is also advocating for the expansion of the University of North Georgia Cumming campus.
Sen. Greg Dolezal also supported the university system expansion, adding he would pursue transportation funding for the area, move the county into the Atlanta Regional Commission and get rid of special interest tax breaks.
Dolezal also plans to introduce term limit legislation, which he said probably will not pass this year but will fuel conversation.
During the discussion portion of the session, a question regarding drug/alcohol abuse and mental health spurred Rep. Jones to call for the state to have “targeted efforts” to address mental health. He said it would be a herculean effort from a funding and resources standpoint, but the state needs to address the issue. He added he would like to see the elimination of birth year from determining school age readiness, stating that children’s aptitude for learning varies.
The state passed its fiscal year 2021 budget over the summer with an approximate $2.6 billion in cuts, and Jones said those slashes were made in anticipation of a reduction in tax receipts.
“Knock on wood, that’s actually been just the opposite,” Jones said. “We have actually seen receipts up, we have seen relatively strong growth.”
Sen. Steve Gooch said transportation improvement funding should be restored, and projects that were put on hold by the pandemic should be back in the works.
“I do believe you will see most, if not all, of those projects come back in 2021 calendar year,” Gooch said. “If not ’21 then definitely by ’22.”
Several legislators also said they plan to address election reform following the Nov. 3 General Election and the Jan. 5 runoff, which will have taken place before the beginning of the session.
Rep. Jones said the state needs to offer electronic ID verification.
“So, if someone says you are disenfranchising me because you are requiring me to get a paper copy of my ID, we’re going to give you an electronic option, too,” Jones said.
Rep. Gilligan suggested the state could do away with its 2005 decision to allow for no-excuse absentee voting.