District 49 State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, and District 52 State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, filled Neighbor Newspapers in during separate Q and A sessions over the holiday break about what’s likely in store for legislators in the months ahead.
What are the highest priorities for the 2014 General Assembly in your opinion?
Willard: “We’ll be working on unusual [deadlines] due to the change in the voting date for primaries. It could have everybody in a bind as far as having to get back to their districts for campaigning when they have opposition since the primaries [are] May 20 — almost two months earlier than normal. That’s the result of federal law. … We had to meet time requirements for sending absentee ballots overseas to our military [personnel] and getting those back in time.
“So, we’ve got to try and get a budget done as soon as we can … hoping to be out of here by sometime around March 20 or 21, which is about 10 to 12 days earlier than we usually leave.”
Wilkinson: “Georgia has been named the best place to do business in the country. … We want to expand on that. So, basically, what I’ll be focusing on this coming session is economic development.
“We’re trying to get Boeing to put in a major plant here in Georgia. [Gov. Nathan Deal] has been instrumental in bringing so many companies and jobs to Georgia. … We’ve got to maintain that momentum. We’re seeing a financial recovery, but there is still a long way to go. … The more jobs we get, the more revenue for the state, county and municipalities.
“And, we’re always interested in education, since that’s the main thing we fund as a Legislature.”
What are the bills you are co-sponsoring that you see as most important?
Wilkinson: “I’m working with the public safety committee on a bill regarding emergency vehicle access … that hasn’t been introduced yet.
“I’ve done a lot of work through the years on teen driving. An issue that has come up is emergency vehicle access … not being able to get an ambulance [for example].”
“Another issue is Jekyll Island. There has been so much confusion over the years regarding development — what could and could not be developed on Jekyll. I’m glad we were able to bring all the development groups together, the Jekyll Island Authority and conservationists to get an agreement on the parameters.”
Willard: “I’ve got a bill [House Bill. 1] I’ve been working on for a couple years, which deals with the forfeiture law in Georgia. It addresses the property and monies seized by law enforcement; the ultimate outcome is to have that forfeiture occur, … make sure that the law is clear on the process and that process recognizes due process to citizens who want to address the court as to whether or not there should be a forfeiture of their property.”
How confident are you that the Fulton County government reform bills that failed last year will succeed this year?
Willard: “Last year, we passed a number of local legislation bills that addressed Fulton County. This year, we may look to [scrutinize] what I call the governance of the board of commissioners and the county and really defining clearly the authority of the county manager, board of commissioners and the chairman of the board. There’s talk of making the chairman [post] a full-time position … so we’re looking at some changes there.”
Wilkinson: “It’s a high priority for this session. I’m very confident they will be approved. I certainly hope so.”