A trio of legislators from the Fulton County delegation said as much while giving Sandy Springs constituents a glimpse into looming sessions in the General Assembly, which starts Jan. 13.
That information was divulged during Monday’s Rotary Club of Sandy Springs annual legislative preview luncheon at the Hilton Perimeter Suites hotel. It included three featured guests: District 40 Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody; District 56 Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell; and District 6 Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna. Each one represents part of Sandy Springs, and Hill 's district also includes Vinings and part of Buckhead.
“As we go into this particular session, I think, in the whole time I’ve been at [the capitol] it will probably be the fastest session we’ve seen … primarily because the court has ruled we have to move our federal elections up to May 20. Unfortunately for [residents], any runoffs for those particular elections are no longer going to be three weeks; they’re going to be six weeks. So, for that time frame you won’t be going to your mailboxes or answering your phone because I anticipate that, certainly in the U.S. Senate race on the Republican side, there’ll be a runoff with all the candidates that are involved.
“Really, the budget is probably the big thing as always as we go into this session … [and] education issues. I don’t look for anything major in the area of regarding tax reform. Also, we’re implementing the new juvenile justice system.
“And, I’m chair right now of a study committee on foster care — it’s probably one of the areas that we’ve neglected in this state. We’re rated No. 12 in the nation … in spite of what you read [in news publications] about some tragedies we’ve had recently, we’ve made a lot of progress. We have about half the kids we used to have in foster care because our adoption rates have increased so much.”
“Representing the middle of Fulton County gives me a unique perspective to serve all six cities, and we passed significant reforms this year for Fulton County. … We passed 14 major reforms just this year, which is pretty extraordinary and that’s not going to stop.
“So, what can you expect in the next couple years? A whole lot more of the same of us reforming and shrinking Fulton County down. A lot of work needs to continue to be done so we can shrink Fulton down to a manageable size that’s responsive to its citizens, but also gets out of the way for the great work that our cities have done. Sandy Springs is a shining example of that. … It’s been used as an example of how to do things right.
“What we’re going to do is continue to make Fulton County less of a concern in our daily lives by allowing the cities to continue to do the things they do and do well, which means we’re going to help incorporate the rest of the county so they can see the same benefits.”
“We spend a tremendous amount of money at the state level — $40 billion, $19.8 [billion] of which is raised locally statewide with our tax base in the state and we get another $20 billion from the federal government to administer our full budget.
“Quite frankly, that’s a little bit cause for consternation for me because while we do have a balanced budget in Georgia and that is very fiscally sound. The challenge with a part-time Legislature is that we’re focused like a laser during our time [at the capitol] to balance our budget, but sometimes it’s hard for us to look out five, 10 years and understand the challenges we’re going to face long-term. And, with the federal government being forced to become more fiscally sound over the next couple of years, … I worry about the fact that we have to have half of our money come from the federal government to administer our programs.
“With that being said, one of the things I want to work on in the future is understanding our long-term fiscal liabilities. One of them is retirement; one thing I want to work on in the coming years is to get our teachers’ retirement system in line with every other private sector business that’s been around for a long time. The bigger businesses still have a pension system, but most agile businesses have moved toward a 401K model and we need to do that for our teachers.”