Gold Dome Update: Final 2016 Session

This week the Senate adjourned Sine Die as we completed the 2016 session in a similar way that it began; a ceremonial bang of the gavel. We worked until midnight both legislative days this week to ensure we were passing legislation that would have the best impact for all Georgians.

One of the biggest issues this session is MARTA expansion into North Fulton County. In its original form, the bill proposed would impose a half penny tax on all of the citizens of Fulton County to provide for heavy rail expansion. I did not support this proposal with an extraordinary tax increase and a negative impact to commuters. We needed a timelier and more cost efficient solution.

Thursday, the Senate and House came to a compromise and new bill to allow for MARTA expansion in the city of Atlanta and separating the remaining parts of Fulton County to focus on a myriad of other options and solutions. This approach allows the flexibility for us to develop solutions to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives now.

I have had many jobs throughout my lifetime, including owning my own businesses and being a firefighter. All jobs come with occupational hazards, but I must say that public safety positions, including firefighting, come with a lot more. Thursday, the Senate passed House Bill 216. This bill provides for workers’ compensation benefits to firefighters who have been diagnosed with fire service-related cancers. It is extremely important to me that we work to protect and assist those brave men and women who risk their lives to do the same for us.

As our state grows and our economy thrives, more and more unincorporated areas are moving to become legally recognized as a city. We saw it last year with the movement for the city of Tucker and the city of LaVista Hills in DeKalb County, and again this year with the City of South Fulton in Fulton County. As the Chair of the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee, I have heard the pros and cons of several incorporation movements, and I believe the incorporation of the City of South Fulton is a positive solution to what many of these residents want. The Senate passed HB 514 Tuesday, which allows for the incorporation of the City of South Fulton. This measure must be approved by the voters on the November 8th ballot.

Although the 2016 session has come to a close, our work as elected officials will not stop. Throughout the rest of the year, I will continue to research issues of importance and meet with the constituents of District 56 — so please don’t hesitate to contact my office at any time with your questions or concerns. It has been an honor to serve as your voice at the Gold Dome in 2016.