Three local state legislators are predicting that voting security, healthcare, medical marijuana and school safety will be among major issues the General Assembly will tackle in the upcoming session.
State Sen. Jen Jordan and state Reps. Kay Kirkpatrick and Deborah Silcox joined the Sandy Springs Rotary at its Nov. 12 luncheon to preview the next session and debrief the group on potential changes following the major Election Day shake-ups. While all three won re-election, several new legislators will fill vacant seats or those of ousted incumbents.
“There is a lot of turnover this year. I predict it’s going to be somewhat chaotic,” said Kirkpatrick, who won her Sandy Springs seat in a special election in 2017. “The learning curve down there is very steep, as I found out last year, so it is possible we won’t get a whole lot done.”
The most significant legislative issues for Fulton County are likely to be transit, the property tax system reform and voting, said Jordan, who represents part of Sandy Springs and Buckhead.
Jordan, said she believes the voting system will be the first major legislative tackled because she expects a court to order it. There have been legal findings that have been “pretty significant and a little scary,” said Jordan, a Democrat who was reelected to the seat she first won last year.
Several vendors presented different systems over the summer, but Silcox said she hopes Georgia will stick with electronic machines with the addition of a paper receipt that archives votes.
The paper backup would be signed by the voters and locked away, Silcox said.
Kirkpatrick said she expects Medicaid changes and medical marijuana to return.
“A lot of healthcare legislation last year got killed by politics,” Kirkpatrick said.
Silcox, a Republican representing Sandy Springs, said she is heading up a committee studying mental health in Fulton County. There are no standards or organization for providers, and the committee would study ways to gain accountability and set up a way to measure treatment.
A standard screening tool could be developed to divert people to mental health providers instead of being taken to jail, Silcox said.
One of the meeting attendees asked the officials if anything is expected to be done on affordable housing. The legislators didn’t point to specific legislation, but said it is a top priority.
“This is very much a part, routinely, of the Atlanta delegation meetings,” Silcox said. “It is very much at the top and center of discussions and I so hope that we can make progress on this issue.”
The problem is also important to solve because it is a big driver of traffic congestion due to people commuting to where they work from where they can afford to live, Jordan said.
“That really isn’t a sustainable situation,” she said.
Cities and governments partnering with businesses and groups to support housing can be one solution, Jordan said.
“That’s when we’re really going to see us moving forward,” she said. “Everybody that is a stakeholder has to be part of the solution.”