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What Hall County's legislators would like to see addressed in 2016 session
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The following responses from local legislators have been edited for grammar, spelling and to adhere to Associated Press style. They have been cut to meet a 150-word count limit, of which the legislators were advised.

What issue would you most like to see addressed by the legislature this year and why?

SEN. BUTCH MILLER

Education is the most significant issue the General Assembly will address. The Governor’s Education Reform Commission has met and given us their recommendations.

We certainly must fix the funding formula and fix it soon. We need a modern student-based funding formula that can keep up with the changes in the classroom.

We also need to let teachers be teachers. They came into the profession to teach and make a difference, not to spend until 10 p.m. on a school night working on an eligibility or an individualized education plan.

The recent federal education reauthorization, the Every Student Succeeds Act, will reduce many of the federal overreaches. This is where we will need to re-examine all of the paperwork and testing we require to eliminate anything duplicative and extraneous.

Teachers need time to plan lessons and to teach our children. They are educated professionals, not glorified paper-pushing babysitters.

SEN. JOHN WILKINSON

As with most years, education will be a critical issue. More than half the state's budget is spent on education.

Education is the No. 1 factor in economic development. If we are to maintain our standing as the best place in America to do business, our education system must move forward.

We will be hearing from the Education Reform Commission appointed by the governor. The commission has been studying the state's education system , including its funding formula, increased access to early learning programs, recruiting and retaining high-quality instructors, and expanding school options for Georgia's families.

It has been years since some of the programs in place were implemented and as vice chairman of the Education and Youth Committee in the Senate, I look forward to working to give our students "world class" opportunities in education.

REP. TIMOTHY BARR

The most important issue I want the General Assembly to address is Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Religious liberty was a central component in our great nation’s foundation and is explicitly protected in our Constitution’s very first amendment.

In the 1990s, the federal government reaffirmed this protection by passing a bipartisan law that stops the government from unjustly burdening religious exercise. This law only applies to the federal government, which means states have to pass their own versions to ensure such protections for their citizens.

We have had multiple examples over the last several years showing that we need this protection, Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran being one example close to home.

Last year I helped lead the fight to enact this in Georgia, and we need to finish the job this year. This will protect Georgians and ensure that we can exercise our beliefs without fearing unjust government limitations.

REP. EMORY DUNAHOO

Religious freedom bill. We need leadership to step up and promote this bill. This bill protects everyone!

For two years this has been put off because of what "may happen." The federal government has taken away some of our freedom for speech; everything has to be politically correct!

This bill protects citizens by keeping the government from creating mandates for special interests.

Big business is trying to intimidate Georgia with a boycott if this bill is passed, but I feel that it is time to do what is right and not be bullied by big corporations.

How about for once we not worry about being re-elected and do what we all know is right? Read SB129 without worrying about the big, bad wolf being at the door!

REP. LEE HAWKINS

The issue I would like to see addressed is a quality of life improvement for the disabled.

Presently, the disabled may receive Social Security Disability Income and Medicaid for the Aged, Blind and Disabled. Qualification is based upon the individual’s income and retained assets. These limits are so low they prevent the disabled from leading productive and independent lives.

Over the years, my wife and I became aware of this issue through friendships and volunteering.

We have gotten to know a number of the disabled in this area and have found a common theme among them: they wish to lead as normal a life as possible. They want to work rather than be homebound.

I believe government should be limited and never prevent an individual from working and providing for themselves. I will sponsor legislation that will raise the financial income and asset limits that are barriers for the disabled.

REP. CARL ROGERS

As I return, my goal is first to concentrate my efforts in monitoring proposed legislation, not necessarily introducing new legislation, thereby ensuring the bills that do pass are better bills.

Indeed, each year we are encouraged by the leadership not to introduce numerous new bills. For often, in addition to new legislation, our efforts are also focused on bringing our state into compliance with federal tax legislation by updating or "tweaking" previously passed legislation.

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