Forsyth County legislators recap hits and misses from 2021-2022 session

Justine Lookenott

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Three elected FoCo officials talk about the past year at the Legislative Recap on May 16(Image by Justine Lookenott)

(Forsyth County, GA) Three elected officials representing Forsyth County gave an overview of the past year’s legislative efforts and victories at a Legislative Recap event on May 16.

The Recap was put on by the Forsyth County Georgia Republican Party and the Forsyth County Young Republicans. It was held at the McDonald Funeral Home in Cumming, which is owned by State Representative Lauren McDonald (26th District).

After opening words from Forsyth County GOP Chairman Jerry Marinich, State Senator Greg Dolezal (27th District), State Representative Sheri Gilligan (24th District) and McDonald broke into a discussion about the past year before ending with a question and answer session from the audience.

State Representative Will Wade (9th District) and State Representative Todd Jones (25th District) were not able to attend.

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The Recap was put on by the Forsyth County Georgia Republican Party and the Forsyth County Young Republicans(Image by the Forsyth County Georgia Republican Party)

Maternity Support Homes

Among the bills supported by Gilligan in 2021 was Senate Bill 116, also known as “Betsy’s Law.” The bill would help provide free housing and resources for expecting mothers and their children, allowing them to stay at the homes during their pregnancy and 18 months after the baby is born.

“We believe that if you're creating a ‘culture of life’ you do everything to support that ‘culture of life,’” Gilligan said.

Specifically, the bill prohibits governments from enforcing certain occupancy requirements on these residences.

“Think about the woman who is in a battered relationship,” Gilligan said. “Think about that pregnant teenager who has no place to go, we want them to have a place to go. They can live there until that baby has been born and is 18 months old. They will get parenting lessons, they will learn resume building, how to get jobs and hopefully be able to go out on their own and be successful.”

She said their first maternity support home will be opening its doors in June.

Ensuring election integrity

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, election integrity has been one of the main concerns for Republicans.

In 2021, the State General Assembly passed S.B. 202 or “The Election Integrity Act of 2021.” Among several new rules, the bill requires voters using absentee ballots to put their identification information on the outside of the envelopes instead of simply signing them, which was what was previously required. It also requires local officials to post the total number of ballots cast on election day.

Dolezal said he co-sponsored some legislation that never received a committee hearing, including banning Dominion Voting Systems machines (which has been at the center of the 2020 election debate) and to allow counties to choose their own election equipment.

“I co-sponsored a bill to change our election laws to be the same as Delaware’s election laws because Joe Biden was bashing us, saying we had voter suppression when in reality we have more options to vote, more ways to vote, it's easier to vote in Georgia than it is in Delaware,” Dolezal said.

Gilligan said she can feel the distrust many of the public have concerning elections, saying some people she has talked to don’t plan on voting at all anymore.

Requiring an excuse to use an absentee ballot and shortening the amount of time for early voting are among the election changes she would like to make.

Regardless of what legislation her party was able to pass concerning election integrity, she still encourages people to vote.

“You will never win the game if you don't get in there and try,” Gilligan said. “You will never win the battle if you don't get on the field.”

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The Legislative Recap was held at the McDonald Funeral Home in Cumming(Image by Justine Lookenott)

Other highlights

Other topics included in the Recap concerned school choice, constitutional carry, censorship on social media and the housing crisis.

McDonald highlighted the raises and pay bonuses Georgia teachers and law enforcement received as well as the tax refund all Georgia citizens will be getting.

Having been a firefighter for 27 years and a coroner for 16 years, McDonald had a front-row look at the need for H.B. 1013 or “The Mental Health Parity Act,” which requires health insurers to cover treatment for mental health issues.

Gesturing to the ground where the trio sat on the chapel stage, he described a memory of what was going on while the General Assembly was passing H.B. 1013.

“When we were voting on [H.B.] 1013 in the House the first time, right where I sit right here, I had a 21-year-old girl that hung herself that week,” McDonald said. “When I was voting she was laying in front of me where I'm sitting right now…I’ve seen it guys, I know there's a lot of other issues but we had to start somewhere.”

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at justine.lookenott@newsbreak.com.

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA
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