Local lawmakers say they don’t yet have any pieces of local legislation affecting Murray or Whitfield counties to introduce during the next session of the Georgia General Assembly. But they say they’ll have plenty to keep them busy during the session, which starts in January.

“I’ve got several pieces of insurance legislation that we are going to study,” said Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun. Meadows represents parts of Gordon and Murray counties.

Meadows says he is looking at ways to allow those who can’t get health insurance because of health problems or other reasons to obtain it, such as through the creation of a high-risk insurance pool.

“They would pay for it. They would pay at least one and a half times what the regular rate would be,” he said.

Meadows says that without insurance such people are often forced into publicly funded programs for their health care.

“We all end up paying for it,” he said.

Meadows said he is also looking at ways to make health insurance premiums tax deductible for individuals.

As a physician and chairman of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, says he will be very active in any debates regarding health care in the state. Thomas’ district includes Whitfield and Murray counties.

Thomas said he’ll be looking at ways to combat the health problems caused by obesity, particularly among children.

“That is very difficult to legislate,” he said. But he said the health committee “will be looking at ways to help in that area.”

Thomas said the committee may come up with resolutions on topics such as stroke prevention and heart disease “to try to educate people.”

Thomas said one piece of legislation that will likely be discussed is a bill to require passengers in pickups to use seat belts.

“I haven’t decided yet whether I will introduce it myself, but I will certainly support it,” he said. “A lot of people have been killed or severely injured, often young people but some older people, too, in accidents where if they had seat belts on they wouldn’t have been killed or injured.”

Thomas said, given the fact that over half the state budget goes to education, education will continue to be a big topic in the next session.

As a former teacher and Whitfield County Schools superintendent, Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said he’ll be keeping an eye on those discussions.

Dickson represents parts of Whitfield and Murray counties. He says he expects Gov. Sonny Perdue to ask the Legislature to expand the number of graduation completion counselors and place them in middle schools as well as high schools.

“That’s probably a good thing. Dropouts don’t begin in the high school. That’s just where the action takes place. The attitudes and decisions begin at a much earlier age. If we can provide some assistance to steer kids in the right direction earlier, that’ll pay off,” he said.

Those counselors are funded by the state and by local school systems.

Dickson says he also expects transportation issues to play a larger role in the next session.

“Metro area legislators, in particular, have had significant concerns because of the congestion in the Atlanta area, but legislators from other parts of the state also have transportation concerns,” he said.

Dickson said one local transportation need is a way for commercial trucks to get to the Carolinas without first going through Atlanta.

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