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Lawmaker outlines legislative plans at breakfast
4 Legislative Breakfast pic
State Rep. Kevin Tanner talks to George Parson Saturday at a breakfast the lawmaker held at Ryans in Dawsonville.

The budget, transportation and education are expected to be hot issues under the Gold Dome now that state lawmakers have returned to Atlanta for the 2015 Legislative Session.

On Saturday, Rep. Kevin Tanner sat down to breakfast at Ryan's in Dawsonville with a couple dozen citizens to discuss upcoming legislation.

He was also looking to find out what is on the minds of voters in the 9th House District.

"I'd rather hear from you prior to taking a vote on something rather than afterwards, because it's too late then for me to do anything about it," said the Republican from Dawsonville. "If you've got a concern about something that's coming up, I'd like to know what that is."

As in past years, the main job of the Georgia General Assembly is to pass a balanced budget.

"That's one of the reasons that Georgia works so much better than Washington. We have to have a balanced budget," Tanner said. "That's important and we take that responsibility very serious in the House, because that's where the budget process begins."

Among the challenges legislators will attempt to conquer are finding the money needed to fund education reform and transportation shortfalls.

"The governor has said his focus in the second term would be education," Tanner said.

From finding a mechanism to restore austerity cuts to addressing issues with Common Core, "Education is going to be a big deal," he said.

Funding for transportation also remains one of the state's most pressing issues.

The increase in numbers of fuel efficient and electric cars has added a strain to the already underfunded transportation department.

"The problem is that we're selling less gas in the state, which means we're collecting less motor vehicle fuel tax," Tanner said. "That's a concern for the DOT because their funding has went down. The DOT primarily is funded through the motor vehicle tax."

While there have been numerous options to repair the shortages, including the formation of a joint committee to study the issue, no bills have been presented or proposed to date.

"The committee did not make a specific recommendation," Tanner said. "They have a list of options to consider, but there's not been anything presented yet for consideration. I don't know that anyone knows yet what they're planning on actually presenting to us."

Lingering over from last year's legislative session, medical marijuana is expected to make more waves in 2015, though Tanner said he wished lawmakers would consider changing the name to more adequately describe the pharmaceutical.

"It's really not marijuana. It's cannabis oil that's extracted from marijuana. It has none of the addictive contents that marijuana has. It doesn't have the ability to get you high. It's just a form of medication," he said.

"There were a lot of unanswered questions last year about how it would be grown, how it would be done properly, who would get it and I think a lot of that has been answered over the last eight months."

Additionally, there are several pieces of legislation in which Tanner has taken the lead.

"I'm very passionate about adult learning and the fact of how powerful an education is," he said.

If passed, Tanner's adult education bill would encourage employers to help employees obtain their GEDs by offering significant tax credits to the business.

Unlike the current $150 credit offered, the new bill gives employers $500 if they pay the cost of the GED test and the employee passes the test. An additional $1,200 in tax credits would be available if the employer pays for the employee to take course in preparation for the GED.

"I've got major employers in the state that I've worked with that are very excited about this," Tanner said.

Tanner has also worked for several months on legislation that would increase transparency in the state's pardons and parole board as well as the process of tightening guidelines in no-knock search and arrest warrants.