Georgia 2018 Ballot/Referendum Questions

During the 2018 Legislative Session, there were five resolutions passed for constitutional amendments as well as two bills for statewide referendum questions. These amendments to the Georgia Constitution and statewide referendums will be proposed to voters on the November 2018 general election ballot. Below are the questions as they will appear on the ballot as well as summaries of each amendment. I also included my vote on them (if I was in session at the time they were voted on) and my rationale for why I voted that way.  They are presented for informational purposes only.

 

Amendment 1

Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund (HR 238)

Ballot Question:

“Without increasing the current state sales tax rate, shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to conserve lands that protect drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; to protect and conserve forests, fish, wildlife habitats, and state and local parks; and to provide opportunities for our children and families to play and enjoy the outdoors, by dedicating, subject to full public disclosure, up to 80 percent of the existing sales tax collected by sporting goods stores to such purposes without increasing the current state sales tax rate?”

Summary:

A “YES” vote on this will ensure that up to 80% of the state’s share of revenue from sales tax collected on outdoor sporting goods sold throughout Georgia will go to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund. The effort is projected to raise over $20 million annually over the next ten years and will be used to support and protect clean drinking water, Georgia’s beaches, wildlife, and natural areas; will support and protect natural resources with no new taxes or fees; will benefit Georgia’s economy through supporting Georgia’s $27 billion outdoor recreation industry. Georgia already has established goals of conservation and this would continue to align with those goals.

I voted: Yes.

Although I generally do not like constitutional amendments, this is one I fully support. It does NOT add any new taxes. Instead, it just takes taxes already being collected and creates a secured funding source for our state parks and conservation activities. If you love going on hikes in our beautiful state, enjoy a picnic outdoors, if you like to fish, bird watch, or enjoy nature, this is one you can support too. One last note: this bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Spencer Frye (HD118).

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HR/238

 

 Amendment 2

State-wide Business Court (HR 993)

Ballot Question:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create a state-wide business court, authorize superior court business court divisions, and allow for the appointment process for state-wide business court judges in order to lower costs, improve the efficiency of all courts, and promote predictability of judicial outcomes in certain complex business disputes for the benefit of all citizens of this state?”

Summary:

The intent of a state-wide business court is to remove certain cases from state and superior court dockets, speed up the business court process, and make Georgia more “business friendly”. However, this constitutional amendment does not lay out how this court would function or what determines which cases would get this streamlined, special treatment. That process would have to be figured out by the state after the creation of the business court, should this constitutional amendment be passed. It also removes some accountability of judges because this would remove the ability of people to elect judges. Instead, it gives that power to the Governor and General Assembly. Business court judges will be appointed by the governor to a five-year term, subject to approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a majority vote of the House Committee on Judiciary. They may be reappointed at the end of their term. Initial terms can be provided for by general legislation. Business court judges shall have such qualifications as provided by law. Vacancies in the statewide business court shall be filled by appointment of the governor, subject to approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a majority vote of the House Committee on Judiciary.

I voted: No.

First, I like the idea of accountability courts – courts that focus on just one area so they can be more efficient and effective. Second, I do understand that a lot of business litigation (lawsuits between businesses) can be complex in nature and with large amounts of money at stake. So, at first reading, this amendment seems like a good thing. However when I read the language of the bill a few concerns come to mind:

  1. This permits the governor (any governor) to appoint 15 more judges without oversight. It does say there has to be approval by the majority of the judiciary committees of the House and Senate. The members of these committees are themselves appointed by the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Governor.Membership on any committee is politically motivated and without any oversight. It is arbitrary and at the sole discretion of the Speaker and Lt Governor. In short, there is no guarantee the approvals won’t just be rubber stamps to the governor’s selections.
  2. Although you notice that the summary says the judges are supposed to have the qualifications as provided by law – that law is not yet written – so what qualifications are those? It could be having a certain amount of experience with complex business litigation or it could be having graduated with a four-year degree. It could be having been born a US citizen or it could be any number of things that have nothing directly related to the purpose of the court. So, the Governor could appoint anyone for any reason, such as for a political thank you to an ally.
  3. The language says the judges would serve for five years. And then what? They can be re-approved? Do they have to re-apply or is it automatic? What is the process for this? These judges are not elected like other judges so they have no accountability to the people, just to the governor who appoints them.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HR/993

 

Amendment 3  

Forest Land Conservation Use Property Tax Revisions (HR 51)

Ballot Question:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?”

Summary:

The resolution establishes a new class of property to be known as “qualified timberland property,” which is defined as tangible real property with a primary use for the production of trees to produce timber for commercial uses. The purposes of the new property class are to allow the Department of Revenue to appraise the properties and to establish a separate system to appeal appraisals and determinations related to qualified timberland property. There are over 450,000 private forest landowners and this constitutional amendment would support these owners and timber growers involved in the commercial timber business. It would also serve to try and protect and conserve Georgia’s forests. This amendment had an almost unanimous bi-partisan support in both the Georgia House and Senate and was also supported by the Georgia Forestry Association.

I voted: Yes

This is another amendment set to protect Georgia’s forests. When I first read it, I was concerned it would allow for the cutting of trees for lumber in places that was not permitted before. However, this only gives the property already in use for lumber a special tax designation.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HR/51

 

Amendment 4  

Marsy’s Law (SR 146)

Ballot Question:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?”

Summary:

Amendment 4, known as Marsy’s Law (SR 146), is the companion legislation to SB 127 and proposes an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to provide for the constitutional rights to the victims of crime. The rights for the victims are as follows: reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of court proceedings involving the alleged act; reasonable and timely notice upon the release or escape of the accused; inclusion in any scheduled court proceedings; and the opportunity to be heard at any scheduled proceedings involving the release, plea, or sentencing of the accused. These rights do not: create a cause of action against the State of Georgia; confer the right for a victim to appeal, challenge, or provide standing to become a party to a criminal or delinquency proceeding; nor restrict the inherent authority of the courts to maintain order in the courtroom.

I voted: Yes.

You may have seen my Facebook post about my support for this bill. Though similar versions of Marsy’s law have been introduced in other states where they have been met with some questioning the infringement of the accused’s rights, the Georgia version has undergone significant revision and review to try and balance the needs of all involved. I supported Marsy’s Law this past legislative session after speaking with the ACLU and others to ensure that defendant’s rights would not be lessened in any way as we maintain the safety and dignity of victims beyond just being a witness. This constitutional amendment simply codifies what is already standard Georgia law and practice.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SR/146

 

 Amendment 5

 Sales and Use Tax Referendum by a School District (SR 95)

Ballot Question:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize a referendum for a sales and use tax for education by a county school district or an independent school district or districts within the county having a majority of the students enrolled within the county and to provide that the proceeds are distributed on a per student basis among all the school systems unless an agreement is reached among such school systems for a different distribution?”

Summary:

A “YES” vote would change the requirements needed for an E-SPLOST (education special purpose local option sales tax) to be put on ballots. It would allow a school (or schools) with the majority of students in the district to request one without needing the approval or agreement of all other smaller schools. There have been incidents in the past where smaller schools have essentially held a larger school “hostage” by not agreeing to an E-SPLOST. The end result is that ALL schools would benefit as the proceeds of the tax are to be split between the districts based either on an agreement made between the districts or on a ratio of enrollment.

I voted: I did not vote as this was a 2017 bill and I was not yet elected. However the majority of Democrats voted Yes for this bill.

We have all heard of SPLOTs – these are special penny taxes that counties approve us to raise funds for a specific category of needs. Athens-Clarke recently passed a T-SPLOST for transportation. We currently have 180 school systems throughout the state of Georgia but only 159 counties. That means that some counties have multiple school systems.  For example, Jackson County has three: Commerce, Jefferson and Jackson County Schools.  It also means that Jackson County has three school boards. This amendment permits a school board to request a referendum to put to a vote to the majority of voters in their district for a penny sales tax to raise funds for all the schools in the district – county and independent.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SR/95

  

Referendum A

 Homestead Exemption for Municipalities (HB 820)

Ballot Question:

“Do you approve a new homestead exemption in a municipal corporation that is located in more than one county, that levies a sales tax for the purposes of a metropolitan area system of public transportation, and that has within its boundaries an independent school system, from ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes in the amount of the difference between the current year assessed value of a home and the adjusted base year value, provided that the lowest base year value will be adjusted yearly by 2.6 percent?”

Summary:

A “YES” vote supports the measure to provide a homestead property tax exemption in certain municipalities equal to the difference between the home’s assessed value for the current year and the adjusted base year value of the home. Referendum A adds a new section which allows a homestead exemption from the ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value exceeds the adjusted base year value of the homestead.

The “adjusted base year value” is defined as either the lowest base year value or, if available, the previous base year value adjusted annually by 2.6 percent plus any change in value. “Lowest base year value” for exemptions first granted in the 2019 tax year is defined as the lowest among the 2016, 2017, and 2018 valuations multiplied by 1.0423, which is the inflation rate for December 2015 through December 2017.

The homestead exemption is available to residents of municipal corporations that are located in more than one county, that levy a sales tax for the purposes of a metropolitan area system of public transportation, and has within its boundaries an independent school system. Municipal corporations meeting this description are also exempted from the requirements placed on municipal authorities for notification of millage rate changes in subsections (c) and (e) of O.C.G.A. 48-5-32.1.

I voted: Yes.

** A homestead exemption protects the value of a home from property taxes and creditors following the death of a homeowner spouse. 58 Democrats in the Georgia House voted “YES”. Only one Democrat voted “NO”. Also this only applies to Atlanta.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/820

  

Referendum B

 Tax Exemption for Homes for the Mentally Disabled (HB 196)

Ballot Question:

“Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes on nonprofit homes for the mentally disabled if they include business corporations in the ownership structure for financing purposes?”

Summary:

The bill is trying to give a tax break to those who are providing financing for a home that will be used by disabled people, but without financial gain for the financer as an incentive. Referendum B proposes expanding the property tax exemption on homes for the mentally disabled to allow for homes which are indirectly owned by limited-liability companies (LLCs) to be included, if the LLC’s parent organization is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization under Internal Revenue Code.

I voted: I did not vote as this was a 2017 bill and I was not yet elected. However the majority of Democrats voted “YES” for this bill and it was co-sponsored by Rep. Spencer Frye (HD118).

When I first read this bill to find out more about it, my biggest concern was that this could be abused. As I looked at the voting history, however, it seems this was a bill that went through some revisions. The final version has a few items of interest that would make me vote FOR this bill.

  1. The language makes it clear that property that is being exempt cannot by property that was only purchased for investment purposes.
  2. The bill also provides a tax break through a homestead exemption for disabled veterans.

** A homestead exemption protects the value of a home from property taxes and creditors following the death of a homeowner spouse.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/196

 

Constituent Concerns: AR-15 Raffle and Sexual Assault

Recent incidents at two institutions of higher education (UGA in Athens and UNG in North Georgia) brought numerous inquiries in the form of Facebook messages, phone calls, and emails to my desk. I have reached out to both institutions to ask for their statement / clarification regarding these incidents. Their responses are below in their entirety and exactly as they were emailed to me. I put them here for your review to provide full transparency. Feel free to share your thoughts, feedback, and provide any additional questions in the comments section. Thank you.  Deborah

 

UNG: AR-15 Raffle

I will start with the second incident first since it is briefer in content.

On September 10, 2018 a photo of a flyer was posted on the Facebook page of the UNG’s College Republicans advertising a raffle for an AR-15 weapon. After numerous constituent contacts, I sent President Bonita Jacobs and Campus Director Cyndee Moore an email regarding the flyer. Here is my email and President Bonita’s response.

—-

Sent: 9/11/18, 8:38 am

Good morning President Bonita and Dir Moore:

Can you confirm if the following story is true that was posted on Facebook?

Thank you,

Rep Gonzalez

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Received: 9/11/18, 1:40 pm

Rep. Gonzalez,

Yes, I learned about that earlier today. Below is our official statement. Know that I am happy to discuss further if you wish!

I’ve been in meetings all day. Sorry for the delay in responding!

Bonita

****

The College Republicans at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega Campus are conducting a gun raffle to raise funds for their organization. While the drawing will take place this evening on campus, the weapon will not be on campus or handled by anyone on campus. The raffle winner will be provided a credential that they present at the gun shop to redeem their raffle winnings. The gun store will perform any compliance requirements for the transfer of ownership of the weapon, including a background check.  

The student group is a recognized student organization at the University of North Georgia. The group was advised and has followed applicable laws related to raffles, guns on campus, and transfer of ownership for legal weapons.

While the group has not violated any University policy or law, we recognize the sensitivity related to this type of weapon and gun violence. As a public university, we believe a dynamic learning environment requires open dialog of factual information, critical thinking skills, and respect for viewpoints different than our own. As educators, this is one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our students.

 This situation presents an opportunity for us to initiate conversations with our student affairs leaders and student organizations about future activities to ensure that they are consistent with the educational goals of the institution.

Bonita C. Jacobs

President

University of North Georgia

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Sent: Sept. 12, 2018 9:13 am

My response back to President Jacobs:

Thank you so much Bonita for your quick response and the clarification. You can imagine the emails and messages I received from my constituents who were quite concerned that this type of weapon would be on your campus. Although I do not condone the raffling of a weapon of this nature (true to form of any weapon but that is a personal opinion) I am pleased to hear that it was a voucher and not the actual weapon to be given. The ultimate concern is one of safety for all those on the campus – students, faculty, staff, administration, even visitors and vendors.

Thank you again for your leadership,

Rep. Gonzalez

 

UGA: Essay for Sexual Assault

On August 6, 2018 WSB-TV had a report entitled “UGA student accused of sexual assault put on probation, told to write essay” by Wendy Halloran. I received links and concerns from constituents about this incident. I reached out to UGA.  What follows is the correspondence between me and UGA personnel.

Sent: August 6, 2018, 10:43 am

Good morning Toby and Griff:

I hope you had a good summer. As the new school year begins a news article is making its way around and I am getting emails, calls and messages from constituents. I’d appreciate a meeting this week to discuss the matter so I am brought up to date regarding how to respond. I am currently available the following: 

Tuesday, 8/7 between 10 – noon; 2 – 5 pm

Wed, 8/8 between 1 – 3 pm

Thursday, 8/9 9:30 am or 2 pm

This is a specific request from me, but I am copying my other elected officials in the Athens delegation should they wish to join us when we set the day and time based on the above mentioned.  

https://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/uga-student-accused-of-sexual-assault-put-on-probation-told-to-write-essay/805389293

Your prompt response to a day and time would be greatly appreciated so I can adjust my schedule accordingly.

Warm regards,

Rep Gonzalez

Sidenote: The other Athens delegation elected officials copied on this original email were: Rep Spencer Frye (HD118), Rep. Jonathan Wallace (HD119), Senator Frank Ginn (SD47), and Senator Bill Cowsert (SD46).

—-

Received: August 6, 2018, 2:48 pm

Rep. Gonzalez,

Thanks for reaching out. Griff and I are on the road this week, and we’ll be together and available for a call early on Wednesday between 8 and 9:30am.  Would it possible for us to connect then?

Thanks,

Toby

 Toby Carr

Associate Vice President for Government Relations

Director of State Relations

—-

Telephone Conference Call: August 8, 2018, 8:30 am

A series of questions were proposed that UGA would follow up with me on.

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Email Received: 9/13/18; 4:33 pm

Rep. Gonzalez,

 We worked with the appropriate UGA units and USG, and please see the answers to your questions below. Please let me know if you have any other questions or thoughts on this issue.

 A description of the overall process for sexual misconduct investigations at UGA from the reporting through finding and appeals. 

  • The University’s process for sexual misconduct investigations involving UGA students is governed by Board of Regents (BOR) Policy. BOR Policy provides that Complainants of sexual misconduct who wish to file a report with the institution should notify a Responsible Employee or the Title IX Coordinator. Responsible Employees informed about sexual misconduct allegations involving any student should not attempt to resolve the situation, but must notify and report all relevant information to the Coordinator as soon as practicable. Once a complaint is made, the complainant, respondent and alleged victim (where applicable) should receive written information about support services, such as counseling, advocacy, housing assistance, academic support, disability services, health and mental services, and legal assistance, available at the student’s institution. Interim measures may be undertaken at any point after the institution becomes aware of an allegation of sexual misconduct and should be designed to protect the alleged victim and the community. Before an interim suspension is issued, the institution must make all reasonable efforts to give the respondent the opportunity to be heard, consistent with the provisions in BOR Policy 4.6.5, Standards for Institutional Student Conduct Investigation and Disciplinary Proceedings(see attached). Both the alleged victim and respondent, as parties to the matter, shall have the opportunity to use an advisor (who may or may not be an attorney) of the party’s choosing at the party’s own expense for the express purpose of providing advice and counsel, pursuant to the provisions of BOR Policy 4.6.5.
  • The alleged victim(s) and respondent(s) have the option to end informal resolution discussions and request a formal process at any time before the terms of an informal resolution are reached. However, matters resolved informally shall not be appealable. Allegations of sexual misconduct may be resolved informally, without a determination of misconduct, if all of the following are met:
    • When complainant(s) and respondent agree to an informal resolution;
    • When the initial allegation could not result in expulsion;
    • When the complainant(s) and respondent(s) agree to the terms of the informal resolution; and
    • When the investigator concludes that informal resolution is in the best interest of the parties and the institution’s community.
  • Efforts will be made to complete the investigation within a reasonable timeframe, which will be determined based upon the allegations, availability of witnesses and/or evidence, etc. in a particular case. When the timeframe will extend past the reasonable timeframe, the parties will be informed of the delay and the reason for the delay. The investigator shall keep the parties informed of the status of the investigation.
  • All sexual misconduct investigations involving a student respondent, whether overseen by the institution’s Coordinator or the System Director, shall follow the investigation process set forth in BOR Policy 4.6.5.
  • All sexual misconduct hearings, sanctions, and appeals involving a student respondent, whether overseen by the institution’s Coordinator or the System Director, shall follow the investigation process set forth in BOR Policy 4.6.5.  All sexual misconduct adjudication involving an employee respondent, shall be addressed utilizing the institution’s employment policies and procedures. 

The UGA sexual misconduct policy

  • Effective August 14, 2017, alleged sexual misconduct, including any form of gender or sex-based discrimination or harassment, perpetrated by a University of Georgia student will be addressed pursuant to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (Section 6.7), which is attached to this email.
  • Allegations of sexual misconduct not covered by the BOR Student Sexual Misconduct Policy are governed by the University’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.

The USG sexual misconduct policy

  • It is attached as Board of Regents Policy.

Were the policies above the ones that were in place when the incident recently reported by WSB occurred?  If not, please provide those policies.

  • We cannot comment on a specific case, but WSB’s recent report refers to an incident occurring in the summer of 2017.  The BOR Sexual Misconduct Policy became effective August 14, 2017, and was applied to any investigations pending as of the effective date.

What mechanism exists to be sure that the three-person panel followed the correct procedures and policies?  Does this happen during an appeal?

  • The Office of Student Conduct oversees the hearings to ensure that the correct policies are followed during the hearing. The Office of Student Conduct does not weigh in on decisions but ensures that the panel follows all applicable procedures and policies. The Title IX Coordinator also sits in on hearings to ensure that all policies and procedures are followed correctly. Appeals are referred to the Dean of Students, who ensures policies are followed. One of the grounds for appeal under BOR Policy 4.6.5.3 is “to allege a procedural error within the hearing process that may have substantially impacted the fairness of the hearing, including but not limited to whether any hearing questions were improperly excluded or whether the decision was tainted by bias.” The Dean of Students corresponds with the Title IX Coordinator during appeals to ensure all policies are followed correctly.

 Several items related to the three-person panel:

  • How are panelists selected?
    • The University sends out a campus-wide email on an as-needed basis to ask faculty and employees to volunteer to participate as panelists. The University communicates with faculty and staff who volunteer or are nominated, explains the expectations of panelists, and provides training. UGA wants panelists to represent a cross section of the campus.
  • What are the qualifications for being considered to be a panelist?
    • Pursuant to BOR Policy 4.6.5, only faculty and staff can serve on panels hearing sexual misconduct cases.  To be a panelist, UGA faculty and staff members must be in good standing without disciplinary complaints. Panelists must also be individuals who have not taken an advocacy position in favor of victims or accused.
  • How are they trained?  Please provide an agenda of training.
    • Before they can serve as panelists, UGA faculty and staff must complete comprehensive annual training on: Title IX, the Clery Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, USG policies governing student conduct, UGA’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy, the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, and the formal hearing process.
  • How often is training updated, reviewed or refreshed?
    • The University holds the training annually and makes adjustments when necessary.
  • Description of number of panelists and how often they change?
    • There are currently 18 panelists. Panelists must undergo annual training to serve.  Panels for each case consist of 3 members, selected based on availability, preferably with at least one man and one woman on each panel.

 Please review the joint House-Senate higher education committee meeting that happened early during the 2018 legislative session regarding campus safety and HB 51.  References to data reporting were apparently made during the hearing, with the discussion relating to the “incomplete” data.  Is there more up-to-date data that can now be reported?  If so, please provide it.

  • From USG: The institutions would have data regarding the reports that have been filed with their Title IX coordinators and the various types of complaints that have arisen on each campus.
  • The UGA Title IX coordinator has received 93 complaints of student sexual misconduct since 2012. Below is a breakdown of the total number of student sexual misconduct complaints by calendar year:
    • 2018 – 18
    • 2017 – 12
    • 2016 – 19
    • 2015 – 16
    • 2014 – 16
    • 2013 – 8
    • 2012 – 4
    • Total – 93

 Is there an existing task force at UGA or within a UGA unit that is looking at sexual misconduct?

  • While there is no formal task force, numerous UGA units and administrators continually review our policies, procedures, training, education, prevention efforts, and support resources relating to sexual misconduct. For example, the University has a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) coordinated through the Equal Opportunity Office that meets once a month to discuss issues related to Title IX.  The University provides a number of programs and services to promote prevention and to support students. Here is a link to information about the services provided:  http://safeandsecure.uga.edu/preventing.html

 Is there a standing process or procedure for considering changes to the sexual misconduct policy?

  • Because student sexual misconduct is governed by BOR policy, any changes to applicable policies must come from the BOR.

 Thanks,

Toby

 Toby Carr

Associate Vice President for Government Relations

Director of State Relations

198 Waddell Street

Athens, GA 30602

404.863.5751

carr@uga.edu

Documents provided by UGA attached to email:

USG Standards for Institutional Student Conduct Board of Regents Policy

Board of Regents Policy

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Sent: Sept. 14, 2018, 3:18 pm

Thank you Toby – which were the “appropriate UGA units and USG” you worked with? I will be posting this response on a blog to answer my constituents’ questions. Thank you.

 Rep Gonzalez

—-

Received: Sept 16, 2018, 8:24 pm

Sure. Office of Student Conduct and the Equal Opportunity Office at UGA. Legal affairs at USG.

 Thanks,

Toby

Toby Carr

Associate Vice President for Government Relations

Director of State Relations

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Open House and Fundraisers: Yard Signs, Ice Cream, and Hope

We’re back – its campaign time again and we are excited to hit the trail and run a campaign as successful as we did last year.  Momentum is high and no wonder – blue is true!

If you are looking for a way to get involved here are some upcoming events we would love to see you at as we are nearing our next financial filing deadline: June 30, 2018.

 

DG4GA Campaign Office Open House

Thursday, June 21, 2018, from 5- -7 pm

337 S Milledge Ave, Suite 101, Athens, GA 30605

https://www.facebook.com/events/2056507941270913/

Meet Deborah and her team, mingle with other supporters, sign up to volunteer, pick up a yard sign, and enjoy ice cream. 

 


 

Summer Solstice Campaign Kickoff Fundraiser

Sunday, June 24, 2018, from 5 – 7 pm

212 McHenry Drive, Athens, GA 30606

Meet Zander: bron in the middle of a hurricane he went on to become the inspiration behind a historic win in Georgia.

 

 

Atlanta Re-Election Fundraiser

Friday, June 29, 2018, from 12 – 2 pm

Manuel’s Tavern, 602 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30307

Calling our Atlanta and surrounding supporters help us reach our fundraising goal before the June 30th deadline. 

 

Remember you can always show your love and support by donating at: www.votedeborahgonzalez.com/donate.

 

ACTION ALERT: Call Governor Deal to Veto SB336 and SB339

 

 

Two Action Alerts: Call Governor Deal to have him veto SB339 (Campus Free Speech Act) and SB336 (Secret Subpoenas & Fingerprint Bill). Phone: 404-656-1776 
 
We fought against both of these bills this session – the first one because it would penalize students who protest on campus with suspensions and expulsions and the second because it authorizes the GBI to give sensitive biometric data of innocent Georgians to the FBI.
 
I have sent memos to the Governor on both of these issues. You can click and read them below. 
 

Legislative Week 12 (March 26 – March 29, 2018)

Hello HD117.  This was the last week of the Legislative Session.  The session has been long and quick at the same time. I’ve learned so much and am so grateful to have been elected to serve YOU.

Welcoming students to the Capitol is always a highlight.

 

 

Monday, March 26, 2018. There was no session today as most legislators were getting prepared for Tuesday and Thursday. I spent most of the day in the District and had dinner with Bob and his sister before heading to Atlanta for the week.

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018. Day 39. A few things happened before the day session even got started.  I was part of a press conference voicing concern and opposition of SB452 (anti-immigration bill, https://bit.ly/2FrWPyH).  It was organized by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org) and included speakers from various organizations and Representatives Bee Nguyen, Pedro Marin, and me.  Two of those organizations were the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO, http://galeo.org) and the Southern Center for Human Rights (https://www.schr.org).  You can view the entire press conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFRLjvz4EmY.

 

 

 

 

After the press conference I got to meet Marsha Washington George (https://www.linkedin.com/in/marsha-george-868414a/), a black radio historian who wrote “Black Radio…Winner Takes All: America’s 1stBlack DJs.”  She was an invited guest of Rep. Valencia Stovall.  Considering the amazing black radio history of Athens, it was an honor to take a photo with Ms. George.

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was divided between the Democratic Caucus and Georgia Equality (http://georgiaequality.org).  I really enjoyed the mini-exhibit GE had – between photographs and illustrations, the images and their messages left me inspired.

 

 

Which was a good thing, as right after that all the Representatives and Senators lined up outside the main steps of the Capitol with Governor and Mrs. Deal to receive the body of former Governor Zell Miller, which was to lie in state Tuesday and Wednesday.  It was a moving and somber moment when the hearse pulled up and although I did not serve while he was Governor, I am grateful for his legacy of the Hope and Zell Miller scholarships.  Some facts about his life can be read here: https://on-ajc.com/2uet7YL.

 

Legislative Day 39 had a lot on our plate.  We did not end until after 11:30 pm.  The House kicked off by unanimously passing two adjoining bipartisan measures, Senate Bill 127 (https://bit.ly/2uEkGGh) and Senate Resolution 146 (https://bit.ly/2uLb4Kf), legislation that would acknowledge and protect several specific victims’ rights (also known as Marsy’s Law).  We also passed Senate Bill 154 to hold those in positions of authority accountable for sexual assault by defining sexual assault in the first and second degree.  We also unanimously passed the last criminal justice bill under Gov. Deal’s administration. Senate Bill 407 (https://bit.ly/2H0WTD3) consists of several recommendations from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and this comprehensive measure notably includes updates to Georgia’s bail system

During the late afternoon and evening we debated various contentious bills including SB315 (computer hacking bill, https://bit.ly/2pXpl0z) and SB263 (creating the city of Eagle’s Landing through de-annexation,https://bit.ly/2pmolTx).   Representatives Wallace, Willard, Douglas, Boddie, and Minority Leader Trammel spoke against these bills eloquently and with conviction.  Disappointingly, both of these bills passed.

R&B Group “Silk” came for a visit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 was a committee day.  I was told that there had been a few sessions where day 39 and 40 were right after each other, but that proved too much for the staff.  Why you may ask?  Well remember those photos I’ve put on Facebook of the stacks of papers on my desk every morning?  The staff is in charge of getting all our binders updated with those papers – that includes making copies, getting the binders updated, getting rid of old calendars, etc., etc., etc.  They usually do this after we leave and finish before we get in.  Well if we finish at 11:30 pm or midnight, that doesn’t leave them much time and they usually ended spending the night working and going 36 + hours without sleep.  So I for one am grateful for all they do to have my desk ready for my day and that they got a bit of sleep.

 

This “between” day still had things on the schedule including the last Rural Caucus meeting of the session. We had a special guest – Sonny Perdue, US Secretary of Agriculture and former Georgia Governor (https://bit.ly/2uH4b79) – who was in town to attend Zell Miller’s funeral.   Secretary Perdue gave an interesting presentation and emphasized how important it was to have broadband and Internet access for the agricultural industry.  I asked him about how we can ensure that Internet access would be affordable and accessible to all considering the repeal of net neutrality?  His answer was that access and affordability need to go hand in hand and he did not believe the carriers would raise their prices too high because of competition. I am not as sure as he is about that (https://bit.ly/2jdD9Ax).

 

However, we did pass House Resolution 1698 (https://bit.ly/2JdLDEe) and Senate Bill 426 (https://bit.ly/2pV5DDg). HR1698 urges the House Rural Development Council (RDC) to examine how to best spur economic growth throughout rural Georgia, to explore ways to streamline and make equitable the use of public rights-of-way while preserving local control of and fair compensation for such rights-of-way. SB426 would authorize electric membership cooperatives (EMC) to supply and operate broadband services in rural counties with a population of 50,000 or less if the EMC secures a certificate of authority from the Public Service Commission. Access to broadband services and other emerging communications technologies is essential for communities to grow and thrive, and these measures aim to expand to such critical services to every corner of our state, and especially rural Georgia.

Thursday, March 29, 2018. Day 40.  Sine Die.  I was excited and apprehensive as I had no idea what to expect.  So many people had spoken about this day with awe and trepidation. Would I be able to survive?  What would happen?  How intense would it get?  Apparently plenty.

The morning began with a Democratic Caucus meeting to discuss upcoming bills and things to be on the lookout for.  After that I was able to enjoy some of the 2018 Environmental Legislative Day.  We had a number of organizations tabling and a fascinating art exhibit with works created from recycled materials.  My favorite was the Sunflowers by artist Alvin Fudge (http://sanctuaryartstudio1.com).  I was able to interview him about his artwork, which you can see and hear on my Facebook page.

 

 

 

Then came a moment I had been waiting for all week – the time I could welcome two very special people to the People’s House – artist of the month, Broderick Flanigan and entrepreneur of the month, Beau Shell, better known as Lil Ice Cream Dude.

 

 

 

 

 

Rep. Jonathan Wallace and I gave a morning order to recognize them in the Gallery and then Avery Murdie, my chief of staff, was able to take them on a tour around the Capitol and my office before taking them to lunch at my request.  I am so proud of them both.

 

 

As a side note I had been working on a well speech to give in opposition to SB452 if it came to a vote on the floor.  Since we never know which bill will be called, a few of us made sure we were prepared.  Until 11:50 pm we held our breath every time a new bill was called for a vote in case SB452 was next.  I am so happy to report it never came up – seems there were not enough votes for it to pass (many legislators from southern Georgia were concerned about its impact on agriculture) and the sponsors did not want to risk another embarrassment on the floor. Thanks to everyone who contacted the committee chair, speaker, and their representatives in opposition to this bill.

We did pass some good bills on this last day including the 2019 Budget with a fully funded QBE – for the first time in 30 years.  That was thrilling.  We also passed a conference committee substitute Transit Bill (HB930, https://bit.ly/2CSkKRQ).

 

We ended “early” at 12:10 am, considering we went until 1:15 am on crossover day.  It was my first Sine Die and I enjoyed ripping the papers and throwing them up in the air with my colleagues.  It had been quite a session full of learning and legislating, fighting the good fight and doing what needed to be done.  It has been such an honor to serve during the 2018 legislative session and I’ll tell you a secret – I wouldn’t mind doing it again.  See you out in the District!

 

 

 

PS – I made a number of friends – across the aisle and across the hall. This led to a bittersweet moment when I had to say goodbye to Representative Bill McGowan.  Bill became a grandfatherly figure for me and always had the right piece of advice when I needed it – for example, once you vote, leave it in the past and move to what’s next.  There is too much to do to get caught up on what could have been.  I will miss you Bill (https://bit.ly/2s8RF4e).

 

 

The 2018 Judiciary Non-civil Committee.

Although the Georgia General Assembly has adjourned sine die and the 2018 legislative session has officially come to an end, I hope that you will continue to contact me if you have any questions regarding your state government, potential new state laws or if you have any suggestions for future legislation. Over the next 40 days, Gov. Deal will review and sign or veto measures that received final House and Senate passage this session. Any bill the governor signs will become law, and any legislation not acted upon (signed or vetoed) within this 40-day period will automatically become law as well.

 

 

Me, Larry Pellegrini, Ovita Thornton and Rep. Wallace.

Do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns. My Capitol office is located in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) 509C, across form the Capitol, my office phone number is 404-656-0220, and I can be reached via email at deborah.gonzalez@house.ga.gov. My District Office is at the Butler Building, 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 224, Athens, GA 30605.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Deborah

Which reminds me – don’t forget you can keep up to date on what’s going on, who I am meeting with, what legislation I’m working on and other news by Liking our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DG4GA.

Legislative Week 11 (March 19 – March 25, 2018)

Hello HD117. It is 5:24 am on Sunday morning as I begin to write my blog for Week 11. Everyone else is asleep. It is quiet and the coffee is on. This is my usual Sunday morning routine. It is a time I get to myself to be able to reflect on all the events of the past week and prepare for the new week ahead. It is also a time where I give my thanks for being able to serve as your Representative. The work is hard, some weeks harder than others. But it is satisfying to know I am doing everything I can, that I am not slacking in this service and that I can wake up every morning and be content to look at the person looking back at me in the mirror knowing she has done what she promised to do.

Monday, March 19, 2018. One thing I didn’t mention in last week’s blog was that I actually spent some of last Sunday working to prepare to state my opposition to the SB336 fingerprint bill. I reached out and spoke with two GBI representatives trying to get an answer to my concerns – is the system they wish to implement to collect innocent Georgian’s data secure? They did not have the answers but promised to have a GBI tech person call me Monday morning and they did. What I learned left me even more concerned. For one, we in the legislature had been told that the fingerprints of those applying for state agency jobs would be kept in a separate database from the FBI criminal fingerprint database. The tech told me this was not true – that all the data will be on one system. Second, she told me that the system does keep fingerprint minutiae (these are the identifying markers that standard security practice says can be kept securely) but that it also keeps the entire fingerprint image (that can be used to open cell phones, etc.) “just in case.” The bill came up for a vote that afternoon and I gave the minority report in opposition. Unfortunately the bill passed based on party lines. It has to go back to the Senate since it had been revised and the Governor stills needs to sign it so it’s not a done deal yet. You can see video of my well speech here: https://youtu.be/FNv3VBzo3-Y.

Monday night saw me back in the district attending Athens Community Agenda’s Mayoral and Commissioner Candidate Forum at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. It was a great opportunity to hear from the three candidates running for mayor of Athens – Kelli Girtz, Richie Knight and Harry Sims. The second part of the event presented over 10 candidates running for county commissioner seats. You can see some of the highlights on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/athenscommunityagenda/.

 

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018. This committee day was spent in the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. We had a number of bills to consider including SB315 the computer hacking bill (http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/SB/315). There are concerns that this bill creates a new crime that is too broad and may in fact penalize those who are just doing their jobs or completing research to make networks more secure. You can see recordings of most committee hearings and meetings by going to the GA House Committees page, selecting the committee name, and then clicking on the Archives option. For “Judi non-civil” click here: http://www.house.ga.gov/Committees/en-US/CommitteeArchives146.aspx.

With GA School Superintendent.

 

 

 

Tuesday was also International Day at the Capitol. The current Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods (http://www.gadoe.org/Pages/superintendent.aspx) was there to highlight the international programs and students of Georgia schools.

 

 

 

 

Before leaving the Capitol I stopped by and joined Governor Deal, Chairman England, Rep. Wallace and others to celebrate “Georgia Grown” (https://www.georgiagrown.com) during GA Agriculture Week. They focused the presentation on the t-shirts made from Georgia cotton. I was very inspired to learn that Georgia Grown has teamed up with Georgia Industries for the Blind (GIB, https://bit.ly/2G2Y4oi) to produce high-quality Georgia Grown merchandise while providing employment opportunities for the blind in our state. GIB now employs nearly 100 blind persons and generates its total administrative and operating budgets through the sales of its products and services receiving zero dollars from state or federal means. It has maintained the highest national safety rating since 2013.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 proved to be a hectic morning. I began the day with a Domestic Violence Subcommittee (House Democratic Caucus) meeting. This group of representatives keeps track of current and proposed legislation relating to domestic violence and works with organizations focusing on this issue through events and activities.

 

Next I popped in on a group invited by Rep. Hilton to celebrate Down Syndrome Day at the Capitol. The Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta (http://www.dsaatl.org) held their annual Consortium Day where they received a proclamation by the Governor, learned about legislation that affects their families, and met with their representatives. Shout out to Lori and David Bryan – a fabulous couple who were celebrating 14 years of marriage!

 

 

 

Continuing down the hall I joined Rep. Billy Mitchell and others to welcome supporters of HB981, the “Second Chance Bill” (https://bit.ly/2uj5PBc). This bill would limit public access of records of certain convictions, which would remove barriers to employment and housing for many Georgians.  My Judiciary Non-Civil Committee had a hearing on the bill last week but it did not pass out of committee. The Georgia Justice Project and others organized the advocacy day to bring awareness and to garner support for the underlying issue.

 

 

 

We had a visit from Cedar Shoals High School students led by their teacher Jesse Evans. Rep. Wallace and I spoke with the students a bit about how it is to be a new representative at the Capitol, a bit of what our day entails, and answered some questions – like do we always have to dress up – the answer is Yes – men are required to wear suits and ties when they are on the floor and women must dress professionally and cannot wear open toed shoes.

 

 

 

I was a single parent for almost 16 years raising my two daughters so it was a special moment to address the mothers and fathers invited by Rep. Valencia Stovall to be recognized at the first annual Single Parents Day at the Capitol. Rep. Stovall introduced and got passed HR279 (https://bit.ly/2GjU2Y5) to celebrate single parents and to provide tools and resources they need to be successful and raise successful children.

 

 

While my intern Cris Ortiz attended the Rural Caucus meeting I headed to the Women’s Caucus for a presentation on PANS/PANDAS (Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome & Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections). The presentation was given by Jessica Gowen, President of Southeastern PANS/PANDAS Association (SEPPA, https://www.sepans.org). I had never heard of PANS/PANDAS before but it seems to be of growing concern for parents in Georgia mainly because of the common misdiagnosis of it as Strep throat or a continuous cold. If you have little ones please click on their website and learn more about it.

That evening I was able to enjoy a Dinner for Donation at the Watkinsville First Christian Church (http://fccwatkinsville.org). I was invited by Minister Sheila Hunter to join them in fellowship as they raised funds for the Oconee Relay for Life and I learned a bit about their history. My ears perked up when the lecturer spoke of Emily Tubman, a Georgia woman from Augusta who became a wealthy entrepreneur at a time when women were supposed to be seen and not heard, and definitely not in charge of a large plantation.

Recognizing the Student Leaders for the March for Our Lives

Thursday, March 22, 2018. My second committee day of the week again was focused on Judiciary Non-Civil. The computer hacking bill (SB315) was voted on and passed 6-5 mainly along party lines. Marsy’s Law (SR146, https://bit.ly/2FKFdh2) for victims’ rights also passed.

Thursdays are when the Working Families Caucus meets. The focus of the last meeting of the session was a review and recap of certain bills still in the pipeline to be voted on before session ends on March 29th. Of particular concern were the transit bill (HB930, https://bit.ly/2DTmvhV), the voting machines bill (SB403, https://bit.ly/2DTmryH), and SB542 (https://bit.ly/2FrWPyH), regarding cooperation of local law enforcement with ICE agents that now had a new section regarding bail bonds that would override local ordinances.

Ended Thursday back at home in Athens attending the Athens Clarke County Democratic Committee meeting where I gave a brief legislative update on certain bills and heard from some new candidates for state races.

 

Friday, March 23, 2018. You never know what a day will bring. This was a difficult day for members of the Legislature as we learned that Zell Miller, former Georgia governor and founder of the HOPE scholarship had passed away. Speaker Ralston gave a speech to honor his life and shared a touching story of what Miller meant to him. We also found out that morning that the father of one of our colleagues, Rep. Andy Welch, had died that morning in a car accident. I do not know Rep. Welch well, but I was told that he and his father were close and worked every day together in their law firm. I cannot imagine the loss Rep. Welch feels and I wish him and his family peace.

 

 

 

 

Friday was Men & Women in Radio at Capitol Day honoring Program and Promotion Directors. Although these men and women were mainly from the Atlanta area, I couldn’t help but think of the men and women in radio from District 117 – shout out to Yvonne Roberts, Alexia Ridley, Lady B, Rick Dunn, and Kirenna Gallagher.

 

Page Liam Abbott

 

 

During the lunch recess we had the last Judiciary Non-Civil Committee meeting of the session. We discussed and passed HR1417 (https://bit.ly/2G9VQj1). This was to create a Joint Study Committee on Cultivation, Manufacture, and Dispensing of Medical Cannabis Low THC Oil I am pleased to report it passed.

 

 

On Friday evening we held our third Friday Forum on Facebook Live; this one focused on Living Wages. Our invited panelists included Broderick Flanigan (citizen activist, https://bit.ly/2rWaUxx), Jesse Evans representing Economic Justice Coalition (http://www.economicjusticecoalition.org), and Shannan Reaze from Atlanta Jobs with Justice (http://www.atlantajwj.org). Due to some technical difficulties we couldn’t get Shannan on the Live event but she contributed behind the scenes via text and comments to try to keep me on track. Please check out the Facebook recording and the various links and resources we will make available (https://bit.ly/2DRWBLL). This particular Forum was set up once the official hearing in the Industry and Labor committee was cancelled. However, this topic is too important not to 1) be discussed and 2) do something about.   To that end, I am committed to working on this issue in a number of ways: (1) this forum is just the first; (2) aligning with groups such as Jobs with Justice and Economic Justice Coalition; (3) learning from community leaders and subject matter experts. I am proud to have put in two house resolutions regarding living wages this session and to have started a conversation with Legislative Counsel about a truth and reconciliation commission (such as the one mentioned by Dr. Baradaran and implemented in South Africa and South Carolina). I look forward to continuing to work on these and other efforts to combat poverty and systemic economic inequality as your representative.

Saturday, March 24, 2018. This was a day full of emotion – from sadness and anger to inspiration and excitement – this day held it all. Began by dropping off donuts and water to the Athens Access to Justice Pop Up Community Legal Clinic. I cannot state enough how grateful I am to the judges, attorneys, paralegals and administrative assistants who offer their Saturday morning to provide legal services to the District. Next one is Saturday, April 21, 2018, from 9 – 11 am. More info on Facebook: https://bit.ly/2I2RESR. Thank you especially to Debbie Finch and her daughter, the clinic’s mascot, Lily.

 

The rest of the morning and most of the afternoon was spent in solidarity with the millions of students marching around the US and the world in the massive March for our Lives rally event. First stop was at the Oconee Veteran’s Park – so inspiring to see the crowd there. They had been challenged that they would not have more than three people show up – the final tally was upwards of 200 – way to go Oconee! To view the video by Oconee Observations click here: https://bit.ly/2pIzChc. Skip to the best speeches – by the students themselves.

 

Mallory Harris (one of my sheroes) organized the March for Our Lives (MFOL) rally at the Arches in Athens. https://bit.ly/2GbsMaH. I was blown away by her and the high school students who spoke – they were passionate, articulate and on point. We need to listen to them and we need to support them. Three things I kept repeating yesterday:

  1. These students are not alone and I as a representative am committed to stand with them and do whatever I can to change the laws (as are many of my colleagues who participated in the MFOL in Atlanta with U.S. Rep. John Lewis)
  2. They will be old enough to vote in 2020 and they need to, and
  3. They will be old enough to start running for office in 2024 and I stand ready to mentor them on successful campaigns. They are our future.

When I got home I was able to watch a replay of the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC. Proud to have been able to support AADM and Mokah Jasmine Johnson’s taking students from Athens-Clarke County to the DC march. Representation at all levels is so important. You can see some of the speeches here: https://www.c-span.org/event/?442255/march-lives-rally. BTW, Emma Gonzalez makes silence golden (https://cnn.it/2ulEpdE).

Remember, keeping our students and children safe is a bipartisan issue. It is about gun safety not gun control. It is about valuing life.

Sunday, March 25, 2018. Gave a legislative update to the Athens-Oconee Indivisible 10 Group and answered a number of questions regarding certain bills they are watching – including many I mentioned above. Then off to Hendershot’s Café to listen to the Invest in Peace concert, a fundraiser to benefit the GA Conflict Center (https://www.gaconflict.org). Was able to listen to the GA Children’s Chorus (http://georgiachildrenschorus.org), Caroline Aiken (http://carolineaiken.com) and Kate Morrissey before I had to leave. It was inspiring music and very delicious treats.

 

Ended my evening and my weekend presenting a few awards at the 6th Annual Hip Hop Awards (http://ugalive.com/athens-hip-hop-award/). In full disclosure my law firm, D Gonzalez Law Group, LLC was a sponsor of this event so I got to wear my entertainment lawyer hat for a bit. Incredible talent was highlighted and shared. A special shout out to Celeste Ngeve who won Poet of the Year (https://celestngeve.com). I’ve been honored to listen to Celeste perform a few times in Athens – she is powerful and insightful. A true role model for the next generation.

Another week down and only 2 more Legislative Days to go.

With Rep. Bennett and Henson

I hope that my session updates will help you to stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole, as well as my comings and goings on your behalf. The House website, www.house.ga.gov, has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.

Call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) 509C, across form the Capitol, my office phone number is 404-656-0220, and I can be reached via email at deborah.gonzalez@house.ga.gov. My District Office is at the Butler Building, 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 224, Athens, GA 30605.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Deborah

Which reminds me – don’t forget you can keep up to date on what’s going on, who I am meeting with, what legislation I’m working on and other news by Liking our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DG4GA.

 

Legislative Week 10 (March 12 – March 18, 2018)

Hello HD117. Although we only had three legislative days this week the pace was full speed ahead and won’t be slowing down until after Sine Die on March 29th.

 

 

Monday, March 12, 2018. What better way to start a week than with it being Peanut Butter & Jelly Day at the Capitol. I can confess that a good PB&J sandwich with a cold glass of milk is often on my meal plan when my schedule does not allow for dinner. But the focus of this day is truly the peanut farmers of Georgia.

 

 

 

 

I am always grateful when constituents, especially students, come to visit me at the Capitol. I know it’s not just me they come to see but it does give me a boost of energy. Today brought two groups – first Barrow County was in the House with their REACH students. REACH Georgia is the State of Georgia’s first needs-based mentorship and college scholarship program. The mission is to ensure that Georgia’s academically promising students have the academic, social, and financial support needed to graduate from high school, access college, and achieve postsecondary success (https://reachga.org). It is administered by the Georgia Student Finance Authority.

The second group of students came with Athens for Everyone (A4E) from a high school in Gwinnett, the high school Imani Scott Blackwell graduated from (https://www.facebook.com/ImaniforAthens/). So this group could claim two Reps: Rep Sam Park and me. It is so important for all students to experience the Capitol.

The afternoon was spent in a Judiciary Non Civil Committee Meeting discussing again SB336, the resurrected fingerprint bill. The bill passed in committee but the vote was not unanimous so I was able to file a minority report against it. It was co-signed by my colleague Rep Darshun Kendrick.

 

Monday was also a busy day in the district and I am grateful for those who can attend important events when I am not able to because of other commitments. Peggy Perkins, my constituent liaison from Barrow, attended the Barrow County Visioning Workshop (http://www.barrowga.org). According to Peggy the purpose of the meeting and survey is to gather information to update the Barrow County Comprehensive Plan. The BCCP is a long-range plan that is used to guide local goals and decisions related to land use, housing, economic development, natural and historic resources and community facilities. The plan is to answer the following questions: Where are we? Where are we going? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? There are more meetings planned and I look forward to attending them once session is over.

Avery Murdie, my chief of staff, was able to not only attend but also record the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement’s Athens Mayoral Forum (https://www.facebook.com/AADMovement). This important conversation moderated by Mokah Jasmine Johnson, provided a venue for Athens residents to hear from the three Athens mayoral candidates Kelli Girtz, Ritchie Knight and Harry Sims. The discussion was centered around their action plans to address poverty in Athens, quality of life, diversity and community inclusion.

 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018. This was a non-legislative day but I spent it addressing constituent emails and letters and preparing a memo outlining my opposition to SB336 – the fingerprint bill. This memo would be placed on the desk of each Representative when they return to the Chamber on Wednesday morning. It outlined three main reasons for my opposition:

  1. Secret subpoenas have been declared unconstitutional by courts all over the US – including in lawsuits won by Facebook (who is considering opening a branch in Georgia).
  2. This bill would make the Georgia Legislature responsible for granting the authority to a state agency to give high-risk biometric data of innocent Georgians to a federal agency, knowingly disregarding security concerns and best practices considering the testimony given in committee regarding “that we cannot know what the FBI will do with it.” The buck stops with us.
  3. This is not a partisan issue. The defeat was bipartisan because we all want to protect Georgians. The broadness of this bill sets up a dangerous policy of disregard for Georgians’ privacy and identity in our online world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018. To me this was one of my most significant days at the Capitol. Rep. Brenda Lopez and I had filed a resolution to recognize and welcome the Georgia State University College of Law Black Law Student Association that day. Inspiring students.

Then at 10 am the Democratic Caucus walked out of the House Chamber to join in and show our support for the Student Walk-Outs that had been planned to protest the lack of gun safety in schools. So proud of these amazing students for organizing their peaceful protests around the US and for demonstrating the value of our First Amendment rights. Democrats held a press conference where we remembered each of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting by holding their photos as we read their names and ages. You can view the press conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnBtYe91flM

When we returned to the Chamber I gave a morning order regarding the 7,000 Pairs of Children Shoes Installation on the White House Lawn representing the 7,000 children who were shot and killed in the last 5 years. You can view it here: https://youtu.be/8AOO09IfmOM

Rep. Jonathan Wallace (HD119) and I got to welcome a number of our constituents from Barrow, Clarke, Jackson, and Oconee counties who had come to visit us that morning and get a sense of what the Capitol is like during session.

 

 

Before heading to a quick lunch I was able to tour the American Abolitionists Photographic Exhibit in the Capitol Rotunda (http://www.americanabolitionists.com/exhibit.html). I want to thank Rep Mable Thomas for her work in bringing the exhibit to Atlanta. The faces in those photographs are what stays with me – especially the eyes. So much history we must not turn away from.

 

 

By now you have heard about my disappointment that the Industry & Labor committee cancelled the hearing on the resolutions on Livable Wages and Non-discrimination of wages based on gender and race. We had a number of highly credible speakers ready to testify and although I was hopeful it would be rescheduled it seems that is not to be so. However, these issues are too important to just let the conversation slide. So Rep. Park Cannon and I met with a group of powerful activists from Jobs with Justice (http://www.jwj.org) including the Atlanta JwJ Executive Director, Shannan Reaze. I am so excited to partner with them so stay tuned for updates.

 

The judiciary Non Civil sub-committee meeting had only one bill on its agenda – SB315 (http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SB/315). This is the bill that seeks to criminalize the intentional breaking into a computer or computer network. I was very pleased to see that the author had taken some of the concerns on the original bill and revised it but I still feel it is a bit too broad. It did pass through committee and I know Rep. Wallace will be speaking about it when it comes to a vote. Note: The link above is not the latest version of the bill but it is the only version publicly accessible online right now.

 

Next stop was the Georgia Black Legislative Caucus (http://www.galbc.org) meeting where they had a number of interesting presentations including one on the Lottery Minority Business Participation Program (http://bit.ly/2DBG12g).

I ended the day doing an interview with Alexia Ridley from WUGA regarding the Walk-Out, the 7,000 shoes exhibit, and more. You can hear some of that interview here: http://bit.ly/2GCs3jS.

 

 

 

Thursday, March 15, 2018. My last day at the Capitol for the week was just as hectic as the first. It was the Third Annual Type 1 Diabetes Day at the Capitol (http://www.jdrf.org) and Fitness Professional Day at Capitol. I give Rep. Doreen Carter and Rep Valencia Stovall big kudos for working out BEFORE the session with the fitness professionals.

 

 

 

There was supposed to be a Citizenship Ceremony at the Capitol on Thursday but it was cancelled. That did not stop the folks from Coalition of Refugee Services Agencies (https://crsageorgia.wordpress.com) to continue with the rest of their plans for the New Americans Celebration and lobby at the Capitol against SB452 (http://bit.ly/2FrWPyH). The Ensuring Necessary Deportations (END) Act, so-called “ICE bill” makes it mandatory for Georgia law enforcement to assist ICE in their federal duties. See Athens for Everyone’s Action Alert on this bill: http://bit.ly/2FIqZxL.

 

My last Capitol stop was the Georgia Working Families Caucus meeting. Today’s session focused on workforce training. A number of programs were presented as well as findings from a report focusing on the benefits and economic impact of workforce training programs.

Before we leave the Capitol I do want to mention that the House passed a critical measure this week that seeks to better coordinate state health care policies in an effort to address the unique health challenges facing our state. Senate Bill 357, also known as “The Health Act,” would establish the Health Coordination and Innovation Council of the State of Georgia under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget to streamline and coordinate all components of our state’s health care system (http://bit.ly/2HIM3Rc). The council would bring together academic, industry and government experts and leaders to share information, coordinate the major functions of Georgia’s health care system and develop innovative approaches to stabilize costs and improve access to quality health care. The council would serve as a research forum to identify our state’s greatest health issues and promote cooperation between private and public agencies to test new ideas. I bring this up because even though the Medicaid Expansion bill (HB669, http://bit.ly/2o7izV2) did not go through I am hopeful that we can bring up this issue to this Council and perhaps have another path to making sure all Georgians have access to the healthcare they need.

Friday, March 16, 2018 and Saturday, March 17, 2018. Some people ask why I commute back and forth every day between Athens and Atlanta. One of the reasons is because there is no place like home. It keeps me grounded. It also gives me the opportunity to meet with and hear from the people in the district. We set up Friday and Saturday as Drop In Districts Days so constituents from District 117 could just stop by the District office in Athens to meet with me and let me know what is on their minds. I really enjoy these types of events because you never know who you will meet and what topics will come up. Between these two days I spoke with people on education, immigration, livable wages, income inequality, healthcare, student safety, Internet privacy, community resources, poetry, autism, social work, interns, coming back home, difficulty finding a job, difficulty making ends meet, celebrating community heroes, and so much more! BTW, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Sunday, March 18, 2018. I visited two churches today – The First AME church on Hull Street for their youth service and then Greater Bethel AME church on Rose Street for their Women’s Day service. Finished the afternoon attending a National Issues Forum on Immigration sponsored by the Oconee Progressives.

Another week down and 5 more Legislative Days to go.

I hope that my session updates will help you to stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole, as well as my comings and goings on your behalf. The House website, www.house.ga.gov, has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.

Call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) 509C, across form the Capitol, my office phone number is 404-656-0220, and I can be reached via email at deborah.gonzalez@house.ga.gov. My District Office is at the Butler Building, 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 224, Athens, GA 30605.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Deborah

Which reminds me – don’t forget you can keep up to date on what’s going on, who I am meeting with, what legislation I’m working on and other news by Liking our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DG4GA.

 

Legislative Week 9 (March 5 – March 11, 2018)

Hello HD117. Time moves fast and seems to go faster as we get to the final days and yet there is still much to do. This week was a little slower than last week and no overnight debates, but it still was full.

 

 

Monday, March 5, 2018. We began this week with a celebration of talented and inspiring women from our districts. The Georgia Women’s Caucus presents the Servant Leader Awards every year. This year I got to honor Margaret Holt from Oconee for her tireless work in the community. Margaret couldn’t make it and sent Pam Davis to represent her.

 

 

 

Talk about inspiration and serendipity, a young woman sat next to me at the table. Turned out to be Janel Green, one of the organizers of the Women’s March in Atlanta and now organizing the March for Our Lives on March 24th (http://bit.ly/2p9M2ym). She was honored by Rep. Michele Henson. We had been trying to meet in person for over a year and we got to by accident! There are a number of March for Our Lives happening around the state, the country, and now, the world. Oconee starts theirs at 11 am (http://bit.ly/2FAM1KJ) and Athens will begin at 1 pm at the Arches (http://bit.ly/2HNbXEg).

 

 

 

When I walked into the Capitol this morning it seemed like a mad house. Why were so many people there? Then I realized it was the first day of qualifying. So proud that this time around there are many women running for office at all levels in the state and that many seats that had gone uncontested for years will now face opposition. I qualified with Rep. Pedro Marin as part of the Georgia Latino Caucus.   We were followed around by Hispanic Media and ended up doing three interviews for Spanish television. At the end I was also interviewed by Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (http://on-ajc.com/2GglX8C).

 

 

Another big event that happened Monday was that Governor Deal signed the Adoption Bill. This was the bill that went back and forth between the House and Senate last year and finally got through as a pretty clean bill this year. I always see this bill and its passage as an example of the kind of legislation that can be passed when we put the needs of the people before the needs of the party. So many children and families will be helped by this bill. Shout out to Rep. Bert Reeves. http://bit.ly/2I500u3

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent in Judicial Non-Civil Committee and subcommittee meetings. Usually you have a hearing for a bill in a subcommittee and then it goes before the full committee. That means as a committee we get to hear testimony on the bill and get to question the bill at least two times before a vote on it. The idea of committees is to break down and spread the workload of all of the bills the entire general assembly wants to pass. My committee focuses on crimes, drugs and immigration bills so we usually have a lot to cover. One of the problems of the committee system is a lack of attorney representatives who can understand the legal language of what is being proposed, which means that sometimes bad laws get passed. Each committee has a legislative counsel appointed to it, but they are not experts in the different areas. One day they might draft a bill to create a city council and then next day they are drafting a bill about trafficking.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018. There was no legislative session today. It was considered a committee day. Since my committees had met on Monday I stayed in Athens and conducted some District work. In the evening I attended the Moms Demand Action Athens Chapter meeting (http://bit.ly/2IiKlqP). Got to meet some new people and it was great to relive the rally through photos and the sharing of experiences. I was able to give a legislative update in regards to legislation relating to guns including: HB999 (taking the mentally ill off no-gun ownership lists after 5 years); SB407 Section 4 (governors criminal reform bill and enhanced penalties for certain gun crimes); Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver’s bills to ban bump stocks and assault weapons that did not get out of committee; campus carry, which did not return this session: and Casey Cagle’s attack on Delta because of it cutting ties to the NRA (added to the tax cut bill).

 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018. One of the things I enjoy at the Capitol is the “invite resolutions” where representatives have the chance to invite certain members of their district to be recognized by the House. I have not done an invite resolution on my own yet, but have done them with others. Today Rep. Pedro Marin, Rep. Lopez, and I welcomed Mike Hernandez to the Capitol. Mike is an entrepreneur and leading figure in his community. If you have ideas as to who should be honored in your community please let me know by sending an email to chiefofstaff@votedeborahgonzalez.com with their name, contact information, and why they should be honored.

 

 

Children’s Day at the Capitol is something all representatives look forward to and I learned why. So many wonderful organizations with the sole purpose of making childrens’ lives better. I learned about a program where pediatricians provide books to their patients (http://www.reachoutandread.org/georgia/) and various afterschool programs. The one program I felt bittersweet about was the GBI’s program on crimes against children.

 

 

 

Had a quick bite to eat with Rep Brenda Lopez and others at the Georgia College of Emergency Physicians lunch (http://www.gcep.org). From their home page: The Georgia Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians is an association of more than 500 Emergency Medicine physicians. GCEP promotes the highest standards of patient care throughout the state of Georgia through its advocacy and leadership efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

Next I was able to catch some of the Urban League of Greater ATL legislative summit (http://ulgatl.org). Their focus was on “Economic Mobility for Georgia Families: New Opportunities to Advance Georgia Families.” As they discussed access to education and opportunities, the conversation circled back to needing to elect the right candidates who can push these initiatives forward.

 

 

 

Another afternoon of committee work. First up the Judiciary Non-Civil Full Committee heard testimony on Marsy’s Law, The Georgia Crime Victim Rights Amendment (SR 146, http://bit.ly/2FKFdh2). This bill outlines certain rights for victims, such as notification when their perpetrator has been released from prison. If it passes out of committee and receives an affirmative House vote, it would still need the Governor’s signature. At that point it would be put on the November ballot as a referendum to be voted on by every Georgia voter as to whether to add it to the Georgia Constitution or not.

 

Once that hearing was completed I moved to the Judiciary Non-Civil Subcommittee meeting where I was in for a surprise. Remember that fingerprint bill (HB623) that was defeated on cross over day? It was brought back under the guise of a different bill – SB336 – where it was cut and pasted and added verbatim as a substitute. If you look at the bill online (http://bit.ly/2p3jjM4) you will only see the original SB336 bill, not the substitute with the added language. So zombie bills that get resurrected and added to other bills that have nothing to do with them do exist. I tried to put in an amendment to strike the HB623 language but was outvoted by the chair of the subcommittee. It’s not over yet.

Headed back to Athens to attend the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition meeting to give a brief legislative update on SB452, a cruel, mean-spirited bill (http://bit.ly/2FrWPyH). Nicknamed the Ensuring Necessary Deportations (END) Act, the bill “requires a peace officer to take certain actions upon verification that a suspect is an illegal alien; to clarify and require certain actions by the Department of Corrections, sheriffs, municipal custodial officers, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Department of Community Service regarding persons not lawfully present in the United States; to prohibit release from confinement persons who are illegal aliens.” This bill was fast tracked: it was put in the hopper on February 10th, crossed over and was assigned to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. There is an effort to get it out of that committee and into the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee (of which I am a member) where we have a better chance of arguing against it as well as other efforts to just kill it before it goes for a vote. I will keep you posted.

 

Thursday, March 8, 2018. Another non-legislative day but very busy. First it was International Women’s Day. I wore a purple scarf to show my support of women’s rights but never found the rally that afternoon. In fact, I went to four scheduled meetings where there was no one there! Oh well, onwards.

 

 

 

At 11 am I held a press conference on the HB623 language being added to the SB336 bill (discussed above). I appreciate all of my colleagues from the Democratic Caucus, the Asian-Latino Caucus, and the Georgia Black Legislative Caucus who stood with me that morning including Minority Leader Trammel, Chair Beverly, Reps. Schoefield, Shannon, Nguyen, Wallace, Jackson, and many others. The official press conference was followed by a series of one on one interviews about the danger of Georgia giving the biometric data of its citizens to the FBI with no restrictions. You can see and hear the press conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnG3rNy6rXg

After the interviews I ran across the street back to the Capitol to get to the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce Lunch. My colleagues, Rep. Terry England, Rep. Tim Kirby, and Senator Frank Ginn were already in full swing, answering questions and giving their thoughts on current and upcoming legislation – especially the budget. Then they turned to me. I have a slightly different take than my colleagues because I do not believe we put all we could into the budget concerning education and expansion of healthcare.

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent in a Judiciary Non-Civil Committee meeting, met with Peggy Duke from the Georgia Women’s Policy Institute, did my call-in to Rick Dunn’s WXGA Radio show and ended the day at the United Campus Works of Georgia (website?) meeting, back in Athens.

Friday, March 9, 2018. Since there was no legislative session on Thursday, this Friday I did a morning order to recognize the day and recognize the new HD117 artist of the month, potter Alice Woodruff. Hope you go to my Facebook and see her video and photos. We have a wonderful display of her work at my office now and so I invited all in the Chamber to come for a visit.

 

The big thing on the legislative agenda was to vote on the 2019 budget. It is an interesting process as we have to adjourn being the House and become a committee of all to discuss the bill and then adjourn the committee and return to being the house to vote on. There were passionate speeches made by my colleagues Rep. Derrick Jackson, Rep. Brenda Lopez, Rep. Kim Schoefield, and Rep. David Dreyer as to why this budget falls short of fulfilling the needs of all Georgians – most of their points focused on the lack of expansion of Medicaid and the less than full funding of education. You can watch the discussion and their speeches here: http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers/2018/day-32.

 

 

 

By that time it was close to 2 pm and we had not had lunch. So a bunch of us headed back to the CLOB to the 6th floor cafeteria to grab a bite. It was a Friday afternoon, the budget had passed, and we were all a bit tired. But fellowship does wonders for your disposition and we ended our week at the Capitol on a high note.

 

 

Which was a good thing, because by the time I got home the cold I was trying to battle won out. Bob got me some hot tea and meds and I fell asleep watching the movie Coco (http://movies.disney.com/coco). The weekend was spent in recovery.

Another week down and 8 more Legislative Days to go.

Quick Note: Next week on Friday and Saturday I will be hosting District Drop-In Days at my Athens office. No appointments necessary. Just come in, sign up and take a seat. I will speak with all who get there before the cut off time.

Friday, March 16, 10 am – 8 pm (must be signed-in by 7 pm to be seen).

Saturday, March 17, 10 am – 3 pm (must be signed-in by 2 pm to be seen).

Address: 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 101, Athens, GA 30605.

Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/540678549650747/

I hope that my session updates will help you to stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole, as well as my comings and goings on your behalf. The House website, www.house.ga.gov, has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.

Call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) 509C, across form the Capitol, my office phone number is 404-656-0220, and I can be reached via email at deborah.gonzalez@house.ga.gov. My District Office is at the Butler Building, 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 224, Athens, GA 30605.

 

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Deborah

Which reminds me – don’t forget you can keep up to date on what’s going on, who I am meeting with, what legislation I’m working on and other news by Liking our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DG4GA.

 

Legislative Week 8 (Feb. 26 – March 4, 2018)

Hello HD117. This was crossover week and I really did not know what to expect. They told me it would be hectic – it was. They told me we would be here late – we were. They told me it would be like nothing I’ve ever experienced – they were so right! But at the same time it was exhilarating, exhausting, mentally challenging, and at the end of it all – one of the most amazing experiences I‘ve had as a freshman legislator. Come join me this week on my wild ride.

Monday, February 26, 2018. The week began mild enough. First stop was to see my new friend Butch McDuffie at the Transit Day Breakfast (https://www.athensclarkecounty.com/199/Transit). I was told I would recognize him by his moustache. It was great to have him there as I was not able to get to the grand presentation of 12 new hybrid buses that Athens Transit unveiled last Friday. We spoke about the upcoming transit bills, what we both want to see in terms of regional transit, and solidified our commitment to work together to make sure HD117 has its transportation needs met.

As crossover day was now only two days away, my committee work was accelerating. We had a Judiciary Non-Civil Full Committee Meeting where we go over the bills that already had hearings in our subcommittees. It is in the full committee that we vote to “get them out of committee” and give them the ok to go to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee then determines whether that bill will go to the House floor to be voted on and sent to the Senate.

 

Back in February, I had a chance to go to the Aga Khan Rays of Light exhibit in Duluth. Today the Aga Khan Development Network (http://www.akdn.org) brought their Ethics in Action exhibit to the Capitol (they have a cool companion App – just search “Ethics in Action” in your app store). I really love the premise of their work and hope to learn more best practices to put into my legislative role. I have taken a number of ethics courses in business, law school and continuing legal education. We cannot regulate thought but we can regulate action, and ethics is all about the actions we take.

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018. The busiest time of the day is the early morning. Since most know session usually begins at 10 am, most organizations visiting the Capitol try to squeeze in a breakfast or legislative meeting between 8:00 am and 9:50 am. Today was the Council of Municipal Court Judges Breakfast (http://municipal.georgiacourts.gov). I guess you can say that since I am an attorney, I “fan girl” over judges and justices. Did I ever show you my photo with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg? (Talk about an inspiring, strong, brilliant woman!) Anyway got to meet some more wisdom-full judges and had an interesting conversation about the distracted driving bill and HB999 about not permitting the state to remove individuals who were committed into a mental institution from a no-gun ownership list. (Spoiler alert – we passed both of these bills in the House on crossover day).

Most of you may recall that I am a media and entertainment attorney in my day job so I was very excited to welcome my colleagues form the entertainment industry for the first time as a legislator for Film Day at the Capitol (http://bit.ly/2FToJRm). Entertainment is a $9.5 billion dollar industry for Georgia and we were just named the #1 film production site in the world! However, if we wish to keep it that way we must prevent certain bills from being passed (SB375, allowing adoption agencies to discriminate on the basis of their religion against same sex couples) and we must not permit our legislators to criticize one of our largest employers for sticking to their values (Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s remarks against Delta for severing ties with the NRA: http://bit.ly/2F3ARSj).

Committee work was in full swing today – two meetings, one in the morning and another in the afternoon took up most of my time after session. However I was able to leave in time to make it back to Athens for two community events. The first one was the Athens – Oconee CASA Swearing In Ceremony (http://www.athensoconeecasa.org). I so admire these women (they were all women in this class) who sacrificed their time to be trained and then to take on the responsibility of being “the person” who will be with the child throughout the foster care journey. They are so dedicated. The foster care system is in such need because these children are in such need. This is a good group to support if you can.

Next up was the Never Again Community Conversation supporting Marjory Stoneman Douglas (https://www.facebook.com/events/166486854000630/) organized by the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement’s Mokah and Knowa Johnson. These two are amazing. They respond so quickly to current events and mobilize to take action. The panel consisted of four community members – Athens Police Chief Scott Freeman, Athens-Clarke County School Superintendent Dr. Desmond Means, HD118 Representative Spencer Frye and Shannon Lawhon from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.

 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 Crossover Day!!!! You can see video of the entire day and night (we ended after 1:15 am Thursday morning) here: http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers/2018/crossover-day-28. Also there are a number of places you can get lists of bills that passed or failed. I want to mention just a few below that you can advocate for or against. However the highlight of my night/early morning was when I rose to speak at the well in opposition to HB623, a bill that would allow for the collection, storage and sharing of biometric data (fingerprints) with the FBI. I had spoken against this bill in committee and felt I needed to bring some points to the attention of my colleagues – there are a number of privacy and security concerns with this bill and I am happy to report it failed – not once, but twice! You see after a bill is defeated, the author can make a motion to have the bill reconsidered (or voted on again). Because of the lateness of the hour the Speaker of the House called for the reconsideration vote immediately after the author made a motion. There was no time to talk with some of my colleagues to convince them to vote Nay, but the bill was defeated again. I rose up three times to make points against the bill and sense prevailed. I can’t explain the feeling of knowing I was able to kill a really bad bill that would have put in jeopardy high risk information about Georgians. But what felt even better was that this was a bipartisan defeat of a bill – both Democrats and Republicans voted against it to protect all of us. Awesome. You can see my opposition speech here: https://www.facebook.com/DG4GA/posts/588465358171265.

Legislation We Oppose:

  • HB81

House Bill 81 allows hospital authorities to collect on debts owed by the use of an income tax refund setoff collection. The hospital authorities must submit claims to and work through the Department of Community Health to collect debt through an income tax refund setoff. No claims may exceed the amount owed by the debtor under the hospital authority’s applicable financial assistance policy.

Author: Tom McCall

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/HB/81

  • SB375

Allows adoption agencies to discriminate on the basis of their religion against same sex couples in adopting.

Author: Legion

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/SB/375

 

Legislation We Support

  • HB834

This bill allows a tenant to terminate a residential rental agreement without being subject to penalties when the tenant or the tenant’s minor child is a victim of family violence (generally any felony, stalking, trespass, etc.).

Authored By: Rep. Mandi Ballinger (23rd) Originally HB745 authored by Rep. Scott Holcolm

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20172018/172438.pdf

  • HB673

HB673 is the ‘Hands-Free Georgia Act’. This bill prohibits an individual from physically holding or supporting a wireless telecommunication device or a stand-alone electronic device or reaching for devices in such a way that the driver is no longer seated in a driving position while operating a motor vehicle.

Authored By: Rep. John Carson (46th)

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/673

  • HB332

House Bill 332 creates the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and dedicates 0.40 percent of all revenues from the state sales and use tax to the fund. HB332 is the enabling legislation for HR238.

Authored By: Sam Watson

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/332

  • HB605

HB605 is the ‘Hidden Predator Act of 2018’. The bill increases the statute of limitations for an action relating to childhood sexual abuse from two to four years from the point that a plaintiff knew or had reason to know that such abuse resulted in injury.

Authored By: Rep. Jason Spencer (180th)

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/605

  • HB803

HB803 creates the offense of trafficking a disabled adult or elder person when a person uses deception, coercion, exploitation, or isolation and knowingly recruits, harbors, or transports a victim for the purpose of appropriating the resources of that victim for one’s own or another person’s benefit.

Authored By: Rep. Wendell Willard (51st)

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/803

  • HB999 (This is a gun safety issue)

HB999 removes the requirement that the Georgia Crime Information Center purge the records of an individual’s involuntary hospitalization from their database after five years have elapsed.

Authored By: Rep. Christian Coomer (14th)

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/999

What do you do when crossover day is over, it is 1:30 am in the morning, and you are buzzing with adrenaline? Celebrate of course. Went with a few colleagues to have a toast to a long day and a job well done. Got to bed about a quarter to four in the morning (the time I am usually getting ready to get up). What an experience!

Thursday, March 1, 2018. The next day I was groggy as the full impact of lack of sleep hit me. But two cups of coffee helped and off I went back to the Capitol. This was a morning full of citizen advocacy as it was Lupus Day (sponsored by my friend Rep. Kim Schoefield, https://resources.lupus.org), LGBTQ Day (sponsored by Georgia Equality and Reps. Park Cannon and Sam Park, http://georgiaequality.org), GA Work Credit Lobby Day (http://georgiaworkcredit.org) and the Georgia Cattlemen Association (https://www.georgiacattlemen.org), who hosted a breakfast.

Today my peeps from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce (http://www.jacksoncountyga.com) were at the Capitol in one of my favorite buildings at the Capitol Complex – the Agriculture Building. (Its architecture is stunning and it celebrates the #1 industry in Georgia – Agriculture: http://agr.georgia.gov.) I was able to give a legislative update about crossover day and which bills went through the House. They also had questions about my experience as a freshman legislator. It is hard to describe sometimes especially when they ask do I enjoy it. My answer is a truthful yes, I enjoy this work because I feel I am making a difference in terms of what bills are passed or blocked.

Our Legislative session was shorter than the night before but we had two important bills on our docket: HB918 the Governor’s Tax Bill (that was sent back from the Senate with the Delta tax credit removed, http://bit.ly/2HYE7wl); and the Supplemental 2018 Budget (also sent back from the Senate with a few suggested changes). I want to make it clear that I do not believe it was the correct course of action to “punish” Delta for holding to its values. I do not believe that is the correct role for government and I worry about it setting a dangerous precedent. One of the concerns regarding the Georgia tax bill (and the main reason it was written as it was) was the adverse affect the Federal tax bill would have on Georgians if the legislature did not act. The tax bill passed the House. Representative Terry England, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee gave us a thorough breakdown of the changes the Senate wanted in the Supplemental Budget (HB683, http://bit.ly/2FVmD3r) and laid out what we would send back. We passed that bill too.
Friday, March 2, 2018. District day started with a visit to Watkinsville to Alice Woodruff, potter extraordinaire and our newest artist to be highlighted at the Capitol (http://bit.ly/2CYaTd9).  Pieces of her work will be on display in my office for the month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month. Unbeknown to me she is currently working on a sculpture series based on the #Metoo movement. I will be playing a video of her speaking about her work in House Chambers next Thursday, March 8th, the International Day of Women. There will also be a rally in Liberty Plaza that day so hope you can join us at the Capitol.

 

Next stop that Friday was the Athens-Oconee Paint the Town Red Luncheon at the Athens Country Club (https://www.goredforwomen.org). Thank you to Michele Pearson who gave me the invitation to sit at her table. It was a sea of red and women empowerment. Going Red for Women highlights the number #1 killer of women – heart disease.

The 2017 Special Election feels like ages ago but it was brought to the forefront on Friday with two interviews with UGA Students working on papers for a class project. Their questions were interesting as they inquired about what I thought we did well, what we could have done better, how did we organize our team, and why do I think I won, among others. Hmmmm.

Remember what I wrote about “fan girling the notorious RBG?” Well that was nothing compared to who I got to welcome to my home for the second Facebook Live Friday Forum – author and UGA law school professor Mehrsa Baradaran (http://www.law.uga.edu/profile/mehrsa-baradaran). Prof. Baradaran wrote “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap” (http://bit.ly/2zKhQRY). Our conversation highlighted the history of economic inequality in the US and how we got to where we are today. It was a fascinating conversation. As a new legislator I appreciate that subject matter experts like Prof. Baradaran are willing to share their time and expertise with me so I can learn and then work on good legislation that solves problems instead of creating new ones. These Friday Forums are a way we in the District can explore these difficult topics. If you have ideas and suggestions for topics and speakers please send them our way at chiefofstaff@votedeborahgonzalez.com. You can see the full Facebook Live discussion on our Facebook page: @DG4GA.

 

Saturday, March 3, 2018. I try to keep a balance on my weekends between community and some personal time with my family. Most of the time, it leans heavier on the community side, but Bob and I did get to start a new jigsaw puzzle (yes this is my stress relief secret).

 

 

The Michael Thurmond Lecture and Black History Month Celebration (http://bit.ly/2FmjWK0) at the Morton Theater (https://www.mortontheatre.com) was my first stop of the afternoon. I had never been in the Morton Theater and what a wonderful reason to be there. Saw so many friends and met new ones. The children’s performances were inspirational and the music was glorious. But it was the lecture by Dr. Alridge that will stay with me as I finish out this session. He focused on whether we will choose chaos or community as we go forward. He brought to the forefront that Martin Luther King, Jr., was not just about social and political activism but also about economic activism with his Poor People’s Campaign (a topic Prof. Baradaran and I never got to because we ran out of time). In addition my friend Magistrate Judge Barron was honored. I left there renewed in my commitment to advocacy work.

 

 

Alas, the lecture occurred at the same time as the Art & Feminism talk at the Georgia Museum of Art (http://georgiamuseum.org). I headed there as soon as the lecture was finished but had missed the talk. However I was able to enjoy the Junior Ladies Garden Club Flower Show (http://bit.ly/2H2tJ5h) where these young gardeners created floral arrangements taking inspiration from one of the museum’s art pieces. The Museum is one of the treasures in Athens – free to all and always making the point of highlighting the great artists of our community.

 

Last week I had two events at the same place and that happened again this Saturday. The Black Business Market (http://bit.ly/2BBEqwr) and Melissa Link’s Re-election Kickoff for Commissioner were both held at Little Kings Shuffle Club. I would just like to commend Little Kings for their community spirit. They are one of the venues in Athens that always opens its doors for the community. Kudos to Little Kings (https://www.facebook.com/lkshuffleclub/).

 

 

Last stop of the night was Peace Place’s 18th Annual Gala at the Winder Community Center. Peace Place is a non-profit that assists domestic violence victims and their children in Barrow, Jackson and Banks counties (http://www.peaceplaceinc.org). So glad to be able to support their efforts.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 4, 2018. District 117 is full of community resources. Many of them unknown to those who need them the most. That is why I am always happy to go and visit these resources when I discover them to learn about what they offer and then get the word out on them so people who need them know where to go. Healthcare is so essential in our community. It is not just about who pays and how much, but about quality care so families are healthy. I got to go to the Shifa Clinic Open House (https://www.facebook.com/ShifaClinicATH/) on Hawthorne in Athens and learn first hand about their mission and their services. Please check them out and share their info.

 

 

 

Next up was a visit to Flanigan’s Portrait Studio (https://www.facebook.com/flanigansportraitstudio/) to select a piece by artist and community activist Broderick Flanigan for our artist highlight series. It will be going up in a week so be on the lookout for more information.

Another week down and 11 more Legislative Days to go.

 

I hope that my session updates will help you to stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole, as well as my comings and goings on your behalf. The House website, www.house.ga.gov, has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.

Call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) 509C, across form the Capitol, my office phone number is 404-656-0220, and I can be reached via email at deborah.gonzalez@house.ga.gov. My District Office is at the Butler Building, 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 224, Athens, GA 30605.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Deborah

Which reminds me – don’t forget you can keep up to date on what’s going on, who I am meeting with, what legislation I’m working on and other news by Liking our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DG4GA.

 

Legislative Week 7 (Feb. 19 – Feb 25, 2018)

Hello HD117. I got back to work at the Georgia State Capitol and had a very busy seventh week of the 2018 legislative session. As we get closer and closer to “Cross Over Day,” our agendas continue to get fuller and our days get longer. This week, the House voted on several bills in the House Chamber, and committees worked diligently to hear important legislation before next week’s Cross Over Day deadline.

Monday, February 19, 2018 was President’s Day. The Capitol was closed so I spent it in the District working on various projects and getting prepared for the week ahead.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018. First legislative day of the week began with a mini-talk with the Georgia Women Veterans. We have a few representatives who served in the military or like me come from a military family. We understand the sacrifices and special issues women experience on active duty as well as once they retire such as sexual assault in the military and family care. Got to see my very good friend NuLuv Jones. Here are a couple of resources: Women Veterans Interactive (http://womenveteransinteractive.org) and the Georgia Women Veterans Office (https://veterans.georgia.gov/women-veterans).

 

 

 

Quick jaunt across the street and met up with some folks from Bike Athens (https://www.bikeathens.org) who were there with other Bike groups at the Capitol to advocate for safe biking. They had a number of good resources and tips so check out their website. (PS -Thanks for the blue bike pin – blue is my favorite color).

 

 

 

I really enjoy when students come from the district to visit. Usually we try to schedule a specific time but things happen. Thanks to texting (and a very persistent teacher Jillian Gordon) I was finally able to meet up with two Clarke Central High School Future Farmers of America (https://www.ffa.org) members: Jasani Byrd (sophomore) and Letta Veeder (freshman).

 

 

 

Tuesday was the big University System of Georgia Day at the Capitol – including University of Georgia (www.uga.edu), Georgia State University (www.gsu.edu), Georgia Tech (www.gatech.edu) and others. Many representatives and senators had fun with their alma maters.

 

 

 

Rep. Jonathan Wallace and I then met with the Oconee School Superintendent Jason Branch and members of the Oconee School Board. We discussed various pieces of legislation that affects education and students including HB936 (school year start date, http://bit.ly/2Fvq28N), HB273 (mandatory recess, http://bit.ly/2mVsWtv), and HR992 (constitutional amendment of using SPLOST funds to pay for school infrastructure, http://bit.ly/2BR38ZR), among others.

 

 

 

Before heading to the PAGE/GAEL/GACTE lunch (http://www.pageinc.org) I was able to drop my resolution to create a study committee on the establishment of a Living Wage in Georgia. HR1224 (http://bit.ly/2Fv0DvY) is the first of a series of resolutions and bills I am working on with others, including the Working Families Caucus, to address economic inequality in Georgia, especially for marginalized communities. Thank you to Chairman Dewey McClain (HD100), Rep. Sam Park (HD101), Rep. Karla Drenner (HD85), Rep. Jonathan Wallace (HD119), Rep. Al Williams (HD168), and others for signing on.

 

With the morning and lunch over, committee work was on. My Judiciary Non-Civil Subcommittee met and on the agenda was a hearing on HB764 (http://bit.ly/2sSys7A) authored by Rep. David Clark, regarding adding post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain to the conditions authorized for the use of low THC oil and authorizing cultivation and dispensaries for the oil in Georgia. We would have an additional hearing (or two) on this bill this week. On Friday we actually voted on a substitute of the bill that strikes out the cultivation, dispensary, and chronic pain terms in the bill leaving only the PTSD. I was a supporter of the original bill as it makes no sense to me to authorize the use of this oil for certain diseases but then not provide avenues to have the oil available in the state for those who need it. I’ve had a few conversations with Rep. Clark and I look forward to continuing to support his future work on this issue.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 was a BIG day for many reasons. Started the day with a mini-talk with the women of the Junior Leagues of Atlanta. Alongside Rep. Anulewitz, Rep. Schoefield, Rep. Cannon and Rep. Shannon, among others, we shared updates on upcoming bills of interest for the group including HB745 (permits domestic violence victims to terminate rental agreements, http://bit.ly/2GK4xBl) and bills relating to sexual trafficking as well as sharing our experiences as female legislators. Hint: We need more!

Went quickly to the Clerk of the House to be “excused” from the beginning of session so I could show my support for the Moms Demand Action Rally against gun violence and for sensible gun control in Liberty Plaza. Was proud to stand there with Minority Leader Bob Trammel, and Representatives Oliver, Gartner, Thomas, Wallace, and Dreyer, as well as Senator Elena Parent as we heard inspirational stories from speakers including Mallory Harris, UGA student. You can see photos and watch a video clip about the event on our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DG4GA/.

 

Due to the over 1500 participants of the rally, getting in and out of the Capitol buildings was difficult at best. Long lines made it almost impossible for some constituents to get to their representatives’ offices. So what to do? If you are Mark Saxon (Oconee County Commissioner) and have your rep’s cell number you text her. That’s how I was able to go out and meet with him and the Oconee students he brought to the Capitol. Glad everyone was flexible. I ended up giving a mini-talk in the middle of the street (which is closed to traffic so it was safe) to these inspiring students.

 

 

Apparently that didn’t go unnoticed as I then addressed another group in the corner of the CLOB lobby. If you come to the Capitol to advocate, and I am not voting or in a committee meeting, I will do everything I can to get to you.

 

 

 

After another committee meeting I headed back to Athens to attend Spirit of an Activist, a book signing event by author and activist Mokah Jasmine Johnson (https://www.facebook.com/mokahjohnsonedu/). I only got to stay for the first half of the event, but it was wonderful to see the community come out to support Mokah and the tireless work she and her husband, Knowa Johnson, have dedicated their lives to. Knowa made a statement that it is hard to put your private life out there and I can totally relate. But the lessons and calls to action in this book make it a worthwhile read and guide.

 

Thursday, February 22, 2018 is a day I can only describe with the phrase that begins “best laid plans…” I’m sure you’ve had those days where no matter your best intentions to get somewhere or do something it just doesn’t happen. Today we had a joint session where we welcomed the Senate and Judiciary to the House Chambers so we could listen to Chief Justice Hine’s State of the Judiciary address. Each year, the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court addresses the General Assembly to report on the judicial branch’s accomplishments and future objectives. During his remarks, Chief Justice Hines, who serves as the head of the judiciary, pointed out that 2018 will bring about great change to the judicial branch, as several new judges will be elected. Georgians will elect a new state Supreme Court justice and Gov. Deal will make his fifth appointment to Georgia’s highest court. To view the entire address click here: http://bit.ly/2CcisRy.

 

Once the address was finished, Rep. Bee Nugyen and I joined Senators Jen Jordan and Nikema Williams on a panel at the Asian American Legislative Summit. We discussed what our experiences have been in our first legislative session and what tips we could share to those who advocate for causes, etc. I enjoyed hearing from my fellow panelists and meeting some of my constituents from back home.

 

 

Back in session a heated debate come up on HB 787 (http://bit.ly/2EH6W2p) that would authorize additional funding for state charter schools. Minority Leader Trammel spoke eloquently questioning why funds are being allocated form the general budget fund for this measure when other requests for additional educational funding (for example to not eliminate COLA, provide merit raises, fill the austerity gap) are always met with “we don’t have the funds.” There seems to be quite a bit of discretion as to when funds are available. Falling along party lines, the vote ended up Yeas 111 and Nays 54. I voted No for the above reasons.

 

I was able to answer some questions about this bill on Rick Dunn’s radio show on WXAG 1470 AM Athens. My second call-in (done between votes) focused on my current work on the issue of economic inequality. This is a topic of special importance for those in HD117 who live close to, at or below the poverty line. What remedies can we put in place to ensure everyone has access to opportunity and a path forward for economic stability and growth? Be on the lookout for more about this issue including an upcoming Facebook live one-on-one with a local expert on this topic.

I never did make it to the Athens-Clarke County Democrat Committee monthly meeting (remember the best laid plans reference?). The rest of my afternoon and evening was spent in a hearing regarding HB768 (http://bit.ly/2Fu3Njo) that seeks to lower the burden of proof for individuals to prove they are intellectually disabled when they are subject to a death penalty sentence. Georgia is the only state to have a standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. This bill would bring down that standard to “clear and convincing evidence.” It also added a pretrial hearing with a judge. We have postponed a vote on this bill for further work on it. As it stands now, the pretrial hearing portion has been removed. Author Rep. Scott Hilton made a comment “that this is now a good bill because nobody likes it.”

 

Friday, February 23, 2018, I was so excited to get into the Capitol today because this was the day my first page to the House would be coming in, Asa David Callow from Jackson County. I am so glad I can offer students from all over HD117 the opportunity to come and serve as a page in their Capitol. Asa had such a great experience he asked if he can do it again this session. Since we want to offer as many others as we can this opportunity, he will be back next session.

 

 

 

I dropped a bill and a resolution today. The bill is HB1005 (http://bit.ly/2CICBKW) to provide for a private right of action for damages suffered due to sexual harassment under certain circumstances. This was one of my promises and one of the reasons I wanted to run. Georgia does not have a state law against sexual harassment and the Federal law only applies for businesses with over 15 employees. My bill fills the gap.

 

 

 

 

The resolution is HR 1319 (http://bit.ly/2oxvUWL) creating a House Study Committee on Expanding Georgia Law Prohibiting Discriminatory Wage Practices Based on Sex to Include Discriminatory Wage Practices Based on Race. I appreciate all the Representatives who co-sponsored this resolution and bill with me including: Minority Leader Trammel, Caucus Chair Beverly, Rep McGowan, Working Families Caucus Chair McClain, Rep. Schofield, Rep. Bruckner, Rep. Dreyer, Rep. Oliver, Minority Whip Hugley, and Rep. Kendrick. What a team!

 

 

One of the bills I have not yet mentioned is the social hosting bill, HB542 (http://bit.ly/2CjB7es) authored by Rep. Emory Donahoo. We debated this bill for a second time in our Judiciary Non-civil subcommittee Friday afternoon. I have my reservations on this bill as I feel it may go a bit too far and have unintended consequences. But the process on this bill is a great example of the joint work that happens between the author of a bill, committee members and third party stakeholders. We all want to stop the intentional hosting of a party that provides alcoholic beverages to underage minors. But who to hold accountable and in what situations is not so easily discernible. Will keep you all posted.

Heading back to Athens I called on my husband and chief of staff to make sure everything was ready for our Facebook Live Town Hall on current issues relating to gun control and gun violence.. My team and I invited a diverse panel of educators, activists, students, and public servants to answer constituent concerns and work towards finding common sense gun safety legislation and solutions. It was our first time using this technology but after a few technical difficulties we were up and running. To view the town hall, meet our panelists, and get some great next steps of what you can do about this issue go to our Facebook page.

 

 

Saturday, February 24, 2018 was a busy day. Stopped for a minute at the Pop Up Legal Clinic put on by the Western Bar Circuit and Athens Access to Justice. These monthly pop up clinics are provided free of charge to community members who may need legal advice on issues that they are facing on a daily basis. The next one is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, 2018 from 9:00 am – 11:00 am at the HT Edwards building. You do not need an appointment; just show up.

 

For the second year in a row I was able to attend Al-Huda Islamic Center’s Open House (http://www.athensislamiccenter.org). This year my good friend Fatma GK was my guide and I got to share a good blast from the past moment with the Imam (leader of the Center). He had been one of my first guests at the Akbar Dialogue series I organized when I was working for the Office of Institutional Diversity at UGA (http://diversity.uga.edu). What a fabulous event. I put up more photos and impressions on the Facebook page.

 

 

Next up was double duty between two events happening at the same time and place – Athens for Everyone was having their annual membership meeting and Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement was having their Civil Rights in Song event – both at the Athens Library on Baxter Street. I couldn’t say no to either so I spent time going from one to the other. I am grateful that both groups understood and accommodated my going back and forth without anyone feeling slighted. First off, thank you so much to A4E for selecting me as the Elected Official of the Year. Wow! Thank you to Commissioner Melissa Link who presented it to me and to my fellow nominees Ovita Thornton, Greg Davis and Kelli Girtz. Talk about a competitive race. Each of these individuals deserves it and I brought them all up front with me to make that point. Remember not one of us can do it alone, so we need to thank everyone including A4E members!

 

After accepting my award and a brief speech (I tried to keep it brief), I returned to the Civil Rights event in time to catch a few of the performances and Mokah’s timeline of the civil rights movement in America. I wish it was recorded because there is so much important history that is bypassed in our schools. In addition, some of the performances brought tears to your eyes when they were placed in the context of that same history. Mokah wasn’t the only one to wipe away tears and Knowa’s rendition of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On brought everyone to their feet in a community sing-a-long. This was a treasured moment.

 

Sunday, February 25, 2018. Melissa Link made a comment when she gave me the award asking if there are two or three of me since I seem to be everywhere at different events around town. The answer is no but I sometimes do wish I had a couple of clones because there is so much going on in HD117 – in all our counties. I don’t get to all but please do not hesitate to send the invites. If I can’t go someone on my team may be able to. Two shout outs this week – Indivisible 10 (http://indivisible-ga.org/tenth/) had a meeting this Sunday. Rep Spencer Frye gave the legislative update. I will be there on Sunday, March 25th to give mine. It will be just 4 days before the end of session so join us for a packed full 20 minutes. And last, but definitely not least, the Athens Land Trust held their Cultivating Community Dinner (http://bit.ly/2HN6c9Q). Even after making last minute plans to join them I had to cancel because of another commitment. Sorry Erin!

 

Another week down and 14 more Legislative Days to go.

I hope that my session updates will help you to stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole, as well as my comings and goings on your behalf. The House website, www.house.ga.gov, has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.

Call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) 509C, across form the Capitol, my office phone number is 404-656-0220, and I can be reached via email at deborah.gonzalez@house.ga.gov. My District Office is at the Butler Building, 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 224, Athens, GA 30605.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Deborah

Which reminds me – don’t forget you can keep up to date on what’s going on, who I am meeting with, what legislation I’m working on and other news by Liking our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DG4GA.