Hello HD117. Week 2 has come and gone and even with a snow day and only two legislative days, the week was full. Legislative days are days we are actually in session. But a lot goes on before and after session in the chambers.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018. Started the day at the CRSA Legislative Breakfast. CRSA is the Coalition of Refugee Services Agencies (https://crsageorgia.wordpress.com). This is the coalition of organizations that work with refugees and immigrants in Georgia. Their presentation was very informative and full of facts I didn’t know. For example, refugees who are approved for resettlement in the US go through a minimum of a 24-month security screening period (and 28 different checks/interviews) and have to pay the US government back for their airfare to the US.
Back at the Capitol, Head Start was in the house. I remember Head Start fondly because my younger brother attended. Head Start (http://georgiaheadstart.org) is a great program that is completely funded by the Federal Government. It strives to promote school readiness of children under 5 from low-income families through education, health, social and other services. One thing we know is that the earlier we get kids engaged in reading and learning the better their lives turn out to be when they are older.
Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 was a snow day. Capitol offices were closed but the work did not pause. Participated in a conference call regarding the new Democratic Caucus sub-committee on Sexual Misconduct in the Capitol. I am proud to have been asked to be the committee secretary and to serve in this capacity considering how important this issue is. We are working on providing recommendations to the Speaker of the House on best practices to implement in the General Assembly. We are also in support of Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick’s Sexual Misconduct bill. Be on the lookout for more on this soon.
Avery and I braved the afternoon sludge and met up with local Athens artist, Stanley Bermudez (www.stanleybermudez.com). Stanley has accepted to be my first Artist of the Month and have his work on display in my office at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (509-C). I am excited about being able to highlight local artists from Athens and District 117 at the Capitol – I get a lot of visitors, as well as my fellow legislative colleagues so I get a lot of opportunities to “show off” our local talent. His artwork will be on display until March 1st. If you are or know of a local HD117 artist who may be interested, have them contact Avery Murdie, my chief of staff, at email@example.com and send a letter of inquiry plus a couple of images of the work. Stay tuned for the official announcement.
Thursday, January 18th was a legislative day. But before heading back to session was able to complete a few client calls and contracts. We also started two of our interns on Thursday – Paige Meirehofer and Cris Ortiz. The big news for the day was the Working Families Caucus meeting that focused on Employment Equity: Putting Georgia on the Path to Inclusive Prosperity (http://bit.ly/2Bvvgh1), a study and report by PolicyLink (http://www.policylink.org) and presented by Partnership for Southern Equity (http://partnershipforsouthernequity.org). While discussing the report, an op-ed was also mentioned that relates to this issue and can provide additional information: http://bit.ly/2mTlEYZ.
Ended Thursday by joining fellow representative Spencer Frye at his Habitat for Humanity Committee of 1000 Annual Gala (https://www.athenshabitat.com/gala-2018/). It was an inspiring evening with stories shared by those whose lives were changed by Habitat because of their new homes and those whose lives were changed by providing those new homes. Bob and I enjoyed it and two funny things happened: 1. Bob knew more people than I did; and 2. I was a bit overdressed. Oh well, guess I will eventually learn the dress code in Athens.
Friday, January 19, 2018 was our 6th Legislative Day of the session. At 9:30 I was proud to take part in a Press Conference called by Rep. Erica Thomas and Rep. Park Cannon so that legislators could voice their support of the Power to the Polls and Women’s Marches happening throughout Georgia and the US over the weekend (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOPhykhvQos). In addition, four of us gave a morning order congratulating all women legislators who have served or are currently serving in the General Assembly.
Three more interns started with us: Stephanie Flores, Cary Lynne Thigpen and Noor Samdi. They were given an orientation and got their first taste of “Capitol” food at the Sloppy Floyd Cafeteria. Legislative Fellow, Alison Neufeld, joined us for the day and got a chance to meet with Legislative Counsel regarding an upcoming bill we are working on. More on that later.
After lunch Kathryn Grant from an organization who opposes guns on campus came and spoke with us about what lobbyists do, how lobbyists and representatives interact, and the latest on the Campus Carry law. Seems it is coming back because those who sponsored it are not happy with the restrictions it currently has. I am not against guns. I am against guns on campus.
Earlier that day Rep. Jonathan Wallace and I issued a joint statement regarding the current situation with the Athens Sheriff Ira Edwards reversing his policy of not detaining undocumented individuals who have not committed a felony until ICE comes to deport them. You can read our statement here: http://www.house-press.com/?p=6880.
After a short session I returned to Athens to attend the rally put on by Dignidad Immigrante en Athens and an Interfaith Coalition of churches and religious organizations in support of immigrants and DACA students (https://www.facebook.com/events/400418613723871/). I do not believe immigrants or DACA students are negatives in our community. I believe the immigrant story is one of the integral building blocks of our country, as is the history and struggles of African Americans. Neither story invalidates the other and I am committed to work on both fronts.
Saturday, January 20th was an early day as the Social Justice Symposium (https://www.facebook.com/events/187934041756044/) was set to begin at 8:00 am. I didn’t have a lot of time but wanted to support these amazing students from UGA’s School of Social Work. The dean definitely knows what she’s doing with these committed and talented young people. My biggest problem was I was short on time and there were so many great panels to go to. Maybe next year I can stay the entire day.
But I had to go on – this time to Gainesville and their Women’s March where I was to speak. They heard about my election and wanted someone to inspire them on the anniversary of the Women’s March in DC. I gave my usual speech – don’t complain, don’t get depressed – run for office! And if you can’t, support someone else who can. We can’t change the situation until we change who is sitting at the table and making decisions that affect ALL of us.
Got home in time to clean up and fancy up as both Rep. Jonathan Wallace and I were invited to Mayor Dave Shearon’s Inaugural Ball in Watkinsville’s Chops and Hops. We had cocktails at a secret location but needless to say that’s a story for another time. So great to support another progressive individual who is ready to take us forward. Although Bob and I love to dance and there was schmoozing to do, we gracefully bowed out and went home earlier than the others. But we did have a good time especially since the ball was a fundraiser for the Charles Ivie Foundation (the former mayor who died in 2017).
Sunday, January 21st was a relatively slow day – one client meeting and then off to celebrate Athens Regional Library System’s Library of the Year award (http://bit.ly/2DGs9ZF). I am so proud of what they do for our communities. Libraries hold a special place in my heart because I spent so many of my summer vacation days there since my mom had to work. But I loved it – so many books to read and things to do. When I walk into any library that feeling of excitement and exploration comes back. I presented my second proclamation to Valeria Bell, the Library Director. Valeria demonstrated why she is so good at what she does by inviting everyone who works for or supports the library in any way to share the stage with her. Remember their motto: engaging communities…exceeding expectations.
That’s it for week 2. In between all of these events that I highlighted are various visits, meetings, conversations, etc. Will you be next?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. My District Office is at the Butler Building, 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 224, Athens, GA 30605. We are working on the scheduling of District office hours as well as community forums so stay tuned.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
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.