Legislative Week 6 (Feb. 12 – Feb 18, 2018)

Hello HD117. Another week and 4 more legislative days have passed. It is getting busy and a little tense in the House Chamber. As we get close to cross over day (Feb 28th), representatives and senators are trying to get hearings for their bills so they can move out of committee. I am watching closely a few that YOU have been bringing to my attention including HB903 (COLA, http://bit.ly/2GoRqUZ), HB600 and HB663 (hate crime bills, see below for URLs), SB339 (prohibition of protests on university campuses, http://bit.ly/2n8brai) and of course anything related to appropriations and the 2019 budget. Keep those emails coming so I know what is on your mind but please be a bit patient with our response.

 

Monday, February 12, 2018. The morning began with a visit with members from Family Connection and Communities in Schools (http://fc-cis.org). Wonderful to welcome them to the People’s House and to thank them for all the work they do for our students. They believe that a child is more than just a grade and I support their community-schools model. In their own words they “envision a Georgia where all children are healthy, ready to start school and do well when they get there, and where every family is stable and self-sufficient.” That’s something we can all believe in.

 

 

 

After session I was able to spend some time with Athens 4 Everyone (http://athensforeveryone.com). Having groups like A4E come to the Capitol to hold legislators accountable is an important part of our democratic system. Their priorities included affordable childcare, net neutrality, HB663 hate crimes bill, economic equity for all community members, and more. They also did a write-up of their visit that you can read here: http://bit.ly/2oc76Ua.

I couldn’t stay long with A4E because I had a Code Revision Committee Meeting. This committee is charged with cleaning up old laws. At this meeting we held a hearing on HB783 (http://bit.ly/2o6KaXi) that is meant to repeal inactive boards, panels, authorities and other such bodies. Members of the committee had spent time trying to reach out to each board or panel that was up for repeal to see if they were still active. Two such groups testified. One was the Georgia Council for American Indian Concerns (http://www.georgiaindiancouncil.org). I spoke with the Director afterwards and suggested that they make sure they keep their legislators informed so they do not get on the “repeal” list again. That’s a good tip for all of you who have community organizations. It’s impossible to keep up to date with everyone so a little newsletter or email can go a long way.

From the committee meeting I headed back to Athens to the Junior League Athens Meeting. Hosted in the historic Taylor-Grady House on Prince Ave., the meeting was focused on advocacy and to relate their recent experience at the Capitol. Representative Spencer Frye (HD118) and I gave a legislative update and spoke on various bills including HB673: distracted driving (http://bit.ly/2BTV2vA) and HB745: allowing domestic violence victims to terminate a lease without penalty (http://bit.ly/2GK4xBl).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018. My first stop of the day was at the Georgia Emergency Medical Services breakfast (https://dph.georgia.gov/EMS). My hat goes off to these brave men and women who are so dedicated to their work often done in crisis conditions. One of the focus areas they spoke to me about is community paramedicine. This is an area I need to learn more about. I found some interesting background information here: http://bit.ly/2EBdUG6 and http://bit.ly/2Fb5C4R. If you have any personal experience or thoughts on this please send us an email.

Across the lobby was the Georgia Young Farmers Association (http://gaaged.org/youngfarmers/) the adult education component of Georgia’s Agricultural Education program. County Young Farmer Programs conduct educational seminars on everything from agricultural technology to legislative issues affecting agriculture. It is my hope that they will be able to share their knowledge and resources with other county groups like our Young Urban Farmers program in Athens (http://bit.ly/2CsmyRp).

 

This was Pre-K Week. Every year legislators are given two pre-K books during this week to read in their districts when session is over. If you have a Pre-K group please send me an email so we can schedule a read-in. Reading is so important for the development of our children. They are never too young to be read to. A shout out to all the Pre-K teachers, groups and organizations that work to bring the joy of reading to children.

 

 

 

Lunch was split between UGA’s Family and Consumer Sciences Lunch (http://www.fcs.uga.edu), where Rep. Frye and I again gave a legislative update, and the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation Lunch (http://www.gfb.org), where I listened to Governor Deal talk about Georgia’s agriculture future.

 

 

 

 

 

I had just enough time before my committee meeting to take a quick view of new Voting Systems being proposed for Georgia. There is a desperate need to replace our old machines – so old that Microsoft no longer supports the operating system they are running on. HB680 (http://bit.ly/2BzOHZQ) is currently making its way through the legislative process and was assigned to the Government Affairs committee. We need to watch this one closely.

 

 

Rep Frye and I recognize FACS.

Off I ran to the Judiciary Non-Civil Subcommittee meeting. The hearing that day was for HB660 (http://bit.ly/2EBmIYA) one of two hate crime bills in the House. HB660 is authored by Rep. Meagan Hanson. The other bill is HB663 authored by Rep. Karen Bennett (http://bit.ly/2swIr1W) and supported by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. Georgia is one of only five states, which does not have a hate crimes statute, something I believe should be rectified. There was testimony for and against the bill. I am pleased to report that the authors of both bills have been in discussion to possibly integrate them. We will be having another hearing before we vote on it.

Although I am not a member of the Medical Marijuana Working Group, Chairman Alan Peake has invited me to come to the meetings and stay abreast of what is happening on that front. They were hearing testimony by military veterans of the importance of medical marijuana in terms of preventing suicide, and helping with chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. HR36 (http://bit.ly/2sojLbX) would allow for production of the cannabis oil. The Governor just indicated that he might be open to some expansion, so stay tuned.

Heading back to Athens, it was one of those days I wish I could clone myself. But instead I relied on my trusty intern, Stephanie Flores who attended the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement Demands Meeting (http://aadmovement.org) while I participated in the Meals In the Middle (http://bit.ly/2EDcmuY) dinner to benefit U Lead (https://www.uleadathens.org). Every day I learn from the community and I am inspired and impressed with the work our community leaders accomplish. Thank you to Mokah and Knowa Johnson, Sarah Lockmon and the amazing middle school chefs, and all the U-Lead facilitators and supporters.

I’m really bad at selfies.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018. Valentine’s Day began with an early start as my legislative fellow, Alison Neufeld and I had a full morning set to work with legislative counsel on a couple of bills I want to get introduced before next week. One focuses on sexual harassment and the other on livable wages. We had two great meetings and I followed up with Representative Werkhieser, Chairman of the House Industry and Labor Committee who gave me some guidance on how to pursue the livable wage issue. I’ll be reporting more on this next week.

 

Session ended late but the folks at Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA, http://www.athensoconeecasa.org) were still waiting for me with a full plate for lunch at the Freight Depot. CASA Athens is a local non-profit, volunteer organization that provides advocacy for the 270 children in Athens and Oconee who are in foster care. Their dedication to these children shows. One of my interns, Stephanie Flores is a CASA and currently has two children for whom she advocates. We spoke about the adoption bill that was passed (HB159, http://bit.ly/2DbAa5j) and the concern over the new SB375, Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act (http://bit.ly/2EGUoXX) that contains the religious freedom language that derailed the adoption bill last session. I do not believe this bill would pass the House even if it passes the Senate with the many who currently oppose it, including myself.

Every five years representatives and senators from congressional districts form a caucus to elect the district’s Transportation Board Member (http://www.dot.ga.gov/AboutGDOT/Board). HD117 falls within the 9th and 10th congressional districts so I took part in these two caucuses. It went quickly because there was only one candidate in each, both of whom were currently serving. For the 9th district we reelected Emily Dunn. Jamie Boswell will represent the 10th district again. Note: in photo Jerry Sherrin (CD14) with Emily and Jamie.

A beautiful orchid on display at the State Botanical Gardens in Athens.

 

 

Thursday, February 15, 2018. So I guess I’m not immune. Even taking Nyquil for two nights in a row couldn’t keep the cold at bay. Thursday saw me doing what the doctor ordered once I was excused from session – sleep, take meds and let the cold ride through. I am sorry for passing it on to my chief of staff and legislative fellow. At least it was not the flu. BTW, did you get your flu shot? And as our Doctors of the Day have been telling us, always wash your hands.

 

 

 

Friday, February 16, 2018 was again a district day. I spent most of the day in a couple constituent meetings and getting through constituent emails, as well as reviewing some upcoming bills that have been assigned to my committees. Some have asked about our email response procedure. We log every email we get by constituent, bill or topic, and the desired vote. Then we do some research if it is a new bill or topic that I am not familiar with. It is at this point we respond. This takes some time, as I am hesitant to just send a canned response. Know that your email has been received. Because we get so many emails here are a couple of tips to get your email noticed:

  1. Do customize the email. I don’t like to receive canned emails as much as you don’t.
  2. Really let me know how the bill or topic affects you personally. Your stories can be powerful conversation pieces as I speak with my fellow representatives in support of or in opposition to a bill or resolution.
  3. Be respectful. Foul or disrespectful language is a turn off for us all, and I really hate for my interns, who help me review these emails, to be exposed to it. We are all people trying to do our best.
  4. Sign your name with your address. This helps us verify you are in the district.

Saturday, February 17, 2018. With a few days of non-travel to Atlanta, I woke up feeling much better and headed out to the Bogart Library Expansion & Renovation Ceremony. If you don’t know by now it is no secret how highly I regard our library systems. I was honored to speak a bit about the crucial role libraries have in our communities, sometimes being a critical factor for the success of our children, as well as providing opportunities for economic development with new services and access to technology for all. It was also the first time I put on a hard hat and held a shovel for that traditional photo. The hat kept falling off until a good Samaritan adjusted it for me. So proud of the Athens Regional Library System, all its branches, its staff and volunteers.

Me with Beth from Piedmont Regional Library System

Bob and I were again guests of Jackson EMC (http://www.jacksonemc.com) for the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner (http://barrowchamber.com) at Chateau Elan (https://www.chateauelan.com) along with Senator Frank Ginn, Representative Terry England (Chair of the Appropriations Committee), and Congressman Jody Hice (who I met for the first time). The theme was “mining for business” and conversation was light. These events are sometimes difficult for me as I am still getting to meet people and I am not a natural extrovert so if you ever see me at one please come over and say hello. Thanks to Nelson, Houston and Brandon from Jackson EMC for being gracious hosts. Highlight of the night – The Piedmont Regional Library System (http://prlib.org) was awarded the Community Service Award! Yeah for libraries again.

 

Sunday, February 18, 2018. I am proud to serve on the Domestic Violence Subcommittee of the Democratic Caucus. This is another issue I feel passionately about so it is almost impossible for me to tell Project Safe in Athens (http://www.project-safe.org) no when they ask me to participate in one of their events. This time it was to be one of the featured speakers at the Project Safe’s 19th Annual production of Eve Ensler’s award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues. Wasn’t really sure at first about this but felt I would give it a shot. My companion speaker for the matinee performance was Mokah Jasmine Johnson so I knew it couldn’t be that bad. Enjoyed it and look forward to Project Safe’s Dancing with the Athens Stars in April.

Another week down and 18 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.

Committees, Caucuses and Legislation Update

 

 

Being in session is just part of what I do as your representative.  A lot of the work is carried out in committee and caucus meetings. Here is a list of the committees and caucuses I am currently a member of.  In addition you will find below the legislation I am a author of, co-sponsor of, or signatory to.  This will be updated as the session progresses. I put all the links I could find.

 

 

Committees

Caucuses

 

Legislation Authored/Co-Sponsored (for updates see http://bit.ly/2EJygMu)

 

Legislation Signed Onto

 

 

 

Legislative Week 5 (Feb. 5 – Feb 11, 2018)

Hello HD117. February is here and 4 more legislative days have passed. It is going fast and still so much to do. Started the week by missing my Conyers exit so had to follow my GPS through some back roads to get to I-20. But ended it on a high note celebrating a week of high points and Mardi Gras.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving at the Capitol

 

Monday, February 5, 2018. Sometimes we are asked to wear a certain color to bring awareness to a special cause. Monday was our “Wear Red” day to remind us of women’s heart health in collaboration with the Go Red for Women annual event (https://www.goredforwomen.org). Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women mainly because many of us do not understand that the symptoms for women can be very different than the symptoms for men.

 

 

Rep. Karen Bennett, myself and Judge Berry

 

 

Monday morning brought me the gift of Judge Berry from Athens and the Council of Magistrate Court Judges (https://georgiamagistratecouncil.com). I have had the privilege of being an instructor twice for UGA’s Institute of Continuing Judicial Education (http://icje.uga.edu) providing insight on social media do’s and don’ts for magistrate judges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday also brought leaders and members of the AME Church to the Capitol. I was invited by Lester Jackson III, the Chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (http://www.galbc.org), of which I am a proud member, to speak about how important alliances are so we can reach our goal of a better Georgia that includes economic access and equity for marginalized communities. Rep. Karen Bennett who is the Pastor of the Athens Greater Bethel AME Church and Rep. Billy Mitchell were also in attendance.

 

Me (on a box to give me height), Scott Slade, Rep Kendrick and Senator Cowsert

Monday ended with another visit to the Lawmakers set. This time Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert and I spoke with Scott Slade about the passing of the Adoption Bill (yeah!!!!) and about sexual harassment (boo!!!). It is interesting to note how vested I became in the debate over the adoption bill although most of the work and debate was done last session before I got there. But when the news came in that the Senate had accepted and passed the bill with the House’s amendment, we were all elated for the benefits that would come for Georgia children who need good loving homes. As for the sexual harassment issue, Senator Cowsert is on a committee that reviewed the current General Assembly policy and Rep. Kendrick has introduced HB662 to address the issue at the legislature (http://bit.ly/2G1id9V). My contribution focused on some of the more practical concerns under the law for victims. You can view the episode here: http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers/2018/day-15.

 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018. When groups come to the Capitol they usually have one or two bills they focus on as they speak with their representatives. Sometimes they have a reserved room and invite their legislators to meet with them there based on scheduled times or they go and visit their legislator’s offices, which can be hit or miss. I had two scheduled mini-talks – the fist was with the Georgia Realtors group, specifically those realtors who form part of the Athens contingent – to discuss their concerns over HB 410 (http://bit.ly/2Cat4Mr), which seeks to limit certain fees from home owner associations when it comes to a closing for certain home properties. I am seeking constituent input on this bill so please send comments to chiefofstaff@votedeborahgonzalez.com.

 

 

Rep. Frye and me talking to Youth Leadership Athens.

 

The second mini-talk was with Youth Leadership Athens (http://bit.ly/2soAfAL). I have a personal connection with this group and some of the leaders – Carol Williams, Kelli Rochelle, and Susan Munn. You see I came to Georgia to accept a position at the Fanning Institute of Leadership back in 2007 to head their youth leadership and Latino community leadership programs. As part of that role, I also served as an advisor for Youth Leadership Athens. It was great to come full circle and welcome them to the Capitol.

 

 

 

 

When I was younger I was a Brownie. So it was very special to be inducted into the special Girl Scout Troop 1912 via a Pinning Ceremony at the Capitol. Got to see friends from District 117 and demonstrate my support again for the renaming of the Savannah Bridge to the Juliette Gordon Low bridge.

 

 

Powerful advocates and activists from my district. Inspiring.

Today was an important day because a hearing was finally held for HR3 (http://bit.ly/2nSEDng), authored by Representative Pat Gartner to form an independent redistricting commission. This has been in the works for over 6 years – starting with resolutions proposed by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver and culminating with this hearing. Testimony was heard by the Reapportionment Committee from members of the ACLU, Common Cause, League of Women Voters, and more. This is so important an issue for the future of our democracy. We need to monitor the progression of this bill closely and show our support for it.

 

 

The shoe representing a fire fatality in Athens.

 

Throughout the day Firefighters were highlighted (http://gsffa.org). For a few hours an installation of shoes was lined up on the South Wing Steps – each pair of shoes represented a fire fatality. I found the one from Athens and it broke my heart. These men and women risk their lives each time there is a fire and I was proud to support them at the Firefighters Recognition Dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018. Chairman Terry England presided over the Georgia Agriculture Council Breakfast at the Freight Depot this morning (http://www.ga-agribusiness.org). Agriculture is Georgia’s #1 industry bringing in more than $95.6 billion a year in economic impact. HD117’s portion came out to over $2 billion of that and over 11,000 jobs. There are a number of initiatives and programs, including the Farm Bill (http://bit.ly/2DINn8F), that are being monitored to ensure the agriculture industry has the resources it needs to thrive.

 

 

Members of the Athens Junior League Group.

 

Today my mini-talk was with the Junior League Group. The Junior League of Athens, Inc., is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers (http://www.juniorleagueofathens.org). They wanted me to talk about my experiences of being a woman in politics and at the Capitol. That would take an entire blog by itself but in a nutshell it is challenging. Women face circumstances that men at the Capitol just do not because we are not the ones with power. But that can change and I believe it will as more women run and win office.

Cary Lynn making a drop-off

 

So what have my interns been up to? Besides legislation and issue research they have been busy with constituent outreach. Stephanie and Cary Lynn delivered jigsaw puzzles to five different senior centers in HD117. Thank you to all who contributed puzzles. They said the residents were thrilled to see the interns and their gifts. We will continue to collect puzzles and names of senior centers and community centers who would like to have some.

 

 

I commute back and forth between Athens and Atlanta, so my day usually begins at 4 am. I do it because the session days still end early enough that I can make my way back to the District to attend certain meetings to address constituent concerns. Tonight was one of those meetings. I received a number of emails and Facebook messages from Athens constituents concerned that the new Athens Comprehensive Plan had the potential to negatively affect residents in the area by permitting gentrification of certain corridors (http://www.athensclarkecounty.com/compplan). Many of those potentially affected spoke up (myself included) about these concerns and others. It was a great showing by the community. I commend the planning commission for delaying the vote to approve the plan and send it on to the Mayor and commissioners until the concerns of the community were addressed. The next meeting is Monday, February 19, at 5:30 pm at the Planning Building. Please show up. PS – They are looking for new members of the Planning Commission. This is a great opportunity to get involved and make a difference in your community so be on the lookout and apply. We need more diversity on this committee and others so that they truly represent everyone.

ERA supporters.

 

Thursday, February 8, 2018 was Equal Rights Amendment, ERA, day (http://www.equalrightsamendment.org). Can you believe 45 years later we still don’t have this ratified so there is no equal protection for men and women under US law? Nevada was the 26th state to ratify the ERA last year and we only need 2 more. Will Georgia be one? I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the resolution to make it so (HR969 – http://bit.ly/2nZW2cO). Stay tuned.

 

 

 

By now most of you have heard about the Black Panther movie (https://marvel.com/blackpanther#/). General Assembly members were invited to a premier screening of the film at the Fox Theater. I was not able to attend but look forward to the Athens Cine premiere of the film on Thursday, Feb. 15th at 7 pm (http://www.athenscine.com). David Grant, the Director of the film was an invited guest to the House Chambers on Thursday. We have had a few entertainment industry professionals visit us recently. The warm welcome they have all received is in recognition of the importance of the entertainment industry in Georgia ($9.5 billion in 2016 alone, http://www.georgia.org/industries/entertainment/).

 

Me dropping my transit resolution at the ‘”hopper.”

Today was another milestone for me as your Representative. I was able to “drop a bill in the hopper.” This is a Resolution for a Study Committee to look into the use of advanced technology for transit options between Athens and Atlanta. We have heard for years about the desire for a light rail system (the infamous “brain train”) and during last election we heard a lot about making 316 a limited access highway. The last time an impact study was done regarding the light rail was in 2006. I was finally able to get the required signatures I needed (with representatives from both parties) to put it in for consideration. It took a bit of time to find the right co-sponsors and to set some foundation to give it as much chance of success as I could. Now it is up to the Speaker of the House to bring it to a vote. Fingers crossed. Some background information can be found here: http://bit.ly/2G4Lpwy.

 

I really enjoy attending the GA Working Families Caucus Meetings every Thursday. We had the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI) come in to provide information regarding movement between socio-economic classes. Did you know that a child born to parents making less than $25k has an 8% chance at best of earning more than $108k? That same child has only a 41% chance of reaching the middle class. When you add the intersectionality of wages and race the stats are even more dismal. I am currently working on a bill regarding fair wages regardless of sex, race, and ethnicity, so stay tuned.

During the campaign I had promised Rick Dunn (radio host at WXAG, http://www.1470wxag.com) that I would take time to call in during the session to keep him and his listeners up to date with what is going on at the Capitol. I was able to finally do my first call into “Community Forum” and it is amazing to me how quickly 10-15 minutes go by. You can’t get a lot in so I am happy to report that Rick and I have agreed to do some more call-ins. I focused on Medicaid expansion during this call and look forward to talking about economic equity (including wages and assistance to working families) and other issues on each call. Thanks Rick for the opportunity to reach out.

Greenhouse at Williams Farm

 

Friday, February 9, 2018  My time at the Capitol for the week was over, but the work was not. One of my goals is to learn as much as I can about HD117 and meet as many constituents as I can. I was able to work on both goals by attending the Sustainable Agriculture Conference Farm Tour (http://bit.ly/2G3MDIr) organized by the Athens Land Trust (http://www.athenslandtrust.org) and UGA’s Cooperative Extension (http://extension.uga.edu). For a brief recap of the tour and photos please see my Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/DG4GA/.

 

 

Saturday, February 10, 2018 HD117 consists of portions of four counties – Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee. I try to get to 2-3 each week (usually on the weekends). After a morning full of discussion with my legislative team on bills and resolutions we are working on, I had a lunch meeting to get caught up with the current situation regarding Athens’ Sherriff Ira Edwards and ICE detentions. Seems there has been some progress (a citizen’s input committee was formed and met) but there is still much work to be done.

The afternoon brought me to South Jackson County for a Jackson County Constituent Meeting. There I met with Jackson County Commissioner Marty Seagraves and Jackson residents, as well as Pete Fuller, current Chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Committee. I was able to give those present an update on legislation they are concerned about and which can affect Jackson County. Issues we discussed were wide ranging and included development of 441 vs. 129, broadband access, the House Rural Development Commission, medical marijuana (HB65 http://bit.ly/2nZ1Ums and HB 36 http://bit.ly/2sojLbX), and more. We were also able to plan a Jackson County Day at the Capitol and participation in other community events.

 

Another week down and 22 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

Step it Up Group at the Capitol

 

 

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 4 (Jan. 29 – Feb 4, 2018)

Hello HD117. Has a month already gone by? I still don’t feel like I’m settled in – finally got my business cards this week and my office is almost set up the way I think will be most efficient, but can’t wait for it to be finalized – need to get to the Chamber floor.

Three of my five interns: Stephanie, Cary Lynn and Paige.

Monday, January 29. 2018. Once of the great opportunities my legislative interns can take advantage of is attending meetings and conferences I cannot get to because of prior commitments. Four of my interns – Paige, Cary Lynn, Cris and Stephanie – attended Tapestri’s Human Trafficking Forum (https://tapestri.org) at Agnes Scott College (https://www.agnesscott.edu). They posted a number of photos and their insights on our Instagram page so take a look: https://www.instagram.com/dg4ga/.

 

 

 

 

Colleagues from Athens

I couldn’t make the forum for obvious reasons but the Capitol was as busy as ever. Stopped by the GA Outdoor Stewardship Coalition (https://georgiaoutdoorstewardship.org) breakfast before heading to participate in the joint House-Senate press conference to oppose the English-only bills.

Today was also my first committee meeting – this one being the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee – where after I was welcomed by Chairman Golick, we held a hearing regarding the Distracted Driving (Hands-free driving) Bill (HB 673, http://bit.ly/2BTV2vA). You can view the committee hearing here: http://bit.ly/2BTVABC.

 

 

 

Commissioner Tim Echols

 

 

Monday ended with the Unholy Tour visiting sex trafficking sites around Atlanta and hearing from various speakers about the issue. Legislators and press were present and 11 Alive featured some video of the tour: http://on.11alive.com/2DYWgaY. The tour was organized by Commissioner Tim Echols with the Public Service Commission to show the realities of the sex trade in the metro Atlanta area.

 

 

 

 

Supreme Court Chief Justice Hines

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 was the earliest morning yet for my commute into Atlanta. But it was so worth it. I began the day at the Chief Justice P. Harris Hines & Justices of the Supreme Court of Georgia Legislative Breakfast. I got to meet all of the justices and learn more about their roles and objectives. Did you know they have been independently verified as the hardest working state supreme court in the nation?! So impressed. Plus Rep. Kim Schoefield, Rep. Doreen Carter and I got to go through the “Magic Doors” to the robing room and play dress up. (Blooper Video to come soon.)

 

 

Second Breakfast (for Hobbit fans) was held at Central Presbyterian Church for the Stop Domestic Violence Against Women Day kickoff (http://bit.ly/2E3yiLH). Rep. Doreen Carter, Chair of the Subcommittee on Domestic Violence (of which I am a member), and the rest of the members did a morning order to bring awareness of the issue and to give a shout-out to the advocates who were in the Gallery. So great to see Pat Peterson and the others from Project Safe (http://www.project-safe.org) and other organizations working to protect the victims of domestic violence. Proud to say I have signed onto Rep. Scott Holcomb’s bill HB745 (http://bit.ly/2GK4xBl) permitting victims of domestic violence to break their lease so they can go to a safe location.

 

 

 

Rep. Able Mable Thomas

 

 

 

Representative Mable Thomas held a press conference that Tuesday regarding a bill (HB 765, CJ’s Law, http://bit.ly/2BTWzBQ) we have both co-sponsored relating to increased fines and penalties for certain kinds of hit-and-run incidents.

 

 

 

 

Athens Regional Library System Library of the Year!

 

Moments of pride at the Capitol this week included welcoming the folks from the Athens Regional Library System as they got a Governor’s Commendation for being named the Library of the Year 2017. So thrilled to see everyone there – I won’t start naming names because I will miss one or two and then – well, you know what will happen. So instead shout out to everyone who was in any way related to this award.

 

 

 

 

After photos I quickly went to The Women’s Caucus in time to hear a presentation from the Girl Scouts and their request for a resolution to rename the Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah to the Juliette Gordon Low Bridge in honor of their founder (http://bit.ly/2yQPdPK). I, along with many of my colleagues, gladly signed the resolution.

 

 

Awardees

 

Even though it was an early start to the day it was far from over. Left Atlanta to head to Jefferson, GA in Jackson County for the Jackson Chamber Annual Dinner (http://www.jacksoncountyga.com) as the guest of Jackson EMC (https://www.jacksonemc.com). All of the Jackson County State Elected Delegation was there, including Senator Frank Ginn, Senator John Wilkinson, Representative Tommy Benton and myself to cheer on the award winners. Hearing the stories of the recipients was inspiring and I am proud to be their representative. What amazing people we have in HD 117!

 

Rep. McGowan and I with some very brave firefighters.

 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 – no early breakfasts today – but did have fun this morning. First went around with Rep. Bill McGowan (http://bit.ly/2s8RF4e) to visit the firefighter and Atlanta Airport tables in the lobby. Did you know Rep. McGowan was a former firefighter? I didn’t but I hold so much respect for these brave men and women who put their lives on the line for others. Skirted the law enforcement canine patrol (it was a BIG dog) and said hello to those from the Atlanta Airport. Then off to a photo op with Governor Deal and my intern Cris Ortiz. It was good to hear that the First Lady is doing well after a health scare.

 

 

 

While waiting for the Governor, I got to meet the families of two local winners of the EPA Radon Poster contest run by UGA’s Extension Service (http://bit.ly/2AapEs8). Contact is Pamela Turner. Congratulations to Charlotte Moser and Flor Campos, both students in Athens.

 

 

 

 

So what is another highlight of my short time at the Capitol? Being invited to be on GPB Lawmakers. Recorded to be aired on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, this episode focused on four freshmen – Rep. Teri Anulewitz, Rep. Bee Nugyen, Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, and myself – offering viewers an opportunity to get to know us better and what our legislative focuses are. Did you know that 8 out of the 12 freshmen for the 2018 session are women? You can view the episode here: http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers/2018/day-14.

 

 

Before heading back to Athens, I stopped at the Georgia State Retirees Association Legislative Reception (http://www.mygsra.com) and spoke with Kip Mann and Cheryl and Frank Johnson from Athens. Besides advocating for issues of concern to retirees they also honored Rep. Bert Reeves who authored the House Adoption Bill (HB159). More on that bill later.

 

 

Every day we go into session our desks are full with papers, gifts and goodies.

 

Thursday, February 1, 2018 had to be the strangest day I had on Capitol Hill to date. We started at the Democratic Caucus breakfast where Minority Leader Trammel did caution us about the commotion brewing regarding the Adoption Bill and the Senate’s newest amendment. We were to stay close to the Chamber as a vote could be called anytime.

Meanwhile as we waited on that I was able to meet with Rep. Kevin Tanner, Chairman of the Transportation committee (http://bit.ly/2s6wMGZ) on a resolution I’m working on regarding advanced technology options (including autonomous vehicles) as transport options for the Athens-Atlanta commute. Stay tuned for more.

Rep. Bert Reeves, author of the Adoption Bill.

Let’s get back to the Adoption Bill. The House reconvened after lunch to hear an impassioned speech by Rep. Bert Reeves who has worked tirelessly on this bill for over 4 years (http://bit.ly/2FEZh0r). He went over the history of the bill and the journey his bill has taken between the House and Senate chambers and the Governor’s Office. Much negotiation was done to finalize a House Amendment to the Senate’s Amendment. The House voted unanimously for it and a motion was passed to immediately transmit that bill back to the Senate. We waited and waited. We were recessed twice that day and then – the Senate issued a statement that it would take the weekend to review. Meanwhile, children in the foster care system and loving families waiting to offer them comfort and safety wait and wait. It was disappointing, frustrating and a hard lesson for me that sometimes the right thing does not get done because of political posturing – especially in an election year.

GA Museum of Art Curators

So I headed back home and was fortunate to have been invited to the GA Museum of Art where for a bit of time I could indulge in some beauty. The reception was for the Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts (http://bit.ly/2E16WWi). It was great to be back in the District and meet up with so many constituents and supporters. Plus the art was wonderful. Bob especially enjoyed the exhibit of abstractionist Clinton Hill. My favorite was a piece by UGA faculty member Sunkoo Yuh entitled Repatriation. Kudos to the curators who absolutely love what they do. Yes I mean you Ashley Callahan! You should not miss any of these shows.

 

UGA SGA Board

Friday, February 2, 2018 was Groundhog Day. Two out of three groundhogs saw their shadows but are we really saying we believe them? I don’t know but it sure is cold. Another District Friday was spent in organization meetings with staff and following up with our puzzle outreach. My last official task was a visit with UGA’s Student Government Association leadership team (https://www.ugastudentgovernment.com) – Roya Naghepour, Cameron Keen, Kalvis Golde, and Hunter Smith. They came prepared with questions regarding legislation that affects university and college students and I do believe I was able to have answers for each one. Topics included: HB51 and sexual assault on campus, keeping college affordable via HOPE, ZELL, and keeping fees low, anti-discrimination code in Athens bars, and safety of 316 and increased lighting at night. You’ll have to ask them to see how they felt I did.

GALEO Board Members

 

Saturday, February 3, 2018 I spent the day in Atlanta again at a Board of Directors retreat for the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (http://galeo.org). I put this here in full transparency so you know what groups I am involved with.

Another week down and 26 more Legislative Days to go. Time goes really fast and there is still so much work to do.

 

From the Faculty Show.

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 3 (Jan. 22 – 28, 2018)

Hello HD117. Part of the reason these weeks feel hectic, even though sessions have been lasting only about an hour, is the fact that there is so much else going on at the Capitol. I try to give you just a taste but to be honest, I don’t always remember everything I did or everyone I met. Yes I try to document (photos, write on the back of business cards, etc.) but when I get to the weekend when I have a chance to organize, things have slipped away. This week is a great example. Here we go.

Rep. Wallace and I with the Moms Demand Action

Monday, January 22, 2018. My energy is at its highest on Monday mornings, partly because I get to sleep a bit over the weekend and partly because the weekend events are always with my constituents who inspire me each time. Two of the causes of the day were GA Moms Demand Action (http://every.tw/2nF2F40) and Veteran Suicide Prevention (http://bit.ly/2xMXWBH).   Most of the organizations set up tables in the Capitol lobby offering information and opportunities for legislators to learn about the cause and ask questions. The legislative session was followed by a discussion held by the Delta Kappa Gamma International Society of Women Educators (www.dkg.org) where they asked a group of representatives and senators what the status was regarding K-12 education issues, and provided insights into their concerns. The last meeting of the day was with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (https://www.accg.org). The conversation focused on one of the greatest concerns for sheriffs in District 117 – the use of county jails as primary mental health treatment centers, even though they lack the resources (funding and expertise) to appropriately attend to the needs of the mentally ill. I was pleased to hear that this issue is a priority for them and that they have set up a task force.

Here I am with both Staceys, Rep. Brenda Lopez, and President of the GHCC Santiago Marquez.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 began with an early ride into Atlanta to make the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast (https://ghcc.org). I spoke as part of the Latino Caucus regarding why we should oppose the English-only resolutions coming out of the Georgia Senate (SR587 http://bit.ly/2BTRyt5 and SR613 http://bit.ly/2EEzkPd). My view is that these bills set up an unwelcoming environment for business, especially for those businesses founded or run by individuals who speak multiple languages (e.g. Amazon). They also make it more difficult for individuals to be as productive as possible within their communities as they master the English language. English is already the official language of Georgia. So there is no reason not to offer certain documents in other languages – as Georgia has been doing for decades – if it means safer roads and residents getting their kids to school and themselves to work.

The causes for Tuesday were Georgia Tourism Day and Georgia Arts Day at the Capitol. Ok, I’m a bit partial to these. it was so great to see members from the Athens and Oconee Convention and Visitor Bureaus (https://www.visitathensga.com and https://visitoconee.com). Tourism is an economic driver in District 117 – from music to sports, from academic conferences to community plays – people visit HD117 all year round. One of the other hidden gems in District 117 is the visual arts scene. I highly recommend doing a Saturday afternoon art scavenger hunt in any of our towns – murals in Athens, public sculptures in Oconee, historic landmarks in Jackson and Barrow – add museums, galleries, and artist homes, and you’ll never be at a loss for ways to get your visual fill.

Finally got to meet Grace Sterling in person. We are here with Rep. David Dreyer

Tuesday afternoon marked a significant moment for many who have been watching the unfolding of HB51, a bill introduced in the 2017 session by Rep. Earl Ehrhart and then-representative Regina Quick (http://bit.ly/2BT0rmJ). This bill was so controversial because it required mandatory reporting to law enforcement of a sexual assault regardless of the desires of the victim as well as put restraints on universities and colleges as to when they could take which actions once a complaint has been filed – for example, no action until a conviction is made. After hearing testimony of the three higher education associations – Board of Regents, Technical Colleges of Georgia, and Private Institutions – the Chair of the Higher Education Committee made a point of saying he did not see why mandatory reporting should be required and since the Federal government still needed to issue guidelines regarding the matter (as Secretary DeVos had rescinded the Obama guidelines) the bill would be tabled for this session. This means that HB51 isn’t dead forever, but it is in a coma for now. You can watch the recording of the hearing here: http://bit.ly/2nFSnR3.

 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 was a slower day for me because I was trying to fight off a cold (hopefully not the flu) since the night before. After a short session I went to my first Rural Caucus meeting where issues important to country communities are highlighted and discussed. On the agenda were rural broadband and a brief report from the House Rural Development Council (http://bit.ly/2DZ7Dnc). I look forward to being part of this caucus to ensure all residents of HD117 have the services they require to thrive.

 

Rep. Renitta Shannon

A new advocacy activity started on Wednesday called Woke Wednesdays (http://bit.ly/2FFRBec) – a lunchtime set aside where members of advocacy groups can come together, share lunch, and discuss important legislative issues. The first topic centered on Women’s Reproductive Rights and the speaker was Rep. Renitta Shannon (http://renittashannon.com). I am proud of Rep. Shannon’s courage in sharing her story and she exemplifies why most of us choose to serve in the general assembly – for the people of our districts.

Important to note is that this Wednesday was also Electric Vehicle Day – Georgia used to have a tax credit for purchasers of electric vehicles but that credit program was discontinued (http://bit.ly/2s6PzSv). This is an issue some of my constituents have emailed and Facebook messaged me about so I am keeping an eye on it. Alternative fuels offer a cleaner, environment-friendly option for transportation in HD117.

They call us the Super 6.

 

Thursday, January 25, 2018 was another early day – this time it was the GA Win List Breakfast. I am part of what the GWL calls the “Super 6” – GWL-endorsed women who got elected during the special election season in 2017. We shared lessons learned with those in attendance. I spoke about sexual harassment at the legislature and the need for continued support from the greater community for female candidates (and don’t forget us once we are elected).

 

 

 

Rep. Schofield, I and a National Guardsman.

 

 

It was National Guard Day and Rep. Kim Schoefield and I enjoyed a walk around the displays in the lobby. The GA Working families Caucus offered a debriefing on the 2018 and 2019 Governor’s Budgets by Chairman Terry England (http://bit.ly/2BWOEE8). The GA Assembly has one required job to do – pass a budget. It is not as easy as it sounds since there is a lot to decipher and so many interests in conflict with each other. These debriefings help legislators better understand what the numbers mean and where the priorities are. You can view the 2018, 2019 budgets and other financial documents on the Govenor’s Office of Planning and Budget website: https://opb.georgia.gov.

 

 

 

Thursday was a very proud day for me as I made good on one of the promises on my campaign platform – to fight for Medicaid Expansion. I was thrilled to co-sponsor a bill, along with Rep. Trammel, Rep. Park, Rep. Wallace, and Rep. McGowan called the “Expand Medicaid Now” bill. You can view our Medicaid Expansion Press Conference here: http://bit.ly/2E0BVBS.

 

At the ARLS READ Poster Photo Shoot

 

Friday, January 26, 2018 had no session. But that doesn’t mean I get the day off. Friday is my District Day (as long as we are not in session) so I can meet with constituents as well as attend other district-area events to ensure I stay in contact and in touch with what is going on in HD117. But there was some fun this Friday. The Athens Regional Library System (http://www.athenslibrary.org) had asked me to participate in their “READ” Poster series, so this Friday was the photo shoot. The biggest problem for me (besides fly away hair) was what book to select to pose with. I finally decided on three of them – all relating to a specific area of my life. Be on the lookout for the posters coming out soon.

 

 

Dr James Porter and UGA Office of Sustainability Director Kevin Kirsche

 

Saturday, January 27, 2018 was divided into two specific areas of concern for my district – the first, environmentalism and conservation were highlights at the Greenlife Expo (http://bit.ly/2s6bPMu) and the screening of the Chasing Coral documentary (http://www.chasingcoral.com). The second issue of adult literacy was the focus of the Barrow Literacy Ball (https://adultliteracybarrow.org). So proud to support both of these efforts. PS – folks in Barrow County really know how to party – although I didn’t win any raffle prizes I did have sore feet after all the dancing with my husband.

 

 

Pat Priest and others.

 

Sunday, January 28, 2018. I cannot tell a lie. I took a nap today. It felt so good to just be able to take an extra little break and catch up on some sleep. But the best part of this rainy Sunday was the New Friends for the New Year Event sponsored by the Oconee Progressives and the Oconee County Democratic Committee (http://bit.ly/2EguGJq). This non-partisan event was set up a bit like speed dating where participants changed partners every 4.5 minutes answering questions and getting to know each other. I look forward to the next one.

 

 

 

Aida Taina and Valeria Bell from the ARLS.

So Week 3 has come and gone. But we still have 30 more Legislative Days to go. Who will introduce what bills? What bills will never make it? What will happen? Stay tuned for the next episode of “How the GA Legislature Turns.”

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.