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 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.

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.

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 2 (Jan. 16 – 21, 2018)

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.

Slide from CRSA presentation.

 

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.

 

 

 

With the President of GA Head Start.

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.

Self Portrait by Stanley Bermudez

 

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 chiefofstaff@votedeborahgonzalez.com and send a letter of inquiry plus a couple of images of the work. Stay tuned for the official announcement.

 

 

Representatives and Senators Members of the Working Families Caucus

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.

Some of the Female Reps voicing their support of the Women’s Marches.

 

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.

 

 

Some of Team Gonzalez: Stephen, Alison, Avery, Cary Lynn, and Noor.

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.

Mariposas – Butterflies – are a symbol for Immigrant Activists. This is a scene form the Athens Rally.

 

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.

 

 

Some of the participants at the SJS and Lisa Lloyd.

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.

 

 

Activists come in all ages – but the message is clear.

 

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.

 

 

 

Bob, me, Kristina and Rep. Wallace

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).

 

 

Just “some” of the people who were thanked for their role in making Athens Library System the Library of the Year.

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?

Some of my fellow Representatives.

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. 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.

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 1 (Jan. 8 – 15, 2018)

Hello HD117. This is the first of a series of approximately weekly blogs to let you know what is going on as the legislative session progresses. Here you will find out the who, what, where, when, how and why (my reflections) of my days as your State Representative.

Note: Yes, I’m a bit behind in the updates.  It’s been a hectic start.  These are meant as recaps but 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 or following me on Twitter: @DG4GA.

IT BEGINS…

My colleagues welcoming me to the House of Representatives.

The session began on Monday, January 8, 2018. Avery (my chief of staff) and I arrived at the Capitol, dropped our stuff at our office (CLOB 509C) and headed to the House Chambers. I was able to find my seat and my first vote was roll call.   Not much else occurred in the Chambers being the first session, but I did learn about using the voting machine on my desk and calling the page (if any of you visit and I am in session, the page can ask me to come out).

 

 

 

 

Me and Rep. Brenda Lopez at the GA Win List luncheon.

Session was followed by two lunches – one hosted by Rep. Brenda Lopez (HD99, http://votebrendalopez.com) for her interns and the second one was hosted by GA WIN (http://gawinlist.com) with their newly endorsed 2018 women candidates. Newly elected female officials – like me, Rep. Teri Anulewitz (HD42, https://www.teriforgeorgia.com), Rep. Kim Schofield (HD60, https://www.facebook.com/electkim4d60/), and Senator Jen Jordan (SD 6, https://www.jen4ga.com) – then held an informal chat about the realities of being a woman on the campaign trail and shared lessons learned.

Got back to Athens in time to get to the TAG office before they closed and ended the day cheering on the GA Bulldogs (http://georgiadogs.com) in an historic national championship game. Those players were awesome – up to the very last minute. Congratulations to each of them and their coach Kirby Smart.

 

 

The Asian-Latino Caucus: Rep. Pedro Marin, Rep. Lopez, Rep. Gonzalez, Rep. Bee Nguyen, Rep. Sam Park

 

On Tuesday, January 9th session didn’t begin until 1 pm, but we had been hard at work already. Had two meetings before heading to Atlanta (one with a constituent and one with a legal client – yes, I am still working as I represent). One thing that happens at the beginning of every session is a mini-sermon and prayer led by the Chaplain of the Day. This is meant to inspire us as we do the People’s work. A couple of the highlights from this week include “All giants fall” and “stir things up.” I guess these Pastors knew I was in the house.

 

 

 

Rep. Karen Bennett

Wednesday, January 10th gave me a better sense of how things would be. We began at 10 am and after the sermon and Pledge of Allegiance morning orders began. Morning orders is when representatives ask to speak for less than 5 minutes regarding an important issue or bill they are supporting. It is also during this time that members can recognize constituents from their districts for doing an exceptional thing or to acknowledge some who are visiting and sitting in the Gallery. Please make sure if you visit me to let me know so I can give you a shout out.

Wednesday was special to me because it marked the first bill I signed on to. I was so honored to be invited to sign my name and support a new Hate Crimes Bill (HB663, http://bit.ly/2DnPvjj) sponsored by my friend Rep. Karen Bennett (HD64) and brought forward by the GA Legislative Black Caucus. I stood by my colleagues proudly as we held a Press Conference to introduce the bill to the public. This is an important issue and the bill creates increased punishments for crimes that target an individual due to the individual’s race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or physical disability.

Always great to meet my constituents at the Capitol. Here is Taylor Brown, Public affairs for the Park Service.

Thursday, January 11th we heard Governor Deal’s State of the State Address (http://bit.ly/2Fu37u6) as well as the Democratic response (http://bit.ly/2qUH8Js). You can see videos of these speeches, as well as every session, every day on the GPB Newsmaker’s website (http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers).

Governor Deal gave an inspiring message – using the metaphor of planting trees and orchards for future generations – trees and orchards of opportunity. But I also appreciate Minority Leader Trammel’s response in that not all the trees provide shade for all Georgians; something I will be working on as your representative.

Every day is a special day at the Capitol as every day organizations visit us to provide information and to advocate for their cause. Thursday was Wildlife day and as a surprise I got to meet one of my constituents from Athens who was there representing Georgia Department of Natural Resources (http://georgiawildlife.com). Her name is Taylor Brown and we shared a hug and some conversation about how important nature and wildlife is to the fabric of Georgia.

 

Just see of the Representatives and Senators who form part of the Working Families Caucus.

After visiting briefly the Working Families Caucus (which I am happy to say I am a member of) and meeting my official mentor (Rep. Karen Bennett, HD94, https://karenbennettcares.org), I dashed off to spend some time with the folks representing Addiction Recovery Day at the Capitol at Liberty Plaza. You may have already seen my Facebook post about this event. The stories shared remind you how strong those recovering are. Shout outs to two great organizations doing this work – Georgia Association of Community Service Boards and Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. And guess what? I got to meet another constituent – HD117 is all over the Capitol – Tony Sanchez.

 

Rep. Valencia Stovall, myself, our guide, Rep. Bee Nguyen, Rep. Sam Park

I ended Thursday being a VIP guest at the opening of the Rays of Light: Glimpses into the Ismali Imamat (https://the.ismaili/rays-light-exhibition-atlanta) at the Infinity Center in Duluth. There is still time to see this amazing exhibit that highlights the diplomatic achievements of its leader Aga Khan. It was a wonderful experience made better since I was able to share it with some of my colleagues – Rep. Sam Park (HD101, http://www.samforgeorgia.com), Rep. Bee Nguyen (HD89, https://www.beeforgeorgia.com) and Rep. Valencia Stovall (HD74, http://gostovall.com). Our exhibit guide was a very exuberant and passionate Khatija Meghjani, who enthralled us with her stories and her experiences in service around the world. Two quotes from the exhibit by Mawlana Hazar Imam that resonated with me and our current political climate:

“The right to hope is the most powerful human motivation I know.”

“Without cultural identity, social cohesion gradually dissolves and human groups lose their necessary point of reference to relate to each other and with other groups.”

The sponsors of the exhibit will be showcasing Ethics in Action at the Capitol – South Wing Lobby – on Monday, February 26 from 1 – 5 pm (free and open to the Public). Hope I’ll see you there.

Rep. Brenda Lopez and Rep. Park Cannon try to get me in the shot.

So if you are keeping track, that’s 4 days out of the 40 for session – so 36 more to go. But as you can see, being “in session” is just one part of what we do as your representatives in the Capitol. Remember this is the People’s House – it belongs to you – so I hope you will take some time, grab friends, colleagues and/or the kids, and visit us. Would love to see you there!

Now that the legislative session has officially begun, my House colleagues and I will be working diligently to pass meaningful legislation on behalf of all Georgians. 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.

Being interviewed by Mundo Hispanico on the first day of Session.

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. 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.

~ Deborah

 

BONUS: MLK Weekend

This weekend was busy and full honoring the late Martin Luther King, Jr. By recognizing MLK Jr., we are reminded of all of the sacrifices he, and countless others, have made in their efforts to create a more equitable and just world. Honoring King encourages us to continue the efforts of those who came before us–especially those who lost everything in the process.

Judge Patricia Barron and Judge Ryan Hope at the Free Legal Clinic – so grateful for their service.

 

One of MLK’s quotes making its way around social media is “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” I couldn’t agree more.

On Saturday, January 13th, various district judges and attorneys offered their services for free at the first Pop-Up Legal Clinic held at the AME Church on Hull Street. Organized by the Access to Social Justice group, it offered the community and opportunity to speak to an attorney or judge about a particular legal issue at no cost. The next one is Feb. 24th at the Athens Regional Library on Baxter Street.

 

 

fierce performers at the Lydon House.

 

Later that day the Lyndon House in Athens celebrated Visions of MLK with song, dance and poetry. Now in its 7th year, the celebration is as vibrant and essential as ever.

 

 

 

 

The Reverends do a mean duet to preach the message of inclusivity.

Sunday, January 14th offered a variety of events starting with a joint service held at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church whose congregation welcomed those from the Milledge Avenue Baptist Church. The inspiring service was followed by a fellowship lunch.

 

From there I enjoyed a Voices of Truth Concert at the First Presbyterian Church of Athens. I really do not have a voice for singing, but gladly it didn’t matter. I let the professionals do it and I find Gospel music to be so moving.

 

 

 

 

It seems like all of Athens came out and rocked the house.

Bob joined me Sunday evening for the Athens in Harmony concert organized by Knowa and Mokah Johnson to benefit the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement. This is the third year and should not be missed – ever. It showcased a number of duets by local musicians. There were so many highlights I’ll let the photos and Facebook posts do it justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends and fellow volunteers at MLK Day Kickoff

MLK Day on Monday, Jan. 15th started early at the Clark Central High School for the MLK Day of Service Kickoff. We had over fifty volunteers come in to set up for hundreds of volunteers to go out to different sites. T-shirts, breakfast and inspiring words from Ovita Thornton sent them all out with a bang.

Midday saw me in Barrow County at the White Oak Spring Baptist Church in Winder for their MLK service. Bringing together local elected offices – the mayor, city commissioners, and law enforcement – to join the congregation in celebrating the life of MLK and urging all to follow in his footsteps – the event was one I will not miss next year.

 

First ride in a parade and in a convertible! With Rep. Jonathan Wallace.

My last event for MLK that Monday was the Athens MLK Parade and Festival. Such a wonderful way to recognize the many great people doing so much great work in our local communities! Thank you to Jonathan Wallace, my legislative colleague in District 119, for joining us! I also met up with friends such as Beto CacaoOvita Thornton, and Moms Demand Action – GA. And a huge “Thank You!” to the awesome Adam Shirley and Emily MyersStephanie Flores, and Cary Lynne Thigpen for marching in the parade with me and being such a wonderful part of the community of Athens, GA!

 

 

 

Know Johnson and Mokah Johnson – two outstanding citizens of Athens, GA!

After the parade I had the honor to present to Knowa Johnson and Mokah Johnson a GA House Resolution that commends and honors their work. You can find a video, photos and the text of the resolution on our Facebook post about the event: http://bit.ly/2FMav3Z.