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

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

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

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

 

 

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

With GA School Superintendent.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

Recognizing the Student Leaders for the March for Our Lives

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Page Liam Abbott

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

With Rep. Bennett and Henson

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

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

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

Deborah

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Another week down and 5 more Legislative Days to go.

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

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

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

Deborah

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

 

Committees, Caucuses and Legislation Update

 

 

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

 

 

Committees

Caucuses

 

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

 

Legislation Signed Onto

 

 

 

Legislative Week 3 (Jan. 22 – 28, 2018)

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

Rep. Wallace and I with the Moms Demand Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Rep. Renitta Shannon

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

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

They call us the Super 6.

 

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

 

 

 

Rep. Schofield, I and a National Guardsman.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

At the ARLS READ Poster Photo Shoot

 

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

 

 

Dr James Porter and UGA Office of Sustainability Director Kevin Kirsche

 

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

 

 

Pat Priest and others.

 

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

 

 

 

Aida Taina and Valeria Bell from the ARLS.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Deborah

 

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

 

 

Democracy for America

Screen Capture of Democracy for America Gonzalez Page

Screen Capture of Democracy for America Gonzalez Page

Endorsements are a part of the political campaign process.  When an organization or individual endorses a candidate they are saying they agree with what the candidate stands for and that the candidate is aligned with their values.

Democracy for America is considering endorsing Deborah.  Part of their process is to make sure the candidate has community support.

If you would like to show your support of Deborah’s candidacy please click below and let DFA know.  It will also list information about why Deborah is running and what positions she holds on certain issues.

Thanks!

Democracy for America

http://www2.democracyforamerica.com/endorsement_applicants/1083-deborah-gonzalez-for-georgia

 

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Why am I running for office?

Cardboard fan with logo on it with blue tinsel on the side.

Photo of candidate with Wonder Woman on shoulder
There are two questions I am asked as soon as someone finds out I am running for office – “Why?” and “Why now?”

Both questions are valid and even though I know the answers in my gut it is a bit more difficult to put them into words so that they can be easily understood.

Why?

The simple answer is because someone needs to run and it is not easy to make that commitment. We need to be at the table. We need our voice to be strong and clear. We need to do this. We need to have representatives that truly listen to those in their districts and stand for the issues and concerns of their constituents, the people who elect them.

But not everyone can run – it takes the right person in the right circumstances to put aside their life and make the commitment to something greater than themselves – to their community. I am a military daughter. As I watched my father in his service – first in Vietnam and then the National Guard and Army Reserve, I was taught that when our country calls, we answer in the way we can. And the way I can answer right now is by running, winning and serving.

So many decisions concerning our lives in this country and state are being made without consideration of all citizens. Everyone needs to be heard. We need to work together to make the changes that need to be made – especially regarding how we take care of our citizens – from healthcare to education to economic prosperity.

Why now? 

For some very rare and special people they know what they want to do with their lives at a very early age and they follow a path and do it.  I admire them for that.  For others, the path has a lot of twists and turns because the end point is not always so clear.  I was one of the latter.

At the beginning of my career I needed to provide for my children, many years as a single mother.  Later I needed to continue to provide while going to college and then law school at night and on the weekends. I took various positions in academia and corporate America and finally reached the point of opening my own legal practice.

I enjoy my work as an attorney – helping my clients protect the value of what they create and the businesses they start-up.  But I realized it hasn’t been enough. I wanted to be more involved in the community.  I wanted to make a difference.

As I looked at the numbers, researched the district, and listened to many in the communities I came to a realization. I’ve always told my clients and colleagues I will not ask them to do anything I was not willing to do. So here it was. What could I do? I could run. I could do this for all of those who could not. I also learned that I could win – with supporters who have come out and continue to raise their hands, roll up their sleeves, help me with the campaign work, open their wallets, introduce me to others, and say “Count me in!” I learned I was not alone – not in what I was thinking or feeling or in my desire to change the relationship between government and its citizens for us here in Georgia.

Now what?

So now here I stand, asking you to join me in this journey – the first steps of a long path to design and develop the future we owe our children, our state, ourselves. With your help – we can do this together.

~ Deborah

Note:  This blog has been edited to try to clarify points based on questions and comments I have received.  But things that are written can sometimes be misunderstood or as they say “clear as mud.”  So if you have a question, comment, or want to discuss an issue or concern you have please reach out to me and the campaign on the Contact Us page.  As I will be your representative I really want to hear from you.