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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 email@example.com. 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.
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.