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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.