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.
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/.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.