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