Hello HD117. This was crossover week and I really did not know what to expect. They told me it would be hectic – it was. They told me we would be here late – we were. They told me it would be like nothing I’ve ever experienced – they were so right! But at the same time it was exhilarating, exhausting, mentally challenging, and at the end of it all – one of the most amazing experiences I‘ve had as a freshman legislator. Come join me this week on my wild ride.
Monday, February 26, 2018. The week began mild enough. First stop was to see my new friend Butch McDuffie at the Transit Day Breakfast (https://www.athensclarkecounty.com/199/Transit). I was told I would recognize him by his moustache. It was great to have him there as I was not able to get to the grand presentation of 12 new hybrid buses that Athens Transit unveiled last Friday. We spoke about the upcoming transit bills, what we both want to see in terms of regional transit, and solidified our commitment to work together to make sure HD117 has its transportation needs met.
As crossover day was now only two days away, my committee work was accelerating. We had a Judiciary Non-Civil Full Committee Meeting where we go over the bills that already had hearings in our subcommittees. It is in the full committee that we vote to “get them out of committee” and give them the ok to go to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee then determines whether that bill will go to the House floor to be voted on and sent to the Senate.
Back in February, I had a chance to go to the Aga Khan Rays of Light exhibit in Duluth. Today the Aga Khan Development Network (http://www.akdn.org) brought their Ethics in Action exhibit to the Capitol (they have a cool companion App – just search “Ethics in Action” in your app store). I really love the premise of their work and hope to learn more best practices to put into my legislative role. I have taken a number of ethics courses in business, law school and continuing legal education. We cannot regulate thought but we can regulate action, and ethics is all about the actions we take.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018. The busiest time of the day is the early morning. Since most know session usually begins at 10 am, most organizations visiting the Capitol try to squeeze in a breakfast or legislative meeting between 8:00 am and 9:50 am. Today was the Council of Municipal Court Judges Breakfast (http://municipal.georgiacourts.gov). I guess you can say that since I am an attorney, I “fan girl” over judges and justices. Did I ever show you my photo with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg? (Talk about an inspiring, strong, brilliant woman!) Anyway got to meet some more wisdom-full judges and had an interesting conversation about the distracted driving bill and HB999 about not permitting the state to remove individuals who were committed into a mental institution from a no-gun ownership list. (Spoiler alert – we passed both of these bills in the House on crossover day).
Most of you may recall that I am a media and entertainment attorney in my day job so I was very excited to welcome my colleagues form the entertainment industry for the first time as a legislator for Film Day at the Capitol (http://bit.ly/2FToJRm). Entertainment is a $9.5 billion dollar industry for Georgia and we were just named the #1 film production site in the world! However, if we wish to keep it that way we must prevent certain bills from being passed (SB375, allowing adoption agencies to discriminate on the basis of their religion against same sex couples) and we must not permit our legislators to criticize one of our largest employers for sticking to their values (Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s remarks against Delta for severing ties with the NRA: http://bit.ly/2F3ARSj).
Committee work was in full swing today – two meetings, one in the morning and another in the afternoon took up most of my time after session. However I was able to leave in time to make it back to Athens for two community events. The first one was the Athens – Oconee CASA Swearing In Ceremony (http://www.athensoconeecasa.org). I so admire these women (they were all women in this class) who sacrificed their time to be trained and then to take on the responsibility of being “the person” who will be with the child throughout the foster care journey. They are so dedicated. The foster care system is in such need because these children are in such need. This is a good group to support if you can.
Next up was the Never Again Community Conversation supporting Marjory Stoneman Douglas (https://www.facebook.com/events/166486854000630/) organized by the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement’s Mokah and Knowa Johnson. These two are amazing. They respond so quickly to current events and mobilize to take action. The panel consisted of four community members – Athens Police Chief Scott Freeman, Athens-Clarke County School Superintendent Dr. Desmond Means, HD118 Representative Spencer Frye and Shannon Lawhon from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 Crossover Day!!!! You can see video of the entire day and night (we ended after 1:15 am Thursday morning) here: http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers/2018/crossover-day-28. Also there are a number of places you can get lists of bills that passed or failed. I want to mention just a few below that you can advocate for or against. However the highlight of my night/early morning was when I rose to speak at the well in opposition to HB623, a bill that would allow for the collection, storage and sharing of biometric data (fingerprints) with the FBI. I had spoken against this bill in committee and felt I needed to bring some points to the attention of my colleagues – there are a number of privacy and security concerns with this bill and I am happy to report it failed – not once, but twice! You see after a bill is defeated, the author can make a motion to have the bill reconsidered (or voted on again). Because of the lateness of the hour the Speaker of the House called for the reconsideration vote immediately after the author made a motion. There was no time to talk with some of my colleagues to convince them to vote Nay, but the bill was defeated again. I rose up three times to make points against the bill and sense prevailed. I can’t explain the feeling of knowing I was able to kill a really bad bill that would have put in jeopardy high risk information about Georgians. But what felt even better was that this was a bipartisan defeat of a bill – both Democrats and Republicans voted against it to protect all of us. Awesome. You can see my opposition speech here: https://www.facebook.com/DG4GA/posts/588465358171265.
Legislation We Oppose:
House Bill 81 allows hospital authorities to collect on debts owed by the use of an income tax refund setoff collection. The hospital authorities must submit claims to and work through the Department of Community Health to collect debt through an income tax refund setoff. No claims may exceed the amount owed by the debtor under the hospital authority’s applicable financial assistance policy.
Author: Tom McCall
Allows adoption agencies to discriminate on the basis of their religion against same sex couples in adopting.
Legislation We Support
This bill allows a tenant to terminate a residential rental agreement without being subject to penalties when the tenant or the tenant’s minor child is a victim of family violence (generally any felony, stalking, trespass, etc.).
Authored By: Rep. Mandi Ballinger (23rd) Originally HB745 authored by Rep. Scott Holcolm
HB673 is the ‘Hands-Free Georgia Act’. This bill prohibits an individual from physically holding or supporting a wireless telecommunication device or a stand-alone electronic device or reaching for devices in such a way that the driver is no longer seated in a driving position while operating a motor vehicle.
Authored By: Rep. John Carson (46th)
House Bill 332 creates the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and dedicates 0.40 percent of all revenues from the state sales and use tax to the fund. HB332 is the enabling legislation for HR238.
Authored By: Sam Watson
HB605 is the ‘Hidden Predator Act of 2018’. The bill increases the statute of limitations for an action relating to childhood sexual abuse from two to four years from the point that a plaintiff knew or had reason to know that such abuse resulted in injury.
Authored By: Rep. Jason Spencer (180th)
HB803 creates the offense of trafficking a disabled adult or elder person when a person uses deception, coercion, exploitation, or isolation and knowingly recruits, harbors, or transports a victim for the purpose of appropriating the resources of that victim for one’s own or another person’s benefit.
Authored By: Rep. Wendell Willard (51st)
- HB999 (This is a gun safety issue)
HB999 removes the requirement that the Georgia Crime Information Center purge the records of an individual’s involuntary hospitalization from their database after five years have elapsed.
Authored By: Rep. Christian Coomer (14th)
What do you do when crossover day is over, it is 1:30 am in the morning, and you are buzzing with adrenaline? Celebrate of course. Went with a few colleagues to have a toast to a long day and a job well done. Got to bed about a quarter to four in the morning (the time I am usually getting ready to get up). What an experience!
Thursday, March 1, 2018. The next day I was groggy as the full impact of lack of sleep hit me. But two cups of coffee helped and off I went back to the Capitol. This was a morning full of citizen advocacy as it was Lupus Day (sponsored by my friend Rep. Kim Schoefield, https://resources.lupus.org), LGBTQ Day (sponsored by Georgia Equality and Reps. Park Cannon and Sam Park, http://georgiaequality.org), GA Work Credit Lobby Day (http://georgiaworkcredit.org) and the Georgia Cattlemen Association (https://www.georgiacattlemen.org), who hosted a breakfast.
Today my peeps from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce (http://www.jacksoncountyga.com) were at the Capitol in one of my favorite buildings at the Capitol Complex – the Agriculture Building. (Its architecture is stunning and it celebrates the #1 industry in Georgia – Agriculture: http://agr.georgia.gov.) I was able to give a legislative update about crossover day and which bills went through the House. They also had questions about my experience as a freshman legislator. It is hard to describe sometimes especially when they ask do I enjoy it. My answer is a truthful yes, I enjoy this work because I feel I am making a difference in terms of what bills are passed or blocked.
Our Legislative session was shorter than the night before but we had two important bills on our docket: HB918 the Governor’s Tax Bill (that was sent back from the Senate with the Delta tax credit removed, http://bit.ly/2HYE7wl); and the Supplemental 2018 Budget (also sent back from the Senate with a few suggested changes). I want to make it clear that I do not believe it was the correct course of action to “punish” Delta for holding to its values. I do not believe that is the correct role for government and I worry about it setting a dangerous precedent. One of the concerns regarding the Georgia tax bill (and the main reason it was written as it was) was the adverse affect the Federal tax bill would have on Georgians if the legislature did not act. The tax bill passed the House. Representative Terry England, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee gave us a thorough breakdown of the changes the Senate wanted in the Supplemental Budget (HB683, http://bit.ly/2FVmD3r) and laid out what we would send back. We passed that bill too.
Friday, March 2, 2018. District day started with a visit to Watkinsville to Alice Woodruff, potter extraordinaire and our newest artist to be highlighted at the Capitol (http://bit.ly/2CYaTd9). Pieces of her work will be on display in my office for the month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month. Unbeknown to me she is currently working on a sculpture series based on the #Metoo movement. I will be playing a video of her speaking about her work in House Chambers next Thursday, March 8th, the International Day of Women. There will also be a rally in Liberty Plaza that day so hope you can join us at the Capitol.
Next stop that Friday was the Athens-Oconee Paint the Town Red Luncheon at the Athens Country Club (https://www.goredforwomen.org). Thank you to Michele Pearson who gave me the invitation to sit at her table. It was a sea of red and women empowerment. Going Red for Women highlights the number #1 killer of women – heart disease.
The 2017 Special Election feels like ages ago but it was brought to the forefront on Friday with two interviews with UGA Students working on papers for a class project. Their questions were interesting as they inquired about what I thought we did well, what we could have done better, how did we organize our team, and why do I think I won, among others. Hmmmm.
Remember what I wrote about “fan girling the notorious RBG?” Well that was nothing compared to who I got to welcome to my home for the second Facebook Live Friday Forum – author and UGA law school professor Mehrsa Baradaran (http://www.law.uga.edu/profile/mehrsa-baradaran). Prof. Baradaran wrote “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap” (http://bit.ly/2zKhQRY). Our conversation highlighted the history of economic inequality in the US and how we got to where we are today. It was a fascinating conversation. As a new legislator I appreciate that subject matter experts like Prof. Baradaran are willing to share their time and expertise with me so I can learn and then work on good legislation that solves problems instead of creating new ones. These Friday Forums are a way we in the District can explore these difficult topics. If you have ideas and suggestions for topics and speakers please send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see the full Facebook Live discussion on our Facebook page: @DG4GA.
Saturday, March 3, 2018. I try to keep a balance on my weekends between community and some personal time with my family. Most of the time, it leans heavier on the community side, but Bob and I did get to start a new jigsaw puzzle (yes this is my stress relief secret).
The Michael Thurmond Lecture and Black History Month Celebration (http://bit.ly/2FmjWK0) at the Morton Theater (https://www.mortontheatre.com) was my first stop of the afternoon. I had never been in the Morton Theater and what a wonderful reason to be there. Saw so many friends and met new ones. The children’s performances were inspirational and the music was glorious. But it was the lecture by Dr. Alridge that will stay with me as I finish out this session. He focused on whether we will choose chaos or community as we go forward. He brought to the forefront that Martin Luther King, Jr., was not just about social and political activism but also about economic activism with his Poor People’s Campaign (a topic Prof. Baradaran and I never got to because we ran out of time). In addition my friend Magistrate Judge Barron was honored. I left there renewed in my commitment to advocacy work.
Alas, the lecture occurred at the same time as the Art & Feminism talk at the Georgia Museum of Art (http://georgiamuseum.org). I headed there as soon as the lecture was finished but had missed the talk. However I was able to enjoy the Junior Ladies Garden Club Flower Show (http://bit.ly/2H2tJ5h) where these young gardeners created floral arrangements taking inspiration from one of the museum’s art pieces. The Museum is one of the treasures in Athens – free to all and always making the point of highlighting the great artists of our community.
Last week I had two events at the same place and that happened again this Saturday. The Black Business Market (http://bit.ly/2BBEqwr) and Melissa Link’s Re-election Kickoff for Commissioner were both held at Little Kings Shuffle Club. I would just like to commend Little Kings for their community spirit. They are one of the venues in Athens that always opens its doors for the community. Kudos to Little Kings (https://www.facebook.com/lkshuffleclub/).
Last stop of the night was Peace Place’s 18th Annual Gala at the Winder Community Center. Peace Place is a non-profit that assists domestic violence victims and their children in Barrow, Jackson and Banks counties (http://www.peaceplaceinc.org). So glad to be able to support their efforts.
Sunday, March 4, 2018. District 117 is full of community resources. Many of them unknown to those who need them the most. That is why I am always happy to go and visit these resources when I discover them to learn about what they offer and then get the word out on them so people who need them know where to go. Healthcare is so essential in our community. It is not just about who pays and how much, but about quality care so families are healthy. I got to go to the Shifa Clinic Open House (https://www.facebook.com/ShifaClinicATH/) on Hawthorne in Athens and learn first hand about their mission and their services. Please check them out and share their info.
Next up was a visit to Flanigan’s Portrait Studio (https://www.facebook.com/flanigansportraitstudio/) to select a piece by artist and community activist Broderick Flanigan for our artist highlight series. It will be going up in a week so be on the lookout for more information.
Another week down and 11 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.