Hello HD117. Time moves fast and seems to go faster as we get to the final days and yet there is still much to do. This week was a little slower than last week and no overnight debates, but it still was full.
Monday, March 5, 2018. We began this week with a celebration of talented and inspiring women from our districts. The Georgia Women’s Caucus presents the Servant Leader Awards every year. This year I got to honor Margaret Holt from Oconee for her tireless work in the community. Margaret couldn’t make it and sent Pam Davis to represent her.
Talk about inspiration and serendipity, a young woman sat next to me at the table. Turned out to be Janel Green, one of the organizers of the Women’s March in Atlanta and now organizing the March for Our Lives on March 24th (http://bit.ly/2p9M2ym). She was honored by Rep. Michele Henson. We had been trying to meet in person for over a year and we got to by accident! There are a number of March for Our Lives happening around the state, the country, and now, the world. Oconee starts theirs at 11 am (http://bit.ly/2FAM1KJ) and Athens will begin at 1 pm at the Arches (http://bit.ly/2HNbXEg).
When I walked into the Capitol this morning it seemed like a mad house. Why were so many people there? Then I realized it was the first day of qualifying. So proud that this time around there are many women running for office at all levels in the state and that many seats that had gone uncontested for years will now face opposition. I qualified with Rep. Pedro Marin as part of the Georgia Latino Caucus. We were followed around by Hispanic Media and ended up doing three interviews for Spanish television. At the end I was also interviewed by Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (http://on-ajc.com/2GglX8C).
Another big event that happened Monday was that Governor Deal signed the Adoption Bill. This was the bill that went back and forth between the House and Senate last year and finally got through as a pretty clean bill this year. I always see this bill and its passage as an example of the kind of legislation that can be passed when we put the needs of the people before the needs of the party. So many children and families will be helped by this bill. Shout out to Rep. Bert Reeves. http://bit.ly/2I500u3
The rest of the afternoon was spent in Judicial Non-Civil Committee and subcommittee meetings. Usually you have a hearing for a bill in a subcommittee and then it goes before the full committee. That means as a committee we get to hear testimony on the bill and get to question the bill at least two times before a vote on it. The idea of committees is to break down and spread the workload of all of the bills the entire general assembly wants to pass. My committee focuses on crimes, drugs and immigration bills so we usually have a lot to cover. One of the problems of the committee system is a lack of attorney representatives who can understand the legal language of what is being proposed, which means that sometimes bad laws get passed. Each committee has a legislative counsel appointed to it, but they are not experts in the different areas. One day they might draft a bill to create a city council and then next day they are drafting a bill about trafficking.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018. There was no legislative session today. It was considered a committee day. Since my committees had met on Monday I stayed in Athens and conducted some District work. In the evening I attended the Moms Demand Action Athens Chapter meeting (http://bit.ly/2IiKlqP). Got to meet some new people and it was great to relive the rally through photos and the sharing of experiences. I was able to give a legislative update in regards to legislation relating to guns including: HB999 (taking the mentally ill off no-gun ownership lists after 5 years); SB407 Section 4 (governors criminal reform bill and enhanced penalties for certain gun crimes); Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver’s bills to ban bump stocks and assault weapons that did not get out of committee; campus carry, which did not return this session: and Casey Cagle’s attack on Delta because of it cutting ties to the NRA (added to the tax cut bill).
Wednesday, March 7, 2018. One of the things I enjoy at the Capitol is the “invite resolutions” where representatives have the chance to invite certain members of their district to be recognized by the House. I have not done an invite resolution on my own yet, but have done them with others. Today Rep. Pedro Marin, Rep. Lopez, and I welcomed Mike Hernandez to the Capitol. Mike is an entrepreneur and leading figure in his community. If you have ideas as to who should be honored in your community please let me know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, contact information, and why they should be honored.
Children’s Day at the Capitol is something all representatives look forward to and I learned why. So many wonderful organizations with the sole purpose of making childrens’ lives better. I learned about a program where pediatricians provide books to their patients (http://www.reachoutandread.org/georgia/) and various afterschool programs. The one program I felt bittersweet about was the GBI’s program on crimes against children.
Had a quick bite to eat with Rep Brenda Lopez and others at the Georgia College of Emergency Physicians lunch (http://www.gcep.org). From their home page: The Georgia Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians is an association of more than 500 Emergency Medicine physicians. GCEP promotes the highest standards of patient care throughout the state of Georgia through its advocacy and leadership efforts.
Next I was able to catch some of the Urban League of Greater ATL legislative summit (http://ulgatl.org). Their focus was on “Economic Mobility for Georgia Families: New Opportunities to Advance Georgia Families.” As they discussed access to education and opportunities, the conversation circled back to needing to elect the right candidates who can push these initiatives forward.
Another afternoon of committee work. First up the Judiciary Non-Civil Full Committee heard testimony on Marsy’s Law, The Georgia Crime Victim Rights Amendment (SR 146, http://bit.ly/2FKFdh2). This bill outlines certain rights for victims, such as notification when their perpetrator has been released from prison. If it passes out of committee and receives an affirmative House vote, it would still need the Governor’s signature. At that point it would be put on the November ballot as a referendum to be voted on by every Georgia voter as to whether to add it to the Georgia Constitution or not.
Once that hearing was completed I moved to the Judiciary Non-Civil Subcommittee meeting where I was in for a surprise. Remember that fingerprint bill (HB623) that was defeated on cross over day? It was brought back under the guise of a different bill – SB336 – where it was cut and pasted and added verbatim as a substitute. If you look at the bill online (http://bit.ly/2p3jjM4) you will only see the original SB336 bill, not the substitute with the added language. So zombie bills that get resurrected and added to other bills that have nothing to do with them do exist. I tried to put in an amendment to strike the HB623 language but was outvoted by the chair of the subcommittee. It’s not over yet.
Headed back to Athens to attend the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition meeting to give a brief legislative update on SB452, a cruel, mean-spirited bill (http://bit.ly/2FrWPyH). Nicknamed the Ensuring Necessary Deportations (END) Act, the bill “requires a peace officer to take certain actions upon verification that a suspect is an illegal alien; to clarify and require certain actions by the Department of Corrections, sheriffs, municipal custodial officers, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Department of Community Service regarding persons not lawfully present in the United States; to prohibit release from confinement persons who are illegal aliens.” This bill was fast tracked: it was put in the hopper on February 10th, crossed over and was assigned to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. There is an effort to get it out of that committee and into the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee (of which I am a member) where we have a better chance of arguing against it as well as other efforts to just kill it before it goes for a vote. I will keep you posted.
Thursday, March 8, 2018. Another non-legislative day but very busy. First it was International Women’s Day. I wore a purple scarf to show my support of women’s rights but never found the rally that afternoon. In fact, I went to four scheduled meetings where there was no one there! Oh well, onwards.
At 11 am I held a press conference on the HB623 language being added to the SB336 bill (discussed above). I appreciate all of my colleagues from the Democratic Caucus, the Asian-Latino Caucus, and the Georgia Black Legislative Caucus who stood with me that morning including Minority Leader Trammel, Chair Beverly, Reps. Schoefield, Shannon, Nguyen, Wallace, Jackson, and many others. The official press conference was followed by a series of one on one interviews about the danger of Georgia giving the biometric data of its citizens to the FBI with no restrictions. You can see and hear the press conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnG3rNy6rXg
After the interviews I ran across the street back to the Capitol to get to the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce Lunch. My colleagues, Rep. Terry England, Rep. Tim Kirby, and Senator Frank Ginn were already in full swing, answering questions and giving their thoughts on current and upcoming legislation – especially the budget. Then they turned to me. I have a slightly different take than my colleagues because I do not believe we put all we could into the budget concerning education and expansion of healthcare.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a Judiciary Non-Civil Committee meeting, met with Peggy Duke from the Georgia Women’s Policy Institute, did my call-in to Rick Dunn’s WXGA Radio show and ended the day at the United Campus Works of Georgia (website?) meeting, back in Athens.
Friday, March 9, 2018. Since there was no legislative session on Thursday, this Friday I did a morning order to recognize the day and recognize the new HD117 artist of the month, potter Alice Woodruff. Hope you go to my Facebook and see her video and photos. We have a wonderful display of her work at my office now and so I invited all in the Chamber to come for a visit.
The big thing on the legislative agenda was to vote on the 2019 budget. It is an interesting process as we have to adjourn being the House and become a committee of all to discuss the bill and then adjourn the committee and return to being the house to vote on. There were passionate speeches made by my colleagues Rep. Derrick Jackson, Rep. Brenda Lopez, Rep. Kim Schoefield, and Rep. David Dreyer as to why this budget falls short of fulfilling the needs of all Georgians – most of their points focused on the lack of expansion of Medicaid and the less than full funding of education. You can watch the discussion and their speeches here: http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers/2018/day-32.
By that time it was close to 2 pm and we had not had lunch. So a bunch of us headed back to the CLOB to the 6th floor cafeteria to grab a bite. It was a Friday afternoon, the budget had passed, and we were all a bit tired. But fellowship does wonders for your disposition and we ended our week at the Capitol on a high note.
Which was a good thing, because by the time I got home the cold I was trying to battle won out. Bob got me some hot tea and meds and I fell asleep watching the movie Coco (http://movies.disney.com/coco). The weekend was spent in recovery.
Another week down and 8 more Legislative Days to go.
Quick Note: Next week on Friday and Saturday I will be hosting District Drop-In Days at my Athens office. No appointments necessary. Just come in, sign up and take a seat. I will speak with all who get there before the cut off time.
Friday, March 16, 10 am – 8 pm (must be signed-in by 7 pm to be seen).
Saturday, March 17, 10 am – 3 pm (must be signed-in by 2 pm to be seen).
Address: 337 S Milledge Ave., Suite 101, Athens, GA 30605.
Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/540678549650747/
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.