What is Courage?
Each morning the Senate is in session, we stand together to say the Pledge of Allegiance. We then make a ritualistic turn to the right, face the Georgia flag, and say the Georgia Pledge of Allegiance. In doing so, we reference the Georgia state motto: wisdom, justice and moderation. The three pillars on the Georgia flag symbolize the three branches of government, so we are asking for wisdom for the legislature, justice for the judicial branch, and moderation for the executive branch.
Last year, a group of Republican legislators filed SB 152, which seeks to add the word “courage” to the Georgia pledge. Last year the bill passed the Senate (I voted no), and fortunately, it’s not getting much traction in the House.
Each morning when we say the Georgia Pledge, a group of Republicans now tack the word courage to the end anyway. It makes me wonder, what is their obsession with courage?
As they stand maskless in a giant petri dish of germs, I get the feeling “courage” to them means not feeling afraid in the presence of danger. While that might be what courage looks like on the battlefield, it’s not what courage looks like to me in everyday life. Courage is the ability to be open to your vulnerabilities, which then opens you up to the possibility of transformational change, not only in your own life, but in the lives of others. I witnessed this kind of courage this week. More about that a little later . . .
De-Escalating through Firearm Training
On Monday I filed SB 344, which requires anyone who chooses to possess a firearm to complete firearm safety training, and sets requirements for safe storage. Last year, I successfully worked to gain some Republican support for firearm training, but sadly, this support vanished when the Governor announced his intent to push for permitless carry.
To me, this requirement just makes sense. It reminds me of what I was taught in high school — that rights come with responsibilities. So I say, if you exercise your right to have a firearm, you should responsibly earn your merit badge on firearm safety. It’s as simple as that.
Finding their Voices and Speaking Out
For years, district lines have been gerrymandered in Gwinnett county to retain Republican power in every level of government. But growth in diverse populations in Gwinnett has flipped Republican seats to Democrat — even before redrawing the lines. All five Gwinnett County Commission positions are now represented by people of color, as are three out of five Gwinnett School Board positions.
Now Republicans want to change the rules to get some of their seats back. Your actions helped to tamp down this issue last November during Special Session, but it has reared its ugly head again.
Since November, the people of Gwinnett have spoken — through meetings, surveys, townhalls, and votes. The Gwinnett legislative delegation has finalized their redistricting plan, overwhelmingly approving new maps with minimal changes to school board and county commission districts.
There is a special process for passing local legislation, which all other counties in the state are utilizing for local redistricting. But Gwinnett Republicans in the House are usurping that process, allowing Republicans from outside of Gwinnett to hold the fate of the county commission and school board districts in their hands. In the Senate, the sole Gwinnett Republican senator wants to unilaterally change Gwinnett school board elections from partisan to non-partisan.
On Tuesday morning, I stood with the Gwinnett delegation in a press conference to bring public attention to this now ugly battle for the future of Gwinnett local government.
You can help by calling or emailing the elected leaders listed below (scroll all the way down). Tell them to let the Gwinnett Delegation decide their own fate by using Local Legislation to pass new maps. Also, tell them the people of Gwinnett should decide through a ballot referendum whether their School Board elections are partisan or non-partisan.
The Courage to Tell your Story
In a year when for political reasons it’s difficult to pass meaningful legislation, and for economic reasons money is plentiful, Georgia’s legislative budget process provides perhaps the best opportunity to bring meaningful impact to the lives of Georgians.
Last year I filed SB 208, which proposes a plan that calls for the Dept. of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities to eliminate over the next five years the decades long Disabilities Medicaid waiver waiting list. We’ve named the initiative “Fully Fund in Five.”
Since Georgia’s constitution requires the budget to begin in the House, I teamed up this week with constituent Philip Woody to meet with the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Human Resources.
Philip told me his heartbreaking story of how his son’s intellectual development came to an abrupt stop following what seemed like a typical toddler bump on the head. He spoke to the Chairwoman of the struggles he faced as a father to secure a trust fund large enough to provide for his son’s entire life, and how his own mental health challenges have from time to time made this task more difficult. Philip’s son recently received his Medicaid waiver, but Philip continues to fight for the 7000 other families still waiting for their names to creep up the list.
It took real courage for Philip to share that story of his own vulnerability, and he does not intend to stop fighting until the waiting list is gone. And neither will I. We’ve got each other’s backs on this issue.
Finding Solace is a Sea of Madness
I found this week at the Capitol to be stressful, and my colleagues seemed to agree. As this session serves as a prelude to primary elections, Republicans are beginning to push their wedge issues — designed to both rile up their base and trap Democrats into votes that can be easily misrepresented on fear-based campaign literature. It’s a little like walking through a minefield.
By Tuesday afternoon, I was really feeling the stress. At home, taking a few minutes out to play the piano really calms my brain. I had recently heard that Sen. Kim Jackson of DeKalb county has a piano in her office, so I texted her, telling her I wanted to come play. “Anytime,” she texted back, so I went and played for a while. A few minutes later, a state trooper came by and said he had a complaint about noise. He was joking, and began to tell me stories about his mom who played piano. Since then, several people have told me they enjoyed hearing some live music at the Capitol.
Speaking of mental health, the Speaker of the House announced major legislation to address mental health needs in Georgia. I’m looking forward to learning more about the proposal as it makes its way to the Senate.
Next week the crazy will continue as we’ll be in session Tuesday through Thursday.
Legislative Call List regarding Gwinnett District Lines
You can help by calling or emailing the elected leaders listed below. Tell them to let the Gwinnett Delegation decide their own fate by using Local Legislation to pass new maps. Also, tell them the people of Gwinnett should decide through a ballot referendum whether their School Board elections are partisan or non-partisan.
Gov Brian Kemp
To email his office, go to https://gov.georgia.gov and find the constituent services tab
Speaker David Ralston– Speaker of the House
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan
Rep. Darlene Taylor– Chair of Gov Affairs (where the bills are now assigned)
Rep. Bonnie Rich
Rep. Chuck Efstration
Rep. Tom Kirby
Rep. Timothy Barr
Sen. Lee Anderson – Chair of State & Local Governmental Operations
Sen. Clint Dixon