Mustering the Troops
North DeKalb Legislative Town Hall: Join me, Senator Sally Harrell, and Dekalb House Reps Scott Holcomb, Karen Lupton, Shea Roberts and Long Tran, Thursday, February 23rd, 7 pm in the Arrow Creek Room oat 4445 Buford HIghway in Chamblee. Register here.
Indivisible Marching Buddies Legislative Update: If you need a virtual option, you can register and attend a Legislative Update featuring me and Scott Holcomb’s Chief-of-Staff Ann Abromowitz, at 7pm, Wednesday, February 22nd.
Read on to find out why you need to know what’s going on and what you can do!
Putting on the Combat Boots
Legislative Day 20: It’s the halfway point in the trenches of the 40-day legislative session. The political terrain is getting rough, so it’s time to bring out the combat boots. There’s hope that the new House leadership may neutralize these threats, but that’s uncharted territory. In the meantime, we have to suit up for the battles ahead.
Doing Reconnaissance on Committees
Committee Assignments: This session, the new Senate top brass relieved me of some of my prior Committee duties, reassigning me to Committees that hear fewer bills. Sidelining certain Senators is an all too common tactic. Two members of the Senate Democratic Leadership were removed from the powerful Rules committee — the committee that decides which bills move on to the Senate floor for a vote. Now Senate Rules is only 17% Democratic, which, along with more right-wing Committee Chairs, leaves the gates unguarded and wide open for lots of bad bills. Democratic bills from both the House & Senate will hit a bottleneck in the Senate when there are more bills than motions available from Democratic Rules Committee members who make motions to move bills forward.
My team and I are using the time not spent in Committee to scout out the status of the most problematic bills so we can better plot our defensive strategy. It’s too bad I’m no longer on the Senate Ethics Committee. I would have made a strong ally on a new Republican bill to do away with barcodes on ballots, something I fought hard for when we considered a new voting system for the state four years ago.
Honoring False Heroes: Clarence Thomas and Kelly Loeffler
Tuesday was a tough day on the Senate floor as we battled highly partisan bills. Democrats were outgunned on SB 69, a bill to erect a statue of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a native of the coastal town of Pin Point, Georgia, on Capitol grounds. We fought this bill last year, so once again, my colleagues argued that the People’s House is no place for statues of polarizing figures like Justice Thomas whose rulings have undermined civil and women’s rights. Last year’s bill never came up for a vote in the House, but we don’t know if we can count on that again.
Senate Republicans also passed SR 65 honoring former US Senator Kelly Loeffler and her partisan voting group, Greater Georgia, that explicitly registers Conservative voters. It’s one thing to recognize the service of a former elected official, but another to honor partisan aims.
Heavy Casualties in Healthcare
The fight for greater healthcare access took another hit this week as the Senate passed SB 65, the Governor’s bill to replace the federal healthcare.gov insurance marketplace with a Georgia state insurance market, GeorgiaAccess.gov. Unlike healthcare.gov, the new Georgia Access website does not compare insurance options, making it harder to know which plan is best and forcing consumers to call multiple brokers individually. Brokers can then sell plans that give them more profit, and consumers fewer benefits.
This week, we received reports that Grady Hospital is at full capacity and Piedmont Hospital is taking its overflow, all of which is a direct result of the closure of Wellstar’s Atlanta Medical Center and the state not fully expanding Medicaid.
Navigating a Minefield: Gang Bills
The Governor’s tough on crime and gang-related bills have been a mixed bag. Democrats presented a united front against mandatory minimum sentencing bills, which we know only increases our prison population with non-violent offenders and disproportionately affects people of color. But some of the bills have good stipulations. It’s been hard to decide how to vote.
This week brought both kinds of bills. SB 44, a mandatory minimum bill to increase penalties for gang recruitment, passed mainly along party lines. But SB 12, an “omnibus” gang bill had several provisions that Democrats support like prohibiting those convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm and increasing penalties for those that abuse disabled adults. Most of the Democratic Caucus, including me, voted yes on that bill, but some opposed.
Gaining Ground for the Disabilities Community
The highlight of my week was coming together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle for a press conference on “Wages and Waivers”. It was an incredible show of support for an issue that was barely getting any attention from lawmakers and state leaders just a few years ago.
It’s been 25 years since the US Supreme Court ruled that institutionalizing adults with intellectual & developmental disabilities (IDD) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since then, Georgia has struggled to provide the infrastructure that allows Georgians with IDD to live, work and play in their own homes and communities. At the press conference, I announced SB 198, my bill to create an IDD Innovation Commission that will bring together stakeholders and subject matter experts to delve into these complex issues.
SB 198 has strong bipartisan support. The bill must pass the Health & Human Services Committee during the next two weeks in order to become law this year. Please email and call members of the Senate HHS Committee and urge them to support SB 198.
Scouting the Terrain
There are lots of bad bills lurking ahead — bills on religious liberty, banning homeless camps, eliminating cashless bail, tougher penalties on crime, state preemptions of local housing ordinances, transgender treatment bans, limiting class discussion on sex & gender, elimination of hospital regulations (certificate of need or CON), punishing District Attorneys using prosecutorial discretion, and limiting access to the courts (tort reform) — just to name a few (Whew)!
The Road Ahead
If these bills pass the Senate before Crossover Day, we’ll have another chance to shoot them down in the House. Please keep watch, read and share this Snapshot around, especially when we call on you to take action!