The Georgia Senate Goes to the Salon
A Bad Hair Day
A touch of humor erupted this week on the Senate floor Monday morning that lightened my load.
Cosmetology Licensing: Last summer a Senate Study Committee conducted a critical review of all Georgia’s licensing laws. Out of that work came SB 354, which proposes to eliminate licensing requirements for the folks that wash, dry, & style hair, and those who apply makeup. The Senate Democratic women tried hard to explain to our male colleagues why some licensing requirements are still necessary for safety reasons.
Our Group Chat was rather colorful:
“You can rip out whole sections of people’s hair with hair extension glue!”
“The men are trying to ruin our hair!”
“This is why we need more women in office!”
After plenty of hair jokes, the bill passed, 38 to 15.
A Hair Bill Left Undone: SB 82, called the “Crown Act,” is a bill that protects Black Georgians who wear natural hairstyles from discrimination. Senate Republicans refuse to move it forward.
Moving Bills Are a Thing of Beauty
Just when things seem impossibly stuck, circumstances change and doors fly open.
Georgians with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Innovation Commission: Last year, I couldn’t get SB 198, my Disabilities Commission bill, to move at all. This week the bill passed unanimously through the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.
We were told we had the votes to pass the bill out of Committee, but we lined up a handful of advocates anyway who shared compelling stories. The Commission is modeled after the late Speaker David Ralston’s successful Behavioral Health Innovation Commission, whose recommendations resulted in meaningful mental health reform. Next week, I’ll push the bill through the Senate Rules Committee to move SB 198 to the Senate floor.
Children & Play: This week, Republican Chairman Clint Dixon, who leads the Senate Education and Youth Committee, became the second signer on SB 432, a bill I authored that requires recess every day for elementary and middle school students, ensuring kids get adequate break time even on days when they have a structured PE class.
When I glanced down at the bill and saw my signature next to Sen. Dixon’s signature I did a double take. Sen. Dixon and I have radically different politics, yet we are both able to see that children need unstructured free-time during the school day. I felt an ounce of hope for the future of our country.
The next step is to get SB 432 on the agenda for a vote in the Education Committee (nice to have the Chairman’s support).
Advocates Make Cut and Dry Pleas for Healthcare
At the Ropes: While the Senate was busy debating sports betting, I spent time at the “ropes” talking with constituents who want us to fix healthcare. The “ropes” are located just outside the chamber doors where the Senate operates the “page” program. As we are able, we leave the chamber to have conversations with constituents “across the rope-line.”
Among these constituents were St. Pius Catholic School students who made impressive arguments for closing the gaps in healthcare. I also met Brookhaven constituent Toi Irvin and her son Evan, who were advocating with the American Heart Association. Evan, who is Evander Holyfield’s son, collapsed at school due to a rare and deadly undiagnosed heart condition, so his mom was telling their story and advocating for better preparedness and training.
Senator Warnock: Senator Warnock visited the Senate Democratic Caucus this week, emphasizing to us the importance of continuing our fight for Medicaid expansion. In the chamber, he reminded the full Senate that he helped secure $1.2 billion in federal funding incentives for Georgia’s Medicaid expansion. Some Democratic U.S. Senators did not want to reward Georgia with higher incentives since they built their own Medicaid programs on less lucrative federal contributions. Those incentives have not yet swayed Governor Kemp.
Speaking of Healthcare… Thursday night, at a dinner sponsored by the Georgia State University Health Policy Center, I sat next to the House Health Committee Chairman. When he said he needed to call an Uber to get to his condo, I offered to drive him since it was on my way home. As I drove, I made sure to mention my disabilities bill, since it might end up in his Committee. This is how you make friends and get things done at the Capitol!
Higher Ed Funding Needs a Makeover
Tuesday, I spoke at a United Campus Workers press conference about the need to fully fund higher education back to the levels it was funded in 2000. Currently, higher ed funding is 31.5% less than it was — making college less attainable for too many Georgia students.
I also had very positive meetings throughout the week with key Republican leaders regarding needs-based scholarships that we’ve decided to name “Good Faith Grants.” We know that Governor Kemp’s Georgia Match program will identify kids who have proven themselves capable of going to college, but fall through the cracks because they just can’t afford it.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Thursday looked to be a short day with just three bills on the floor. But it turned out to be a very long day in the Chamber with no lunch! We had vigorous debates on sports betting (SB 386), the Gwinnett county City of Mulberry (SB 33), and the final Conference Committee Report on “The Big Bad Bail Bill” (SB 63).
I find it sad we spend so much time on sports betting when we have so many pressing needs. In the past, sports betting was introduced with an accompanying voter referendum, but now Republicans have decided it doesn’t need a referendum. I voted no on the bill.
What’s Up Next Week? It was nice to have a lighter week, but it probably won’t last. Monday we are not in session due to the funeral of Rep. Richard Smith, Chairman of House Rules, who died suddenly last week from a short illness.
What’s on the horizon? Governor Kemp’s SB 362 will make it hard for labor unions to come to Georgia, SB 438 will once again address transgender kids and sports, as well as bathrooms and other facilities, and SB 390, which removes American Library Certification and funding from public libraries statewide will be heard in one of my Committees. Evidently Senate Republicans think the leader of the ALA is a Marxist, so libraries are evil.
So much for light reading. I’ll let you know the next plot twist.
Page Program: If you know someone who would like to serve as a page (ages 12 – 18), please let my administrative assistant, Kathlene Dorking, know at 404-463-2260 or email@example.com.