Using a Megaphone
Being political means taking a risk and using your voice to communicate a shared vision based on values. For me, using the Senate to amplify my voice has been a journey of growth!
New Video Launch: I’ll be honest, I’d much rather write a newsletter than record a video. But young people take in their content through “reels” and it’s important to reach this audience. So I have challenged myself to “step out of my comfort zone” to create regular video content. This week we launched “What’s It To You?” a video series aimed at teaching young people why state government matters.
So much goes into making just one video — finding the right setting, lighting, wardrobe, makeup, script writing, filming and editing. Two of my neighbors, Mria Dangerfield and Stephanie Bogle have been instrumental in helping me. Our first video did well on Instagram and generated some interesting comments – people are hungry to tell politicians what they think!
If you haven’t already, please follow me on Instagram (@sallyharrellga) and share my videos and encourage others to do the same!
Voicing Objections to Last Minute Voting Machine Changes
Banning Barcodes, SB 189: This week, the debate about ballot barcodes came full circle. In 2019, when we debated the new voting machine bill, I introduced an amendment in committee to eliminate the barcode, arguing the public can’t read barcodes to verify their vote is correctly recorded. When the Republicans all voted down my amendment, I warned them this would come back to bite them.
I was more than happy to remind them of that when I delivered the Minority Report against SB 189 this week. The time to eliminate barcodes was then. I agree with our Secretary of State that there is no time to make this change with a presidential election around the corner.
Calling the Question: When debate on SB 189 began after lunch, the Republicans weren’t in their seats, so one of my Democratic colleagues moved to “call the question,” which brought the bill to an immediate vote. But obviously a group text went out, because Republicans streamed into the chamber like ants while the Lt. Governor stalled. Republicans passed the bill with 29 votes – the bare minimum needed to pass a bill.
Narrowing the Vote Gap
This year I’ve noticed Republicans frequently having only the minimum 29 votes to pass their bills. While Democrats aren’t yet the majority, we’ve narrowed the gap significantly. Republicans have to be careful to stay close to their seats because they don’t have votes to spare. This is progress! Your work is making a difference.
A Visit from a Republican Chairman Speaks Volumes
It’s not often that a member of the majority party visits with the Democratic Caucus. This week a Republican Chairman, knowing he needs our votes, came to tell us about a Constitutional Amendment Resolution he’s sponsoring. Constitutional amendments require a 2/3rd vote for passage. This gives us leverage for negotiations for things that we want.
The Disabilities Community Gets Loud Again
Wednesday began with a press conference for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities Advocacy Day. Our message was “Getting the Job Done.”
Later, I used my voice in the Senate well to encourage my colleagues to keep an eye out for our disability advocates. When I was called out to the rope line myself, an advocate saw me and said, “We don’t need to talk to you. You’re driving the train!”
Senate Democrats Sound Off on Gun Holiday and Anti-Union Bills
Tax Holiday for Guns: Our floor debates have been stronger and more substantive this year, thanks to the quality speeches of Senate Democrats. This week, we debated SB 344, a 5-day tax holiday for gun sales. One Democratic Senator argued that more Georgians would benefit from a tax holiday on diapers and formula, menstrual products, and school supplies like we used to have in Georgia. Once again, the voices of women legislators colored the debate on the Senate floor!
The Governor’s Anti-Union Bill: On Thursday, we had an hours-long debate on SB 362, Governor Kemp’s bill to prohibit companies that take state incentives from voluntarily recognizing new labor unions. Democrats argued that this bill preempts the National Labor Relations Act that protects labor and business’ rights to choose one of two options to recognize unions — a voluntary recognition process or a secret ballot process — and will ultimately waste taxpayer dollars in court challenges.
Several Democrats shared their personal positive experiences with unions and how they were responsible for good wages, benefits, and employee protections. Overall, unions are becoming more popular. A 2023 Gallup poll found that 67% of Americans approve of labor unions. Younger people are recognizing the importance of unions. My oldest child lost a job for trying to start a union and my younger child participated in a picket line for professors at his university the same day we debated SB 362.
Calling Out Government Overreach
The Marxist & Lesbian American Library Association: In the Government Oversight Committee, we heard testimony on SB 390, a bill that would prohibit local libraries from purchasing materials from the American Library Association (ALA) and no longer require library directors be ALA accredited. The ALA recently became a lightning rod for the right because they don’t approve of its director.
SB 390 came from the author’s experience in his community with a librarian who applied for an ALA grant that included a request for LGBTQ books. When the Senator spoke with the librarian and expressed his concern about the material, she was evidently unapologetic.
I told the bill author about my own personal experience finding “advanced” books in the young adult section of our library before I thought my kids were ready. But all I needed was a helpful resource like the website “Common Sense Media” that rates books, websites and games, to help parents understand what is age-appropriate. The solution to this problem could be as simple as putting up posters directing parents to this helpful resource instead of trying to institute a statewide overreaction to what should be a local and parental decision.
How to Make Your Voices Heard
Lately, it feels like the avenues for making your voice heard at the Capitol are getting more difficult. Email is largely ineffective, Republican bills are pushed through fast, and committee chairs aren’t allowing many hearings.
But we cannot be deterred. The best way to “Be Loud” these days is to show up to the rope lines and call out legislators to discuss an issue you’re passionate about. Grab a buddy and make a day of it.
You can also join one of the many Lobby Days held by advocacy organizations. They start in the morning, train you on the issue and how to speak to legislators. Find an organization that fits with your area of interest and register for their event.
There are lots of upcoming Lobby Days this month:
- Georgia Reproductive Justice Advocacy Day by SisterSong, Planned Parenthood SE, and others. Thursday, February 15th. Register here.
- Georgia ERA Day, by the ERA Coalition. Wednesday, February 21, Register here.
- Moms Demand Action for Gunsense Advocacy Day, February 21, Register here.
- Medicaid Coverage Expansion Day, Cover Georgia, Monday, February 26, Register here.
If you have ideas about how to use your voice to influence what happens at the Gold Dome, please “reply” to this Snapshot email and share! I’m always looking for ways voters and advocates can influence the process!
Finally, tune in to Georgia Public Broadcasting to see me on “Lawmakers” this Monday night, Feb. 12th, at 7pm.