Working Smart

I’ve never read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” but I think I’ve been doing some of it anyway!

Habit 6: Synergy

The Good Faith Grant: A couple of years ago a group of high school counselors reached out to legislators to discuss the need for a comprehensive scholarship program for students who have met the criteria to attend college, but don’t have enough money.  My colleague Senator Nan Orrock, who has been one of my mentors for many years, joined us and we began meeting regularly in a workgroup.

Last month, one of those school counselors called me in her new capacity as an Education Policy Analyst at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GPBI). She wanted to know if we could introduce legislation this session based on the groundwork we had been doing.

We finally dropped the bill into the “hopper” on Friday and it became SB 526. The lead sponsor is the Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. This is a bipartisan bill.

We could not have achieved this success without all of us acting as a team. SB 526 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Higher Education Committee this coming week.

“Donna’s Law” Voluntary Gun Registry: This week I overheard Senator Elena Parent talking about a bill she was working on to create a voluntary “do not sell” gun registry for people at risk for suicide. I’ve actually been working on this issue for a couple of years, but have been unable to get a Republican co-sponsor.

“Donna’s Law” is named for Donna Nathan, a Louisanna woman who googled “gun stores in New Orleans,” drove to a gun store, purchased a gun, and hours later shot herself. Designed for people with chronic mental health issues, “Donna’s Laws” have been passed in three states and are pending in several others.

Senator Parent and I decided to team up. We compared research, finished drafting Senator Parent’s bill and decided to approach various Republican Chairman to request a hearing. Since I have a good working relationship with the Chairman of Public Safety and had previously discussed this initiative with him, Senator Parent and I went together to ask him for a hearing. We got a resounding “yes”!

We dropped the bill in the hopper together, and it is now SB 522. It has been several years since the Senate has had a hearing on a gun bill that decreases, rather than increases, the number of guns in the state.

As Senator Orrock said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In the Georgia General Assembly, we must go fast AND far!

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Early Bird Gets the Worm: If you ask my husband, he will tell you that I am NOT a morning person. However, I was in front of the camera bright and early on a rainy Monday morning to film the second installment of my new video series. This one is on the state budget. You can watch it here. If you haven’t followed me on Instagram yet, please do —  so we can get our video out to a wider audience.

I ended Monday the same way I started — in front of the camera on GPB’s Lawmakers where I spoke about SB 198, my bill to create an Innovation Commission for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

SB 198, Disabilities Commission: By the way, I need your help to move this bill along. Call and email Republican leaders on this list and encourage them to move SB 198 to the Senate floor before Crossover Day. There are suggested speaking points on the document to guide you, but make it your own. Personal stories always get the most attention.

Immigration is a Time Suck: Monday the Senate spent half the day debating SR 543, the “Blaming President Biden for Congressional Republicans’ Inability to Run A Government” resolution. That’s not the name of course, but that’s what we called it. It was a pure messaging move by the Republicans to criticize President Biden on immigration.

The debate went on so long they had to move the remaining bills to the next day. Overall, it was an enormous waste of time.

Instead of sitting through the debate, I spent time outside the chamber working on local legislation.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

It’s About Time — Updating DeKalb County’s Charter. Between legislative sessions I served on the Dekalb County Charter Review Commission. The Commission held 22 meetings over 18 months with lots of public input. We poured over DeKalb’s 75-page charter that hadn’t been updated in decades. It was so outdated, there was a reference to utilizing chain gangs and it stated the CEO is still being paid what he was in 1992!

The 15-member Commission discussed the form of government (CEO vs. County Manager) and the number of seats on the County Commission. To make these changes, a two-thirds vote was required, and none of the large proposed changes met that threshold. We did agree on a number of substantive changes that will result in smoother county operations with increased accountability.

This week, I paired up with a Commission member who is an attorney and who knows county law — he is now working with Legislative Counsel to draft the local bill that will make these changes after voters approve them in a November ballot referendum.

So little time — City Annexations.  I’ve been working with Doraville leaders since last spring to draft annexation legislation to clean up city lines in three separate geographic “islands” in the city. The streets in these areas had been cut out of Doraville for decades causing service delivery problems for DeKalb.

Then a couple weeks ago, Chamblee leaders asked for a referendum for annexation of Embry Hills. Local bills always take more time than you might expect, so I doubt we’ll be able to pass an annexation bill for Embry Hills this year.

Next Up

Next up: I hope to have two education bills heard in Committee next week. In addition to the Good Faith Grant bill, the Senate Education and Youth Committee will hear SB 432, a bill to ensure that our younger students get unstructured recess everyday. Georgia law already mandates at least 30 minutes of recess, but only on days that students do not have PE. Research says PE is not the same as recess in terms of how children’s brains take in and retain information.

Crossover Day, the last day for bills to pass their first chamber in order to get to the next chamber this year, is February 29th. The last day of this session, Sine Die, is March 28th