DeKalb Day 2024

Screeching to a Halt

The State Budget Slows Down the Senate

The Senate Majority Leader set the pace for the week Monday morning when he announced that the House was late in sending the FY25 budget to the Senate. He also said that since the Senate was ahead of the House in passing their bills, the Senate would temporarily pause floor votes on House bills. It was Friday (legislative day 32) before we voted on any bills on the floor of the Senate — quite a change of pace from Crossover Day.

While the slower pace gave us all a chance to breathe, we know it only worsens the inevitable time crunch leading into Sine Die on March 28th.

Democratic-Sponsored Bills Slow on the Uptake

  • Republican Bills Passed by the Senate: 131
  • Democratic Bills Passed by the Senate: 10

The number of Democratic bills Republicans have allowed to pass the Senate is abysmally low. Part of the problem is that the proportion of Democrats on Standing Committees is generally not reflective of our proportion in the Senate body. For example, Democrats make up 41% of the Senate, but only 22% of the Senate Rules Committee. That means we have four positions on this powerful Committee when we should hold seven. Each time Rules Committee members are told they can choose a certain number of bills to move to the Senate floor, Democrats get fewer picks.

Stopping a Bad Bill

This week a few of my Democratic colleagues and I got a rare opportunity to gut a bad portion of a bill in Committee. Several Republicans failed to show up for the meeting, leaving Democrats with the majority vote. HB 589 was a three-part “good government” bill. Two parts were just fine, but the third part got our hackles up. It required the state to purchase web-based software that allows Georgia taxpayers to enter their total tax bill into a program, which then reveals a breakdown of where the money is spent. To our amazement, the bill author brought the owner of the company that makes this software to testify alongside him.

So we quizzed the bill author and his associate on estimated costs — $400,000 for the startup and $100,000 maintenance costs each year — which seemed exorbitant for such a simple program. I moved to remove the “bad” part of the bill by striking the entire section. The amendment passed 4-3, saving taxpayers almost half a million dollars. The Committee Chairman looked surprised — I’m not sure he realized his Republicans were outnumbered!

The Senate Republicans have a Brass Elephant they award daily to the Senator who did the best job representing the GOP. This week, my colleagues told me that if there was a Brass Donkey award, I would have won it!

GOP Blocks Medicaid Expansion, Again

This year, Democrats hoped that Republicans would be willing to consider Medicaid expansion. We hoped we could follow North Carolina’s example, negotiating changes to Georgia’s Certificate of Need process (which regulates hospital expansions) for expanding Medicaid. We now have HB 1339, a well-negotiated set of revisions to our Certificate of Need rules, but Medicaid expansion is off the table. Republicans have only agreed to study it in the interim. As if it needs further study. SMH

Annexations Slow to a Halt

Here’s a bit of local politics. For as long as I’ve known, Doraville has had several “islands” of unincorporated DeKalb county within its city borders. I’m not sure anyone still knows how it got this way, but last spring the city of Doraville asked local legislators to help them clean up some of those lines. I drafted and passed legislation through the Senate to fix this “swiss cheese” map, including a referendum vote in November, allowing the people in those areas to decide if they want to be part of Doraville.

Sadly, these bills face opposition in the House. DeKalb County leaders seem quite antsy about any annexations these days. I hope before the end of the session they can see that this small referendum is the right thing to do.

Election Season Gathers Pace

This week was “Qualifying Week” in Georgia, which is when candidates sign up to run for office. “Qualifying” is really a misnomer because all you have to do is pay some money and sign an affidavit that you live in the correct district and don’t owe money to the state. It’s easier to qualify as a candidate for office than it is to become a voting member of our local Democratic Committee, where they actually check things like your voting record and ensure you haven’t given any money to or endorsed Republican candidates.

This year, I have both Primary (May) and General (November) election opponents. I’m glad I took a break and rested last summer because this year I’ll be working hard on my reelection campaigns!

I am not able to accept donations until after the legislative session is over, but I will gratefully accept your financial support starting on March 29th. In the meantime, watch your email box for an invitation to help out with my campaign, and please sign up.

What’s Next: Help These Bills Get Moving

This week, Representative Scott Hilton agreed to carry SB 198 in the House — the bill to create an Innovation Commission on Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. It’s awaiting a vote in the House Public Health Committee, so please contact Chairwoman Sharon Cooper ( or 404-656-5069) to ask her to put SB 198 on her Committee agenda.

This Wednesday, March 13th, Georgia’s “Donna’s Law,” aka SB 522, will have a hearing in the Senate Public Safety Committee at 1:00 pm in room 450 in the Capitol. There will also be a press conference that day at 3:00 pm in the Legislative Office Building, room 203. Senator Elena Parent and I co-sponsored SB 522, which allows people with suicidal ideation to voluntarily place themselves on the FBI’s “Do Not Sell” list to protect themselves from making a hasty decision that would end their life. We welcome all advocates to join us to testify in favor of the bill and to stand with us at the press conference.

Don’t forget to vote in the Presidential Primary on March 12th if you haven’t already (myself included). After Sine Die, there are only four weeks before Early Voting starts for the May Primary Election.

Stay tuned until next week, when the pace is sure to speed up!


Signing "Qualifying" papers to run for another term in the Senate (on my birthday)!
Signing Qualifying papers to run for another term in the Senate (on my birthday)!


Tuesday was DeKalb County Day at the Capitol. It was good to see county staff, the CEO and the Commissioners!
Tuesday was DeKalb County Day at the Capitol. It was good to see county staff, the CEO and the Commissioners!


The Senate GOP brass elephant, awarded and passed along to the "best" GOP Senator each day.
The Senate GOP brass elephant, awarded and passed along to the “best” GOP Senator each day.