Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

We’re almost to the halfway point of this year’s legislative session, and there’s a bunch of stuff happening. Some of it’s upsetting, while some of it is just plain silly. One of my tasks as a legislator is to sort the big stuff from the small stuff, so I can choose to focus my attention on things that really matter.

The Rough Stuff: Redistricting and Cityhood

Redistricting: Monday morning began with more redistricting drama — this time the Public Service Commission (PSC). The new map that passed the House drew out one of my constituents who had just announced her campaign to run against the district’s incumbent. She’s now in a different district that doesn’t have an election until 2024. As the week went on, additional drama unfolded in Cobb, Fulton, Bibb-Macon and Gwinnett. 

I’m concerned for my Black colleagues. They have fought the good fight this session, but they are tired. I can see it in their eyes, in their faces, and even how they walk and move about the Capitol. They have worked so hard to overcome centuries of silencing, and have fought to gain their voice through the democratic process — only to get slapped back down. The sting hurts.

Cityhood: This week the Senate voted on two controversial bills to incorporate the cities of East Cobb and Lost Mountain in Cobb County. Too often, the timing of these initiatives is questionable. These Cobb cities gained momentum after the 2020 election when the Cobb County Commission became a majority Black body controlled by Democrats. These initiatives have the same feel as the Republican push to make the Gwinnett School Board non-partisan, only after it gained a Democratic majority which is also all Black.

As I evaluate cityhood proposals, I must not cast judgment with one broad stroke. These initiatives are nuanced. For instance, the city of Mableton, which is majority Black, is passing through the legislature without much political rancor. It has been in the works for some time and seems ready to move forward. Closer to home, after years of talk and planning, I believe that the unincorporated area where I live is also ready to move forward. I have found that cities in Senate 40 tend to enhance local civic engagement and promote a sense of community.

Some Good Stuff: Mental Health Parity

The House held a three hour hearing this week for HB 1013, the highly publicized bipartisan mental health bill sponsored by Speaker Ralston. During the hearing Representative Todd Jones and his wife Tracey shared their deeply personal struggle to navigate the mental health care system for their son who suffers from severe mental illness. The subject is timely, as yesterday, I got the news that a friend’s 17-year old son committed suicide. So many of us have personal experiences with mental health, yet Georgia ranks at the very bottom of states for mental health access.

Much of HB 1013, also called the “Mental Health Parity Act,” focuses on making sure that public and private insurance plans cover mental health the same way they cover medical care. It clarifies standards for mental health care coverage and includes ways for consumers to report insurance issues, including a new consumer complaint hotline. The bill offers loan forgiveness for mental health professionals to address our severe shortage and eliminates the need for law enforcement to wait for a person in a mental health crisis to commit a felony before they can be taken into custody and to a mental health care facility. 

It’s good we have moved this discussion forward, but we have much more work to do. I have a Master of Social Work, yet I chose not to practice direct mental health work because the supervision for licensure was inaccessible and too expensive. I’m sure it was for others too, which is part of the reason we have a shortage of mental health workers. And while it’s good to address parity, I’m still painfully aware that our Governor told the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), which provides our mental health safety net, to keep their budget flat this year, following years of severe cuts.

On another note, it’s really easy for me to remember this bill number. That’s because it’s HB 1013, the same number used on the form for involuntary commitments, known to mental health professionals as Form 1013. A crazy coincidence — you can’t make this stuff up!

The Stuff Life is Made Of: Constituent Services

A few weeks ago at a hair appointment, several salon workers unloaded some of their frustrations. I didn’t mind. Constituent services are a big part of any legislator’s job. It helps keep us connected to the real concerns of our voters and sometimes we’re the only ones that our constituents have to help navigate the system. So with the help of my legislative aide, Keridan, I dove into these issues once I was back in the office. 

COVID Tests: One worker who had gone for a “free” COVID test at an Emory clinic ended up with a bill for $200. We learned that federal rules allow doctors to charge for office visits associated with COVID tests and some are pushing this rule to the limit. While the insurance company negotiates the rates down, this worker still had to pay for the remaining charges to satisfy her deductible. We are in the process of working with Emory to see if we can resolve the issue.

Workers Comp: Another worker whose husband owns a small trucking company tried to purchase Workers Compensation insurance, which is mandatory. But the companies that sell Workers Compensation insurance refused to sell him a policy because his company was less than two years old. I reported this to someone who’s in the Workers Compensation business and he seemed really frustrated by this cherry-picking, and said he’d help find someone who would cover the new company.

These consumer advocacy issues can be time consuming, but rewarding. The system too often takes advantage of people who have little to no resources to stand up for themselves. 

My Schedule is Stuffed to the Gills!

Sometimes there’s so much stuff going on that my Communications Director, Amy, and I have to divide and conquer. While I was at Dekalb delegation meetings with CEO Michael Thurmond and the Dekalb School Board, Amy attended the Women’s Legislative Caucus on Tuesday and the Working Families Caucus meeting on Thursday.

Workplace Sexual Harrassment: At the Women’s Caucus meeting, Amy learned that Georgia is one of only three states that does not have a sexual harassment law. As a result 94% of sexual harrassment legal claims brought by women are dismissed, and 98% of cases brought by Black women are dismissed. This week, Representative Teri Annuelwicz introduced HB 1389 that will define workplace sexual harrassment and protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

Housing Wars: The Working Families Caucus, sponsored this week by the Georgia Municipal Association, covered a growing practice of corporate investors buying up houses to rent, which they say drives up housing prices and leaves renters vulnerable to bad landlord practices. I heard the flip side of this issue from the Georgia Realtors Association who feel that this practice offers affordable housing options for people who can’t afford to own homes in these neighborhoods. They also say cities are passing “no rent overlay zones,” causing segregation of home owners and renters. It’s not unusual for the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Realtors to be at odds on an issue. I’ve seen it plenty of times before.

The Right Stuff: Being Loud 

GPB Lawmakers: Getting stuff done at the Capitol often requires being loud in public, while also working quietly behind the scenes to make things happen. On Valentines Day, I appeared on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Lawmakers” to talk about my work to reduce university fees and SB 208, my bill to eliminate the NOW/COMP Medicaid waiver waiting list to help more adults with developmental disabilities gain access to critical services that allow them to lead full and productive lives in their communities. 

Last week I also had meetings with staff from both the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Dept. of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). Sometimes writing good legislation is a collaborative effort between elected officials and executive branch employees who have day-to-day technical expertise.

Washington Post: Later in the week, I was asked to comment for a Washington Post article about former Governor and Trump administration Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue becoming the next Chancellor of Georgia’s University system. I expressed concerns about Perdue’s lack of experience in higher education, especially during a time of great change and upheaval in our society. The Board of Regents was established as an independent board to keep legislative branch politics out of our Universities. Members are appointed by the Governor, so choosing a former Governor as a chancellor just seems like too much politics.

Hot Stuff: Save the Date

Calling all adults with developmental disabilities, their family members, and allies. We are planning to hold a press conference, tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 28th at 2pm, to call on the Governor and General Assembly to take significant steps toward eliminating the NOW/COMP Medicaid waiver waiting list through this year’s appropriations process while the state has significant resources to do so. 

If you would like to join us for this press conference, please email Keridan at

Stuff Happening Next Week

We have another short, but very busy week next week. We’ll only be on the Senate floor Tuesday and Thursday, with a Committee Workday on Wednesday.  Catch me at 1pm on WABE 90.1’s “Closer Look with Rose Scott” where I will be discussing my SB 344, which requires gun owners to complete firearm training. Other than that, my schedule is stuffed full, but I can assure you —  I will not be sweating the small stuff!





Time Keeps on Slipping, Slipping, Slipping
Into the Future

Monday will be Day 16 of Georgia’s 40-day legislative session. This past week, the Capitol hallways started to get a pre-pandemic feel as hundreds of 4H students and Girl Scouts poured in. Honestly, I would like the air to be a bit fresher before the crowds arrive, but the world is ready for normal, so here it comes! It did make me feel happy seeing those kids.

Georgia Tech’s COVID testing program at the Capitol is diagnosing fewer positives, but the virus is still circulating. These days if you see a Republican in a KN95 mask, it probably means they have COVID. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be wearing a mask at all!

Stop the Clock — Ethics Has Been Canceled!

Monday morning was supposed to start bright and early at 8am with an Ethics Committee meeting, but at the last minute it was canceled. Since the Ethics Committee considers all the bad voting bills, my administrative assistant Keridan always knows she’ll get a big smile from me when she tells me “Ethics” has been canceled.

I was forewarned about this meeting’s agenda due to a flood of emails I received from local Republican Parties all over the state. Up for consideration was a bill to allow county commissions to become non-partisan through local legislation. It seems this bill was going to hit the pocketbook of local Republican Parties!

When candidates “qualify” to have their name on the ballot, they pay a qualifying fee. This money goes to the local political party. Hence, if these races are all non-partisan — no qualifying fees to fund the local party!

These emails also argued that the state should stay out of county government affairs and that local control was “a strong Republican value.” How ironic to receive these emails while my Republican colleagues are actively usurping local control through the redistricting process in several metro-area counties. Ethics has been canceled in more ways than one in the Georgia legislature.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

After getting 30 minutes of extra sleep, my week launched with an 8:30am Zoom meeting to evaluate six different county commission maps for Fulton County. These represented the local desires of individual Republicans and Democrats, and sometimes compromises between a Democrat and a Republican!

Local redistricting work is still dominating much of our time. A decade ago, Senate district 40 was purposely drawn to give my Republican predecessor a vote in three county delegations. That means I’m juggling Gwinnett, Fulton, and Dekalb county commission and school board redistricting efforts and all three have had their challenges. Yet some of my rural colleagues can have up to ten counties to support as the lone legislator. It’s a lot of work for a part time citizen legislature to pass county commission and school board redistricting maps for Georgia’s 159 counties.

Toward the end of the week, our local consent calendar — the list of local bills making their way through the process — was ten pages long, which translates to very long floor sessions. It leaves little time for regular work like constituent services, working on legislation, and working the budget process. It’s times like these that I could really use a staff of 20 like our members of Congress have.

Timing is Key – DeKalb Commission Maps

Speaking of maps, your over-achieving DeKalb delegation is making more work for itself, and could end up passing two different County Commission maps. One would be a map that simply rebalances the populations of each district. The other would be a map that sets up a referendum to switch to seven equal sized commission districts (rather than five districts plus two super-districts we have now).

Last week I told you the latter map was off the table due to the referendum requirement that I didn’t think we had time for. Turns out, we could do both.

If this bill passes, the referendum would be this coming November, and if the referendum (vote by the people) passes, the map wouldn’t go into effect until 2023 or possibly 2024. That means we must also pass the first map that rebalances populations in the current structure.

A referendum on the structure of DeKalb’s districts will require educating all DeKalb voters on the pros and cons of super-districts. Do super-districts work as intended, balancing the interests of the “whole” with the interests of each district? Or will seven smaller districts bring the government back closer to the people?

Georgia’s Black History Time Warp

Throughout Black History Month, Georgia Senators often use their points of personal privilege to highlight black historical events and figures. On Thursday, Senator Nan Orrock told the story of Henry McNeal Turner, who became the first black pastor and a leader in the US Colored Troops during the Civil War. After the war, Turner settled in Macon, Georgia and in 1868 was among 33 new black legislators elected to the Georgia General Assembly for the first time following 250 years of slavery.

These black legislators helped write Georgia’s new Constitution guaranteeing voting rights for former slaves. But just two months after the 14th Amendment that granted African Americans US citizenship and civil rights was adopted, Georgia Democrats, then the party of white supremacy, decided that while black people had the right to vote, they did not have the right to hold office. They introduced a bill to expel all the black legislators.

Turner’s speech in the House of Representatives in opposition became famous and was used as a rallying cry for the Civil Rights Movement. Turner argued, “The great question, sir, is this: Am I a man? If I am such, I claim the rights of a man. Am I not a man because I happen to be of a darker hue than honorable gentlemen around me? I want to convince the House today that I am entitled to my seat here.” Despite Turner’s speech, the white legislators chose to ignore the voices of 800,000 black citizens who had registered to vote during Reconstruction and voted to expel all 33 black lawmakers.

Almost 154 years later, it is heartbreaking to witness a similar silencing of black leaders and voters, this time by white Republicans. This week, Senate Republicans threw out a Gwinnett county commission map drawn and approved by the Gwinnett delegation and county commission, a majority of whom are black, with significant community input from Gwinnett’s diverse electorate. Instead, they approved a map drawn by just two white Gwinnett House Representatives with no input or approval of the Gwinnett delegation, local elected leaders, or the community.

The same dynamic played out with the Augusta/Richmond County local redistricting process. A set of maps, drawn and approved by a majority black county commission and school board with input from the community, were disregarded in favor of a map that dilutes the voices of black voters drawn by a few white Republicans. Senator Harold Jones’ fiery speech in opposition to these unvetted maps, his anger and frustration palpable, was reminiscent of Turner’s famous speech.

Whether the map is perfect or not, it went through the process. It’s a democratic process. At some point in time, we have to start respecting African American elected officials. And when they do the process and say that we’re going to respect it, that’s what we’re going to do. This was a total disrespect of it,” said Senator Jones.

Putting in the Time & Effort

Being a member of the minority party means having to work twice as hard to pass a bill. My bill to prorate University fees for part-time students ultimately led to the lowering of all fees by up to 40%, but it didn’t solve the original inequity for part-time students. So this session, I spoke with the Chair of the Higher Ed Committee about what I needed to do to pass this bill. He said I should speak to legislative counsel about the balance of constitutional powers between the legislature and the Board of Regents. Then he said I should speak with the Lt. Governor. Then the Lt. Governor said I should speak with his policy guy. Then the policy guy said I should speak with one particular Republican who supported my bill originally. Then that Republican said I should get some data from the Board of Regents. Tick Tock — do you hear the clock? Forty days is a short time.

In contrast, Republican bills seem to make it to committee without much due diligence. SB 435, a bill to prohibit transgender students born one gender to participate in sports teams “of the opposite gender,” was originally written to only exclude transgender girls (born male) from playing on girls teams. But in the Education Committee, discussion arose about this being unconstitutional under Title IX. So the author changed the bill on the fly to prohibit ANY student born one gender from participating on teams of the opposite gender. The unintended consequence is that this bill will now prohibit all girls from playing on boys teams, like those who serve as kickers on boys football teams.

Another bill to ban “divisive topics” about race demonstrated how damaging vague and subjective bill language can be. Democrats asked questions that highlighted the confusing and contradictory bill’s language. What is the standard for deciding what is a “divisive topic?” Who decides? How would a teacher discuss systemic racism like redlining and how it affects people of color today? Ultimately, without clear understanding of what constitutes a “divisive topic,” it will create a flood of complaints from parents who can object to any topic on race and will leave teachers and administrators reluctant to discuss race for fear of retaliation — which is probably the intent.

Having been on the “bad voting bills” committee in years past for bad voting bills, I now feel for my colleagues on the Education and Youth Committee.


“I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it?”

Georgia Republicans are the Captain Hooks of our time. They see that change is on the horizon and they fear their vanishing order. They are lashing out and the crocodile persistently reminds them they are running out of time.

If you feel angry about their sloppy bills targeting trans kids and how history is taught, below are some legislators you can call or email. In the meantime, remember that it’s time to get moving on election season. A new Democratic Governor would be able to stop these bills in their tracks. Sign up to volunteer with your county Democratic Party and support your local candidates!


Republican Senate Education & Youth Committee Members:

Sen. Chuck Payne

Sen. Jason Anavitarte

Sen. John Albers

Sen. Matt Brass

Sen. Greg Dolezal

Sen. Steve Gooch

Sen. Sheila McNeill

Sen. Lindsey Tippins

I wanna fly like an eagle, to the sea
Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle, ‘Til I’m free
Oh Lord, through the revolution
Feed the babies, who don’t have enough to eat
Shoe the children, with no shoes on their feet
House the people, livin’ in the street
Oh, oh, there’s a solution.


Transgender Sports Bill:

Divisive Topics Bill:

Sen. Harold Jones:

Sen. Nan Orrock:

Get Mad and Get Moving!

I love serving in the Georgia Senate, but it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking about how the words “emotion” and “motivation” share the same Greek root, “moti,” which means “move.” I’m feeling moved into action, but the reality is that we don’t have enough votes yet to stop all the partisan bombs that are being hurled our way. Can you imagine if we won the Governor’s office and gained the power of the veto? We could stop these shenanigans in their tracks.

I’m seeing an increasing trend toward ignoring the voices of the majority. For example, the Permit-less Carry bill that will allow anyone to easily carry a gun in public, continued to move through the General Assembly despite a recent AJC poll showing that 70% of Georgians oppose such a law. This week it passed the House, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be on the Senate floor next week.

The midterm elections are now, and the Governor’s office, State Constitutional officers, and all the state legislative seats are up for grabs. We must win these critical positions so that we have more votes and more veto power.


All Politics Are Local

This old adage hit home this week with so much focus on local redistricting. Normally, local legislation starts with the county delegation of legislators that represent voters in those counties. In recent years, as Democrats won more seats in the metro Atlanta area, the Gwinnett, Fulton, and Cobb county delegations flipped from Republican to Democratic majorities. 

But rather than respecting the will of the majority of voters in their counties, Gwinnett, Fulton, and Cobb Republicans have operated from a power grab playbook. In both the House and Senate, they are circumventing the local delegation process and filing their own county commission and school district maps that disadvantage Democrats and people of color. These maps are submitted as general bills and assigned to state government committees where they’re approved by Republican lawmakers from all over the state rather than those that represent the majority of voters in the county. There are so many redistricting bills flying around right now with different variations of maps and elections, that at one point I almost signed the wrong bill!

A bill to make the Gwinnett school board non-partisan, authored by the county’s lone Republican senator, reached the Senate floor this week. Lots of school boards in Georgia, including DeKalb’s, are non-partisan. However, changing how country school boards are elected should be decided by the local delegation, as has been done in every other Georgia county outside Gwinnett so far this session. 

I spoke from the Senate well against this bill. Speaking from the Senate well makes my heart race. And it should — it’s one of the most public forms of speech there is, and it’s one of the most powerful. After making this speech I was interviewed by Fox 5 News. One thing about the Senate — you never know when you leave in the morning if you’re going to be on the news that night! 


Dueling DeKalb Proposals

This week, the DeKalb House and Senate delegations considered two different proposals for the DeKalb County Commission. The DeKalb House delegation discussed maps submitted by the DeKalb Commission that equalize the district population with minimal changes to the current districts. The DeKalb Senate delegation discussed an alternative map with seven districts of equal size in lieu of five districts and two super districts. This would make each district smaller so that Commissioners could be closer to their communities and more responsive to their constituents. It is not unusual for the House and Senate to consider different ideas. In fact, our bicameral government exists for this purpose. 

While these dual proposals caused some unease and debate, it is now a moot point. Late in the week, Legislative Counsel issued an opinion that Georgia law requires a voter referendum to change DeKalb’s form of government and it is too late for this change to be made for this year’s election. This means the Senate map shouldn’t advance for now, but we will continue to discuss DeKalb County’s governance. The county is long overdue for a Charter Review.

DeKalb residents will be able to weigh in on the maps at a Virtual Public Hearing via Zoom or Facebook livestream on Tuesday, February 8 at 6:30 pm and the next weekly DeKalb House delegation meeting on Wednesday, February 9 at noon. You can find more information here, and register to attend at


Cities Galore! 

The idea of smaller county commission districts appeals to me because smaller districts mean elected officials are closer to the people. Perhaps if the number of commissions had gradually increased as the county grew, service delivery would be better than it is today.

When we think of cities, most of us imagine a picture book version with a downtown area, neighborhood fire department, library, schools, sidewalks and a nicely designed City Hall. But in Georgia, how services are delivered at the city and county level is much more complicated than this because of how it is spelled out in our Georgia State Constitution.

For instance, the whole of DeKalb actually began functioning as a city in 1972 with the passage of “Amendment 19” that allowed counties to deliver services such as police/fire, water/sewer, parks/recreation and garbage collection. Prior to that the DeKalb Commission was called “The Commission of Roads and Revenue,” because that’s about all the county did. Outside cities, services were provided by the state.

Further, the Georgia Constitution defines what a city is, and it says a city must deliver a minimum of three services. The Georgia constitution does not allow for a layer of government such as “townships” or “villages” that you sometimes see in other states.

Sometimes it feels like we’re trying to squeeze our new cities into the kind of box our constitution offers, but what we really need is a different sized box. This is why Sen. Elena Parent and I are considering authoring a constitutional amendment that specifically spells out which services need to stay with the county. Currently, every time a city forms the county services contract. This not only makes for difficult management, but there are some services that are just better off being managed county-wide. I’ll keep you posted on how this effort develops.

So when you think about cities in DeKalb county, and perhaps whether or not you want to live in one, I encourage you to think less about cities you might see in picture books, and more about how services are best delivered.

That being said, there are many cityhood proposals being batted around by the legislature this session. They are all far from the same, and must be discussed individually on their own merits and demerits.

The most visible is the secession of Buckhead, and it is not a pretty picture. It’s reminiscent of the 2018 Eagles Landing referendum, which was rejected by voters. Had it passed, Eagles Landing would have siphoned half the tax revenue from the city of Stockbridge while creating a new city one-third the size, made up of the neighborhoods with the highest tax bases. Not only does this Buckhead proposal put Atlanta Public Schools at risk, but the loss of bond ratings would put the entire state at risk.

Cobb county has several cityhood proposals: 1) HB 826 “Vinings”, population 7000; 2) HB 840 “Lost Mountain” in west Cobb, population 75,000 and 3) HB 841 “East Cobb,” population 60,000. These are being rushed through the legislature now.

During the last two years I have spent a significant amount of time discussing and researching the impact of forming a city in unincorporated DeKalb north of Decatur — which happens to be where I live. There are several reasons why this has become urgent. 

A new city in north DeKalb would protect DeKalb County Schools by permanently defining school district lines relative to cities that have their own school systems (Decatur and Atlanta). This keeps them from annexing commercial areas that have a strong tax base and few students, which would drain revenues from DeKalb schools.

Second, surrounding cities with their own police departments are actively annexing unincorporated neighborhoods, which enlarges their city police force. A recent study conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute on Government concluded that expansion of city police departments in north DeKalb is significantly and adversely impacting the DeKalb Department of Public Safety. There is now a consensus that any new city will contract with DeKalb for police services.

Finally, residents of this area need a stronger local voice in regional planning. For example, the mayors along the 285 corridor have been working on adding Bus Rapid Transit to the 285 express lanes plan, but the residents in the unincorporated areas are not at the table.

In the past, Republicans have used their majority power to ram through cityhood bills without getting the consent of local elected legislators. Instead, DeKalb Senators will utilize the “local bill” process, which requires the support of the majority of legislators in the entire DeKalb delegation for passage. This process ensures that residents of the whole county have a voice in what is decided.


Stay Focused on the Finish Line

It’s time to take action and move out of your comfort zone — donate to candidates and volunteer on their campaigns. Send an encouraging email to a candidate that says you’ve got their back. Get involved in primaries to ensure the strongest candidate wins. Click here for an up-to-date list of candidates. We’ve got a lot of work to do! 



Georgians Oppose Permitless Carry

Georgia Candidates spreadsheet

Georgia GOP and Local Districts 

Sally speaking against the Gwinnett School Board bill 

Sally on Fox 5 news about the Gwinnett School Board bill 

DeKalb House Delegation Meeting Info

DeKalb House Delegation Zoom Registration link 

DeKalb County Service Delivery Strategy 

Cobb County Cities 

City of Atlanta Annexation of CDC and Emory 

Carl Vinson Study on impact of city police forces on the county

What is Courage?

Each morning the Senate is in session, we stand together to say the Pledge of Allegiance. We then make a ritualistic turn to the right, face the Georgia flag, and say the Georgia Pledge of Allegiance. In doing so, we reference the Georgia state motto: wisdom, justice and moderation. The three pillars on the Georgia flag symbolize the three branches of government, so we are asking for wisdom for the legislature, justice for the judicial branch, and moderation for the executive branch.

Last year, a group of Republican legislators filed SB 152, which seeks to add the word “courage” to the Georgia pledge. Last year the bill passed the Senate (I voted no), and fortunately, it’s not getting much traction in the House.

Each morning when we say the Georgia Pledge, a group of Republicans now tack the word courage to the end anyway. It makes me wonder, what is their obsession with courage?

As they stand maskless in a giant petri dish of germs, I get the feeling “courage” to them means not feeling afraid in the presence of danger. While that might be what courage looks like on the battlefield, it’s not what courage looks like to me in everyday life. Courage is the ability to be open to your vulnerabilities, which then opens you up to the possibility of transformational change, not only in your own life, but in the lives of others. I witnessed this kind of courage this week. More about that a little later . . . 


De-Escalating through Firearm Training

On Monday I filed SB 344, which requires anyone who chooses to possess a firearm to complete firearm safety training, and sets requirements for safe storage. Last year, I successfully worked to gain some Republican support for firearm training, but sadly, this support vanished when the Governor announced his intent to push for permitless carry.

To me, this requirement just makes sense. It reminds me of what I was taught in high school — that rights come with responsibilities. So I say, if you exercise your right to have a firearm, you should responsibly earn your merit badge on firearm safety. It’s as simple as that.


Finding their Voices and Speaking Out 

For years, district lines have been gerrymandered in Gwinnett county to retain Republican power in every level of government. But growth in diverse populations in Gwinnett has flipped Republican seats to Democrat — even before redrawing the lines. All five Gwinnett County Commission positions are now represented by people of color, as are three out of five Gwinnett School Board positions. 

Now Republicans want to change the rules to get some of their seats back. Your actions helped to tamp down this issue last November during Special Session, but it has reared its ugly head again.

Since November, the people of Gwinnett have spoken — through meetings, surveys, townhalls, and votes.  The Gwinnett legislative delegation has finalized their redistricting plan, overwhelmingly approving new maps with minimal changes to school board and county commission districts.

There is a special process for passing local legislation, which all other counties in the state are utilizing for local redistricting. But Gwinnett Republicans in the House are usurping that process, allowing Republicans from outside of Gwinnett to hold the fate of the county commission and school board districts in their hands. In the Senate, the sole Gwinnett Republican senator wants to unilaterally change Gwinnett school board elections from partisan to non-partisan.

On Tuesday morning, I stood with the Gwinnett delegation in a press conference to bring public attention to this now ugly battle for the future of Gwinnett local government. 

You can help by calling or emailing the elected leaders listed below (scroll all the way down). Tell them to let the Gwinnett Delegation decide their own fate by using Local Legislation to pass new maps. Also, tell them the people of Gwinnett should decide  through a ballot referendum whether their School Board elections are partisan or non-partisan.


The Courage to Tell your Story

In a year when for political reasons it’s difficult to pass meaningful legislation, and for economic reasons money is plentiful, Georgia’s legislative budget process provides perhaps the best opportunity to bring meaningful impact to the lives of Georgians.

Last year I filed SB 208, which proposes a plan that calls for the Dept. of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities to eliminate over the next five years the decades long Disabilities Medicaid waiver waiting list. We’ve named the initiative “Fully Fund in Five.”

Since Georgia’s constitution requires the budget to begin in the House, I teamed up this week with constituent Philip Woody to meet with the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Human Resources. 

Philip told me his heartbreaking story of how his son’s intellectual development came to an abrupt stop following what seemed like a typical toddler bump on the head. He spoke to the Chairwoman of the struggles he faced as a father to secure a trust fund large enough to provide for his son’s entire life, and how his own mental health challenges have from time to time made this task more difficult. Philip’s son recently received his Medicaid waiver, but Philip continues to fight for the 7000 other families still waiting for their names to creep up the list. 

It took real courage for Philip to share that story of his own vulnerability, and he does not intend to stop fighting until the waiting list is gone. And neither will I. We’ve got each other’s backs on this issue.


Finding Solace is a Sea of Madness

I found this week at the Capitol to be stressful, and my colleagues seemed to agree. As this session serves as a prelude to primary elections, Republicans are beginning to push their wedge issues —  designed to both rile up their base and trap Democrats into votes that can be easily misrepresented on fear-based campaign literature. It’s a little like walking through a minefield.

By Tuesday afternoon, I was really feeling the stress. At home, taking a few minutes out to play the piano really calms my brain. I had recently heard that Sen. Kim Jackson of DeKalb county has a piano in her office, so I texted her, telling her I wanted to come play. “Anytime,” she texted back, so I went and played for a while. A few minutes later, a state trooper came by and said he had a complaint about noise. He was joking, and began to tell me stories about his mom who played piano. Since then, several people have told me they enjoyed hearing some live music at the Capitol.


Looking Ahead

Speaking of mental health, the Speaker of the House announced major legislation to address mental health needs in Georgia. I’m looking forward to learning more about the proposal as it makes its way to the Senate.

Next week the crazy will continue as we’ll be in session Tuesday through Thursday. 



Legislative Call List regarding Gwinnett District Lines

You can help by calling or emailing the elected leaders listed below. Tell them to let the Gwinnett Delegation decide their own fate by using Local Legislation to pass new maps. Also, tell them the people of Gwinnett should decide  through a ballot referendum whether their School Board elections are partisan or non-partisan.

Gov Brian Kemp


To email his office, go to and find the constituent services tab


Speaker David Ralston– Speaker of the House



Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan



Rep. Darlene Taylor– Chair of Gov Affairs (where the bills are now assigned)



Rep. Bonnie Rich



Rep. Chuck Efstration



Rep. Tom Kirby



Rep. Timothy Barr



Sen. Lee Anderson – Chair of State & Local Governmental Operations



Sen. Clint Dixon



A Little Inside Baseball: The Georgia Budget

The sole constitutional requirement of the Georgia legislature is to pass a balanced, annual budget. This translates into two bills, both of which must originate in the State House. The “little budget” amends and updates the current fiscal year budget that ends June 30, 2022. The “big” 2023 budget funds the government for next year, beginning July 1, 2022. The budget process doesn’t draw many spectators from the public, but it is the single-most important thing we do. 

“Budget Week,” traditionally begins right after the MLK holiday and lasts for three days during which the Governor, the State Economist, and all State Department Heads present their budgets to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. These hearings offer important insight into how each department works, or doesn’t, for our state. 

After running down to the Capitol on Tuesday to take my COVID test which was thankfully negative after last week’s exposure, I watched the hearings from home to avoid Omicron which was starting to spread among the administrative staff, including my own assistant, Keridan. Thankfully Keridan has remained symptom-free and will return to the office this week.


A Great Day to Play Ball

The Governor’s budget is based on revenue estimates established by our state economist. During his presentation, Governor Kemp joked that while we always estimate conservatively, we’ve never been this conservative. Last year, thanks to a booming economy and federal pandemic relief, our state economist underestimated our state revenue by $4 billion. Normally, there’s not much discretionary funding after mandatory spending on schools, Medicaid, etc. This year, we have an unprecedented $4 billion fund — every Governor’s dream.

The report from State Economist Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman was equally optimistic. He believes the odds of a recession are very low, but there will be some economic slowing as our economy returns to a more normal pace. Pandemic disruptions like labor shortages, supply chain issues, and inflation should normalize over the next year. 


Behind in the Count: The Governor’s Proposal

The Governor’s proposed budget offered lots of seemingly good news with state employee pay raises, increased education and public safety spending, and long overdue cost of living increases for state retirees. But much of it simply makes up for decades of deep Republican austerity and budget cuts. During his first years in office, the Governor slashed the budget by 10% and even with record revenues this year he told department heads to keep their budgets flat. The Governor proudly announced that Georgia has fewer state employees now than in 2008, yet department heads revealed how shortage of staff has taken a heavy toll on their ability to serve Georgians. 

While there was a collective sigh of relief for having more revenue, many state agency heads were candid about their challenges attracting and retaining good employees due to low employee pay. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told a story about a strong, well-trained 4-year employee who left Georgia to take the same job in Iowa for almost double the pay. GBI Director Vic Reynolds spoke at length about his struggle to attract and retain Medical Examiners for the state. Even with a $5,000 pay increase, Georgia will have a hard time attracting employees in a competitive labor market.


The Pandemic Throws Georgia some Curve Balls 

COVID related shifts and disruptions were evident in several presentations. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger reported record increases in corporation filings and professional license applications, demonstrating how Georgians are re-evaluating and shifting career paths. Our judicial system is struggling to dig out of COVID-related disruptions and backlogs. Presiding Justice Michael Boggs gave one example of a metro court circuit that never had more than 400 state court cases pending prior to the pandemic. As of November 2021, it had more than 1,800 pending — a 450% increase. The GBI has similar increases in crime lab backlogs and autopsy demands. 

Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson reported interesting shifts in tourism. While our metro-based tourism and convention business suffered, destinations outside of Atlanta, like our state parks, Helen, and coastal Georgia had some of their best years during the pandemic. There is hope that this trend will continue. Once tourists experience one terrific destination, they’re more likely to try another, bringing an economic boost to our smaller cities and counties. 


Foul Balls

Technology is a double-edged sword in government. Until the pandemic, being “in the room” during budget hearings was an important way to signal to the Appropriations Chairs that you’re paying attention and engaged. Technology served that purpose for me this year as I watched remotely and texted some questions directly to Senate Appropriations Chair Blake Tillery during the hearings. Unfortunately, lobbyists and other luminaries often have that same direct line to elected officials during committee meetings, giving them unfair access that the general public does not get.

Questions posed at the hearings by some Republican Committee members hinted at the controversial issues we’ll be battling this session. Education Superintendent Richard Woods, Acting University Chancellor Teresa MacCartney, and Technical College Commissioner Greg Dozier all fielded pointed questions about our education curriculum. One Republican legislator asked, “Can you confirm that the state doesn’t use taxpayer dollars to encourage teachers or their children to be taught that certain characteristics inherently designate them as being privileged or oppressed?” Superintendent Woods explained new transparency rules passed by the State Education Board that will require local school systems to post information on curriculum, student records, and district budgets on a soon to be developed dashboard. Commissioner Dozier replied, “I’ve never been asked that question before!”


Timing and Teamwork for the Win

During her presentation, Acting University Chancellor Theresa MacCartney gave Senate Higher Education Chairman Tippins and me a wonderful shout out for our work together on my University Fees Study Committee. Our committee report ultimately recommended that the Special Institutional Fee, a temporary fee to make up for lost government funding during the Great Recession, be eliminated. A member of the Office of Planning and Budget had attended our meetings and brought the recommendation back to the Governor for consideration, and funding to eliminate the fee was included in the Governor’s proposed budget.

When I saw Governor Kemp at a Martin Luther King event last week, I thanked him for including our recommendation in his budget and he said, “I’m tired of paying it!”  It’s often the personal pain points of people in power that help move the needle on certain issues.


Planning Our Next Play 

Budget week provides those of us not on the appropriations committees with some time to do some early session planning. I met with fellow Working Families and Women’s Legislative Caucus leaders to outline our agendas. The Gwinnett delegation met to continue our redistricting work for county commission and school districts. At this time, there are no plans to change the number of districts and we are cautiously optimistic this will hold. But we must be prepared for anything given prior attempts by Gwinnett Republicans to take these efforts out of the delegation’s hands.

I also met with disability community advocates and staff from Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities to develop a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the most disappointing part of Governor Kemp’s proposed budget. The number of Medicaid waivers offered to people with developmental disabilities each year remains unchanged. In a strong budget year, we have a moral obligation to help these families that carry enormous financial and emotional burdens. This is the year to take substantial steps toward eliminating the decades-long waiting list for these families. 


This week, we’ll be back in regular session while more detailed budget hearings continue in House appropriations subcommittee meetings.

Georgia Budget Process

Fasten your Seatbelts . . .

The first action-packed week of the 2022 Georgia Legislative session felt like taking off in a supersonic jet plane. With every legislator up for re-election this year, many are eager to arrive at our final destination, Sine Die, so they can continue along their campaign paths. It promises to be a wild ride as Republican leaders facing primary opposition are seeking attention-grabbing headlines. Sadly, during a time when Georgia residents need our attention the most, election year antics will drive much of the session’s narrative, producing more rhetoric than results.


Prepare for Take Off

My work picked up speed before the session officially started as I joined Virtual Town Halls and met with numerous local constituent groups. Local governance bills will demand the attention of legislators early in the session as we complete the redistricting work we started during the November Special Session, this time redrawing county commission and school board maps. Since December, elected officials in Gwinnett County have been hard at work engaging local communities in this process. Thanks to all your phone calls, letters, and emails, I am hopeful that Gwinnett’s school board and county commission districts will reflect the voices of the majority of Gwinnett County residents.

I’m so grateful for the overwhelming support my campaign received in the last couple of weeks. It gave me the fuel I needed going into session. We’re now in a strong position to build momentum for my re-election and to support other candidates running for office. I got an extra pick-me-up on the eve of session when I answered a call from a Washington DC phone number. It turned out to be the White House inviting me to attend President Biden and Vice President Harris’ upcoming voting rights speech in Atlanta! 


Attention: Air Traffic Control

With lots of legislators traveling to my hometown of Indianapolis for the UGA Championship game on Monday, we gaveled in and out quickly, passing the required resolutions to notify the Governor and House of Representatives that we are back in business. No bills were passed the rest of the week, but a number were read and assigned to committees. 

We were reminded how important this first step of the legislative process is when Lt. Governor Duncan surprised everyone and assigned the controversial Buckhead Cityhood bill to the all-Democratic Urban Affairs Committee, where it is sure to die. With one simple committee assignment, the Lt. Governor, who is not running for re-election, proved he’s no lame duck by reminding us how powerful his role remains and how pivotal committees are to passing bills. While there remains a Buckhead City bill in the House, this move by the Lt. Governor indicates the House bill will have a difficult time making it through the Senate.


Omicron: Impending Flight Diversions

While the House is continuing its mask and COVID testing mandates that have been in place throughout the pandemic, amid the Omicron surge Senate Republican leaders chose to make them voluntary. So far, I’ve seen only two Republican Senators have been willing to wear masks, both of whom are healthcare workers. 

I tried to stay safe by opting out of large events and watching the Governor’s annual State of the State address remotely from the Senate floor instead of the crowded House chamber. But it’s impossible to avoid my unmasked colleagues. By the end of the week, at least three of them tested positive for COVID, one of them sat next to me during an Ethics Committee meeting, and ironically also joined me in the Senate chamber for the State of the State address where he let out an enormous unmasked sneeze. He tested positive that same day.


Setting our Sights on Voting Rights

I was thankful we were in recess on Tuesday to allow legislators to travel back from Indianapolis, because it coincided with the President and Vice President’s visit to Atlanta. There were a lot of logistical challenges getting to the event, including a last-minute request to provide proof of a 24-hour negative COVID test that sent all of the invited legislators scrambling. 

But it was worth it to see the President and Vice President express strong support for changing Senate filibuster rules to pass federal voting rights legislation. These bills outlaw partisan gerrymandering, make Election Day a national holiday, and expand access to the ballot.  Watch their speeches on YouTube at

After the speech, the President stayed for pictures and I unexpectedly found myself with 30 seconds to say anything I wanted directly to the President of the United States. I told him that I was on the committee that passed all the bad voting bills and that I would keep fighting, but we need his help. Except I was giddy and a bit tongue tied when I said it!

Bright and early Thursday morning, I found myself back in that same Senate Ethics Committee facing another bad voting bill. This time we considered a resolution to enshrine an already existing law that bans non-Georgia citizens from voting in our elections into our state Constitution. This is a no-win, unnecessary “gotcha” bill filed only to appease the Republican base and allow Republicans to accuse Democrats of being in favor of allowing non-citizens to vote. This resolution must get two-thirds vote in both chambers, so it has no hope of ultimately passing because Democrats have won so many seats the past five years that Republicans no longer have a supermajority in either chamber.


Fueling the State Budget

Passing the state’s budget is the most important action the legislature takes each year, and this year and unlike previous years the coffers are flush with state revenue, plus millions in federal pandemic relief dollars. Now is the time to reverse the austerity cuts and neglect of the last decade. It is clear from evaluating the Governor’s proposed budget what he does and doesn’t value.

The Governor revealed his budget priorities in his State of the State address. We heard good news about state employee and teacher pay raises, a long-overdue cost of living increase for state retirees, and investments in education. 

The Governor also proposed a $1.6 billion dollar tax cut, stating, “I believe that when government takes in more money than it needs, surplus funds should be sent back.”

But the state has not taken in more money than it needs. For example, his budget proposes to fund only 100 more NOW/COMP Medicaid waivers when there are more than 7,000 individuals on a decades-long waiting list. Last year, I filed SB 208 that outlines a plan to eliminate this waiting list by fully funding the NOW/COMP waivers over 5 years. We’ve got more work to do to push SB 208 and get the full funding we need. 

I was pleased to learn this week that the Governor intends to support the primary recommendations of my University Fees Study Committee, created last year when I passed SR300. In the work we did between sessions, we discovered that for more than a decade, Georgia students and families have been paying hundreds of dollars every semester for a “Special Institutional Fee”  — a fee that was supposed to be a temporary charge created as a result of revenue declines following the Great Recession of 2008. Also as a result of our recommendations, the Governor announced that he will completely eliminate the fee, adding $230 million to the funding formula that subsidizes state universities, translating to a $200-$550 per semester savings for all Georgia students, the largest cost savings in decades. It’s no small feat for a legislator of the minority party to succeed in raising an issue that makes it into a majority-party Governor’s list of priorities! 


Meet the Cockpit Crew

Most people don’t realize that state legislators do not get resources to hire staff like members of Congress do. We share administrative staff with other legislators and rely on the generosity of dedicated volunteers in our district to support our work.

My team continues to be small and mighty this session, but we work overtime to try to meet the needs of the district. Amy Swygert joins me again as my Communications Director and right-hand woman. You can reach her at Keridan Ogletree continues to serve as my administrative assistant and constituent relations manager. Her email is, or you can call my office at (404) 463-2260.


Looking ahead: Next week is budget week at the State Capitol. Watching the budget hearings and presentation of State Department Heads is a great way to learn about how state government works. You can access the schedule and streaming at

In Memoriam: Yesterday many of us heard of the tragic death of MARTA CEO Jeff Parker. My heart goes out to Jeff’s family and friends. We often never know of each other’s inner struggle, which is why I will always advocate for increased access to mental healthcare. 








We will not quit!

2022 is an election year. And with it comes the rush to pass extreme, far-right bills as Republican candidates push to come out on top in Republican primaries. As one of my constituents said to me, “Sally, Republicans are making it easier to carry and harder to vote.” I am ready to push back on that agenda with policies that make our communities safer and friendlier.

Instead of “guns everywhere,” let’s provide gun safety training for anyone who chooses to carry a firearm — a bill I intend to file on the Day One of Georgia’s 2022 Legislative Session. While Republicans toss real people’s ballots in the trash because someone showed up at the wrong polling place, I’ll push SB 314, my bill that allows election day voters to vote at any polling place in their county — just like voters already do during the early voting period.

To amplify this message, I need your financial help. It’s been a tough year filled with violence, bad voting bills and gerrymandered maps — all designed to wear us down and minimize our voices, but I will not quit! Due to redistricting, I have some new neighborhoods I need to reach out to, and that takes money. Also, we have new candidates that need my assistance. 

All donations must be made this weekend, as once the 2022 Legislative Session starts on Monday, January 10th, Georgia law makes it illegal for me to accept political contributions until the close of the 40-day session toward the end of March. Primary elections follow close behind on May 24th.

It’s time to “be loud” again starting Monday, January 10th, when Georgia’s 2022 Legislative Session begins. Our democracy is worth fighting for. And I will not quit!


P.S. Attention DeKalb County residents!

The DeKalb County House & Senate Delegations will host two DeKalb Delegation Pre-Session Virtual Town Halls, to listen to constituents’ questions and legislative priorities for the Legislative Session, which begins Monday, January 10th, 2022.  

Registration is Required. 

Register for Saturday, January 8th, 2022 at 9:30am

Register for Tuesday, January 11, 2022 at 7:00pm

Submit Questions and Feedback: To help us prepare, please submit your questions and feedback about legislative priorities here: 

We also plan to also take questions and feedback from the audience as time allows.



The gerrymander is final and the playing field has been set for the next decade.

But what is at stake is no game. On behalf of all the voices the gerrymandered maps silence, we must get back to work. Georgia simply cannot afford another lost decade.

Students need to learn, gaps in healthcare must be closed, seniors and people living with disabilities need respectable care, the workforce needs training, mental health must be made available, the Department of Public Health and the Environment Protection Division need adequate staffing, and our prisons need humane reform.

With redistricting behind us, I look forward to pushing forward with policies that support Georgians. The core of my district, Senate 40, remains intact. (Click here to see the map


The Long Game

Prior to Sen. Jen Jordan winning her State Senate seat in 2017, the Senate consisted of 18 Democrats and 38 Republicans. That’s a gap of 20, enough for a Republican supermajority. Since 2017, we have closed that gap to 12. If we win three State Senate seats in 2022, the gap will be narrowed to 6. Do you see the trajectory? If we succeed in 2022, we will only need a mere three additional seats to gain the majority in the Senate. As long as we stay the course in promoting policies that help Georgians succeed, the finish line is within our reach. 


Time to Line Up!

Following redistricting in 2011 we lost elections before Election Day simply because we didn’t have candidates on the ballot. This is no longer the case! Over the last few years, progressive candidates have won at all levels of Georgia government, which means where there are openings, we have experienced candidates ready to run. We now have a little over three months before the date when candidates “qualify” to have their name printed on the election ballot. Now is the time to get them lined up.


Level Up!

Friday morning it was my pleasure to introduce to my Democratic Senate colleagues two candidates who have already announced they will run for the newly created State Senate seats — Rep. Josh McLaurin will run for Senate 14 in North Fulton and Rep. Beth Moore will run for Senate 7 in Gwinnett. Both their current House districts overlap the new Senate districts, so they are ahead of the game. In addition, we will do everything we can to help my colleague Sen. Michelle Au keep the 48thSenate district, which was pushed north into Forsyth county. Michelle is the perfect match for this district, as the newly created 48th has an Asian population of almost 30%.


A Win at the Local Level

Last week I told you how the lone Republican Senator in the Gwinnett county legislative delegation, Sen. Clint Dixon, attempted to thwart local control by undermining the recent Democratic electoral gains on the Gwinnett School Board and County Commission. I am pleased to report that the collective uprising of Gwinnett citizens and their allies brought his effort to a temporary halt. Sen. Dixon is the Governor’s floor leader. His proposal was to double the size of the Gwinnett County Commission and make Gwinnett school board elections non-partisan. 

Nationally, as well as here in Georgia, Republicans are targeting their efforts at the local level of governance. I first recognized this in 2021 when I noticed a dozen local bills filed that changed the local election board appointment process from bipartisan appointments made by local political parties, to appointments made by all-Republican county commissions.

Sen. Dixon’s Democratic opponent in 2020, Madielyn Jones, said it best

In 2018, after 200 years of our county’s existence,  voters elected our first Black school board member.  This proposed legislation draws him, the board chair, out of his district.

In 2020, after 202 years of our county’s existence, voters elected our first Black county commission chair.  This legislation takes her voting power away, except to break a tie.

Why would someone do that?

I’m not sure if it even matters because we can never fully know what’s in someone else’s heart. 

What I do know is that we must shift these conversations from intention to impact.

What is the impact of these decisions on communities of people who have been underrepresented in government leadership for over 200 years? 

What is the impact of these decisions on communities of people who turned out in record numbers to make their voices heard?

What is the impact of these decisions on communities of people who voted for change?

To have it all reduced to legislation that would erase their collective efforts is sad.

My prayer today is that anyone involved in trying to pass this legislation would be convicted in their spirit and good conscience.”


Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan has now created a Study Committee on Non-partisan School Board Elections, and has appointed Sen. Dixon as chair. The Study Committee is made up of four members, including one Democrat from Savannah. 

Stay tuned, stay involved, and thank you for all the calls and emails you sent to the Lt. Governor as well as other state leaders. You were heard.


It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

Enjoy time with family and friends during the next few holiday weeks and take some time to rest. We’ve been in high gear defending democracy for about five years now. If you need a deeper rest, feel free to pass the baton to the next runner to allow yourself to catch your breath. We’ve got a few more years ahead of us before we hit the finish line. But it’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of when. 

We got this!



Zoomable maps of all the new districts:

Map of the new Senate 40 District:,33.914#%26map=11.04/33.9458/-84.2808

Madielyn Jones:



Everything was going just as expected. Until it wasn’t . . .

We have hit the halfpoint for Georgia’s once-in-a-decade Special Session on Redistricting and everything is going as expected. The Senate map has passed the Senate (but not the House) and the House map has passed both chambers, awaiting signature by the Governor. Work on the Congressional map should start next week.

Approximately one million new residents have made Georgia their home over the last decade — almost all from minority populations. Yet these new residents have gotten lost in these maps. Georgia’s Senate map adds only one Democratic seat, consisting of approximately 191,000 people, and Georgia’s State House map adds five Democratic seats, consisting of about 300,000 people.  Where have all the new people gone? This is what gerrymandering looks like in Georgia in 2021.

We may not have the votes to stop these maps, but your elected officials have engaged in the struggle! The fight we’ve started at the State Capitol will finish in the courts.


Look what the cat dragged in . . . 

Tuesday morning I walked into my Senate Democratic Caucus meeting only to find out from my colleague Sen. Nikki Merritt of Gwinnett county, that the sole Republican in the Gwinnett Senate delegation filed two local bills. 

Before I tell you what those bills are, let me explain to you that there is a rule in the Senate that local bills must be signed by four out of seven members of the local Senate delegation before they are filed. None of the other members of the delegation knew anything about these bills — none of us. There were no signatures. This was a unilateral act by the lone Republican member of the Gwinnett delegation — Georgia’s most diverse and fastest growing county.

The first bill, Senate Bill 5EX, changes the Gwinnett County school board elections to non-partisan, and redraws the district lines. Gwinnett county is majority non-white county, and the new map includes zero majority-minority districts.

The second bill, SB 6EX, doubles the size of the Gwinnett County Commission and sets new district lines.

As a bit of background, during the last couple of election cycles, these two governing bodies — the Gwinnett School Board and the Gwinnett County Commission, have flipped from all white to majority representation by people-of-color.

I was sad but not terribly shocked that the Senate Rules were being bypassed to ram these bills through because the Republican majority has done this in the past, but I was shocked that this bill was moving forward during Special Session because according to the Governor’s set agenda, local bills are only allowed during Special Session if they (in the words of the Governor’s convening proclamation) “avoid unreasonable hardship or to avoid undue impairment of public functions if consideration and enactment thereof are postponed.”  County-level redistricting is set to be done during the regular session in January, and there is no legitimate reason for an exception in Gwinnett.

I was so floored by this blatant disregard for the legislative process that I decided to formally address my colleagues in the Senate Chamber Tuesday by taking a Point of Personal Privilege on the matter. This is the first time I have ever gone to the well without prepared and well thought out remarks, because anything you say from the well could end up in news outlets — which it did, and it was well worth it. Honestly, I didn’t get every technical detail perfect in my speech, but it still got the point across and brought needed attention to the matter.

So what’s the emergency? According to the bill’s author, in regards to the school board, it’s something his constituents have requested. Here’s what Sen. Clint Dixon, Governor Kemp’s floor leader, had to say: 

“Currently in my district it is the number one issue I have with concerns from my constituents with the unreasonable firing of our long-term superintendent . . . is what started some of the issues with our school board. Moving on from that, certain board members have indicated that they would be in favor of introducing CRT along with other, in my mind, radical agendas on their part.”

He went on to state that a new nonpartisan election must be held as soon as May 2022.

What we are seeing here, and what we are seeing over and over again, is made-up narratives that are then used to justify bad laws, or in this case, to change the structure of government.  The result is the cancelling of elected minority voices and the voters who elect them.

What can we do? I believe that in the Senate, our hope lies with the Lt. Governor. I have personally shared with him my concerns about ignoring rules and the need for him to protect the deliberative nature of the Senate body. Contact his office and tell him that if he wants to remake the Republican Party, he needs to start by putting an end to this kind of abuse of the legislative process. You can call his office at 404-656-5030, email him at or fill out this form. If you can do more, contact the following people:

Bill Sponsors:

  • Gov. Brian Kemp: 404-656-1776 |
  • Sen. Clint Dixon: 404-656-7454 |
  • Sen. Lee Anderson: 404-656-5114 |

Senate Leadership:

  • Sen. Butch Miller: 404-656-6578 |
  • Sen. Mike Dugan: 404-656-7872 |
  • Sen. Jeff Mullis: 404-656-0057 |
  • Sen. Bill Cowsert: 404-463-1366 |

House Republican Members from Gwinnett:

  • Rep. Chuck Efstration: 404-656-5125 |
  • Rep. Bonnie Rich: 404-656-5087 |
  • Rep. Timothy Barr: 404-656-7857 |
  • Rep. Tom Kirby: 404-656-0178 |


Other News from the Capitol

These political shenanigans suck the energy out of the room and distract from all the positive work being done by our community leaders. But I did still find time this week to stand up for mental health services, advocate for “Full Funding in Five” for people living with disabilities who are waiting for Home & Community Based Services Medicaid slots. Also, my Senate Resolution 300 University Fees Study Committee met to hear comments from the public.

While Republicans complain about “cancel culture,” let us stay firm to ensure they don’t cancel democracy. I often say that our efforts are not a sprint, but a marathon. An even better metaphor may be a relay marathon — so grab the baton and make some calls —  “Be LOUD” on behalf of all the people in Gwinnett county who have worked so hard to get their people elected.




Under Cover of the World Series

If you want to sneak something through the legislature with no one noticing, do it while the Braves are playing in the World Series. That’s exactly what the Senate Republicans did Tuesday night when they quietly published their proposed Senate district map on the Georgia General Assembly Redistricting Office website, figuring most people were watching the game and wouldn’t notice. Three days later, with metro area schools closed for the Braves Parade, and Georgians lining downtown streets, the Senate Redistricting Committee voted their map out of committee along party lines, readying it for a Senate floor vote early next week. News about redistricting may have gotten relegated to a back page story, but the impact of these new district lines on State Government are set to make headlines for the next decade. 

Though it’s hard to compete with the news cycle of the Braves winning the World Series, it was heartening to see the halls of the Georgia Capitol once again bustling with citizen advocates who ARE paying attention (to stay up-to-date, sign up for these emails). One after another, they stepped up to the microphone to address the members of the Redistricting Committee, begging for more time to analyze the impact of these newly released maps. Not everyone was a seasoned expert — speakers included a 13-year old student, as well as a citizen who asked me after the hearing, “Okay, what comes next, once it passes Committee?” (I gave her a little lesson.) But the Committee stuck to their pre-determined schedule, checked off the box marked “take public comment,” and passed the bill out along party lines: 9 Republicans “yea,” 4 Democrats “nay.” It was an insult to all the people who made the trek to the Capitol to speak. If you are unable to travel to the Capitol to make public comments, please submit your comments here.

This is just the beginning of the process. Redistricting happens through the passage of bills, the Senate map being Senate Bill 1EX. Once this bill passes the Senate, it goes to the House, where representatives traditionally honor the Senate’s wishes, passing their bill with no changes. In the meantime, the House released their redistricting map one week before the special session started and has yet to pass it through the House committee. Neither chamber has filed their U.S. Congressional bills, though the Senate released a proposed map several weeks ago. The congressional maps will be fraught with more controversy, with more traditional disagreements between the House and Senate versions, and more public scrutiny.

Over the last ten years, Georgia’s population has increased by about one million people and about 99% of that growth has been made up of people from various minority groups. Yet the Senate map moving through the legislature adds only one solidly Democratic seat, bringing the make up of the Senate to 33 Republican seats and 23 Democratic seats. It doesn’t take much analysis to see the partisan gerrymander in these numbers. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project agrees, giving the Democratic Senate Map a “A” and the Republican map an “F” for partisan fairness.

This is the first redistricting session since the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court removed the Federal pre-clearance requirement under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. But Section 2, which prohibits discrimination based on race, is still in place. Since the Republican map does not reflect the growth in minority population in Georgia, the courts will be an effective place to challenge these maps.

On a personal note, I am pleased that my district, Senate 40, has remained basically intact. Due to growth, the district needed to downsize by about 4000 people. The proposed map does this by eliminating the two Sandy Springs precincts in North Fulton county, and three Peachtree Corners precincts in Gwinnett county. In addition, the district swapped out a few precincts in Tucker to pick up a couple of new precincts at the southern end of the district in unincorporated DeKalb county. To my supporters who are no longer in Senate 40, please know that I will adopt you back!


The Secession of Buckhead

In the midst of the redistricting drama there’s another concerning issue percolating at the Gold Dome —  the secession of the wealthy Buckhead neighborhood from the city of Atlanta. This effort is gaining momentum among Republicans of the Senate. If enacted, it would have devastating impacts on the city of Atlanta, which could reverberate throughout the entire state.

It’s important to understand that creating the city of Buckhead is completely different from the recent incorporation of cities such as Brookhaven and Dunwoody, because it is a secession from an existing city (Atlanta) rather than a city formed from still unincorporated areas. Atlanta is also a city with its own school system, which further complicates matters.

A public hearing held at the Capitol this week brought to light a number of yet unaddressed issues. Since the Georgia constitution does not allow for the creation of new school districts, would Atlanta Public School continue to serve Buckhead families, or would they become part of Fulton County Schools? What are the financial implications for these decisions? Does the Fulton County School system have the infrastructure to absorb the Buckhead area? What would happen to parks like Chastain Park, which is currently owned by the city of Atlanta? What would happen to Atlanta’s bond rating should Buckhead secede? Would taxes go up in both Atlanta and Buckhead to support two separate police departments? If this secession passed, would it set the precedent for other wealthy, white neighborhoods to do the same — reminiscent of the city of Eagles Landing separating from Stockbridge, which voters fortunately voted down in a referendum?

In the past, Republicans have used their majority power to ram through cityhood bills without getting the consent of local elected legislators. They have done this by passing a “general bill.” I expect the same for the City of Buckhead. The proper way to pass these kinds of bills is to utilize the “local bill” process, which requires the support of the majority of legislators in the local county delegation for passage. This process ensures that residents of the whole county have a voice in what is decided.

This is an issue to watch very closely during the special session and going into the regular session in January.