Mary Margaret Oliver
Email Newsletter
May 1, 2018

Friends,

YOU ARE INVITED!  Please come to a Town Hall meeting on May 7, 2018, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at Henderson Middle School  at 2830 Henderson Mill Road, Chamblee, co-hosted by me, Rep. Scott Holcomb, and Rep. Michele Henson to highlight the most important issues of the 2018 General Assembly Session.   I look forward to a good discussion and hope to see you next week.  I hope the following Session summary will offer an overview with some of my thoughts and hopes for the future.  Please call me if I can be of service.  Thank you for your interest!

Before we convened, the political know-it-alls predicted that with so many state wide elections looming,  the Session would be short and uneventful, with candidates wanting to get back to fundraising and campaigning as soon as possible.  They were wrong.  The 2018 Session was successful and productive.  The budget expansions were significant. Criminal Justice Reform continued. The 
House refused to pass (after the Senate acted wrongly) any of the anti-immigrant or anti-gay bills that had been put forward. No new bad gun legislation passed.  The important Adoption Bill that had died at the end of the 2017 Session passed successfully.  The Governor hosted a large and emotional signing ceremony at the Capitol with many adoptive families.  It was my favorite event of the Session!  The years of hard work paid off and the Governor honored me by giving me one of the pens he used to  sign the Bill!
 
Budget and Tax Bills

At the end of the budget negotiations, the education budget included full formula funding for the first time in more than a decade and ended all austerity cuts that had persisted since the recession. This additional education money provided a lift of $9.6 million for the DeKalb School District and a $560,000 boost for Decatur Schools.  The Governor's initial budget proposal for children's mental health included an additional $80 million which remained intact, with the addition of funds for suicide prevention.  The suicide prevention funding and strategy includes an app to assist vulnerable victims of depression, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- the modern world of technology assisted medical support.  
 
My position on the Appropriations Committee gives me a little influence and inside information on the backroom debates and it is an important part of my service.
 
Major tax reductions also passed, cutting the highest state income tax bracket from 6% to 5.5% in two steps.  This passed partly in response to the analysis of the impact of the federal tax bill on state revenue. Predictions as to what these measures will mean for the ability to fund critical education, health and social services are being studied, with no exact answers certain at this point.
 
Guns

I introduced HB 10 (click to view bill) to ban the sale of assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and armor piercing bullets in the 2017 Session. It did not receive a hearing this year.  I also introduced HB 651 to ban bump stocks, but this Bill was also ignored by the Public Safety Committee.  I am amazed to report that President Trump and I agree that bump stocks should be banned. At the President's direction the federal Justice Department is preparing new rules.   
 
The 2018 Session demonstrated a different tone in part because of the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting and murders.  The number and activism of Georgia gun safety advocates and demonstrators acting in response helped change the  conversation.

30,000 participants in the March for Our Lives event at Liberty Plaza and 1,800 advocates in Liberty Plaza on behalf of Moms Demand Action this year, and 60,000 women and men in the Women's March last year are powerful voices for change.  This week an AJC poll reported that the majority of Georgians support gun reform.  I already knew that, but this year the Republican leadership was properly informed.  Based on this recognition, HB 657 passed.  It will increase the criminal penalties for a person knowingly selling a gun to a felon or other person barred from purchasing a gun.  Small progress, but I am sincerely grateful for any positive steps and for every new voice that comes to the Capitol asking for common sense gun reform.  I plan on re-introducing the Assault Weapon ban bill in the 2019 session and will be working with advocacy groups prior to the 2019 session developing a strategy to move the bill forward.    
 

Local Legislation  

 

A major responsibility each year is shepherding the passage of local legislation requested by the cities of Decatur, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Atlanta, the three school districts of DeKalb, Atlanta, and Decatur, and DeKalb County, all local governments I represent in House District 82.  Local bills that I carried and passed in 2018 included legislation to create an authority for Brookhaven to fund the North Peachtree Greenway and bike path, and a measure to raise the hotel motel tax to 8 cents for Decatur, consistent with other DeKalb cities.  Local legislation for DeKalb included reforms to the Audit Committee.

 

I spent considerable time seeking to correct the injustice and "mistake" made in the annexation of the 744 acres of the Emory campus into Atlanta that removed $2.5 million from the DeKalb School System.  This messy issue has not been resolved, and will be an ongoing tension for the foreseeable future.

MMO Projects and Highlights 
 
An unplanned but major activity for 2018 arose relating to access by demonstrators to Liberty Plaza, the designated area for the exercise of free speech demonstrations across the street from the capitol.  It started when Steve Stancil, head of the Georgia Building Authority, personally directed that power and microphones  be shut off at Liberty Plaza to silence the Moms Demand Action speakers. I had a  media fit and immediately began to investigate the permit process.  Janel Green and Georgians for Social Justice were denied a permit for a Liberty Plaza demonstration because of a rule that required they be "hosted" by a state constitutional officer.  Janel and I sued Governor Deal in Federal Court asserting a violation of the right to free speech and assembly.  Extensive local media coverage and interest from The New York Times followed.  The legal analysis was clear that the rule was ridiculous. The case was settled over the immediate issue and the permit was granted.  The lawsuit is continuing to implement a comprehensive review of the permit process.  However, if you view the permit rules on the Georgia Building Authority website, there is an amendment in red stating that the hosting requirement to obtain a permit is being revised "based on the advice of counsel".   Victory!

HB 630 and HB 738 are bills I filed relating to Probate Court procedures. Both passed as SB 436 and are awaiting the Governor's signature.  The Governor's deadline to sign or veto a bill is May 8. 

I hope Governor Deal will veto the local legislation to create the City of Eagles Landing that took 40% of the tax base from the existing City of Stockbridge.  I was part of the opposition to this bill. The bill sets a bad precedent that undermines the ability of cities to function.

HB 966 to prevent shackling of juveniles in Juvenile Court without a court order failed to pass this year, but had an interesting short life and will be revived in the 2019 Session. I will also continue to advocate for HB 53, which expands Juvenile Court jurisdiction to include 17 year olds to address criminal charges.  This is consistent with the 45 states in this country that treat persons  under the age of 18 as children for the purpose of criminal prosecution. Georgia should join them.
  
 

Qualifying for the 2019-2020 Session

I qualified  for re-election to serve HD 82 and am very grateful to have no opposition for either the primary or the general election.  THANK YOU!  I am helping friends in their election opportunities and remind you to please vote in the upcoming May 22 primary election  --  WE WILL HAVE A NEW GOVERNOR NEXT YEAR!  PLEASE PARTICIPATE!

 

Survey Results  

 

In our last newsletter, we asked whether Liberty Plaza should be available for demonstrations on the weekends and after work hours.  

 

98% of respondents said YES.

 

We also asked whether organizers or the State should pay for security and Port o Potties.

 

55% said organizers should pay.

45% said State should pay.

 

 

 

 

 

   

Sine Die

Henry was exhausted!


  And so was I! So every year a post session trip with friends to the beach is in order. So this week, a week of lying on the beach reading fashion magazines!


   

  

 

 

 

Please contact me any time with your questions or comments. Visit my website at the link below and  follow me on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the links below. 

I look forward to working with you again during the  2019 Georgia General Assembly. I need your help and your support!!  In the meantime, I will continue to report on issues that may interest you and welcome your suggestions as to how this newsletter may better serve you.
  
Mary Margaret

mmo@mmolaw.com
Law Office (404) 377-0485
Legislative Office (404) 656-0265
http://marymargaretoliver.org/
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