Mary Margaret Oliver
Email Newsletter
 
January 30, 2020
 
THE SESSION IS UNDERWAY!   
Visitors to the Capitol, especially from HD 82, are always welcome! This week advocates for developmentally disabled, primary care services, and dyslexia gave me helpful information. Thank you for visiting me at your House!

We have completed 8 days of the 40 days of the 2020 Session, and in these early days I spend much of my time at the Capitol in committee meetings. I want to list the committees I am on and what they do, and invite you to "attend" any committee meeting through the live streaming on the General Assembly web site--all committee meetings are open to the public. I am a member of the Appropriations and the Human Resources Subcommittee, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary and the Welch Subcommittee, Juvenile Justice, and Science and Technology. Committees receive  legislation as assigned by the Speaker of the House. Human Resources Subcommittee reviews the budget and Georgia's state agencies and departments specific to family and children service, the elderly, behavioral health and disabilities, vocational rehabilitation, and veterans affairs.  Governmental Affairs oversees  the operations and management of state, county, and municipal governments, and an assortment of business issues overseen by local governments. It also receives almost all legislation relative to elections and new cities and therefore is frequently the site of controversy. Judiciary reviews legislation relating to law, courts, judges, and constitutional amendments. Juvenile Justice works to oversee juvenile related issues like that in the article by the AJC I posted on Facebook. Science and Technology promotes the appropriate and safe development and use of science and technological advances in the state.
Gov. Kemp delivered the State of the State Address (left image). Speaker Ralston invited U.S. Rep Doug Collins to give the devotional this week (right image). The politics within the Republican Leadership is interesting and sometimes amusing from my front row seat.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson attended the State of the State and was properly recognized for his service. I served in both the State House and Senate with him.
New Survey Question
 
This year 2020 we will vote for President, 2 U.S. Senators, and multiple U.S. Representatives, State Senators, State Representatives, and county and city officials. SB 283 makes Election Day a state holiday which would help people have time to vote. 

Currently, we have State Holiday in April - originally Confederate Memorial Day. In 2015, Governor Deal changed the name to State Holiday, replacing both Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee's January birthday.

Would you vote for Election Day to be a state holiday?
If Election Day was a holiday, should it be in addition to or replace State Holiday?
If you would like to weigh in, please complete a short survey  here.

Previous Survey Results
 
Thank you for responding to my last survey question. Here are the results:
 
Should the General Assembly vote to reduce the state income tax from 5.75% to 5.5%

73.4% No
25.1% Yes

Written responses included*:

Given our current budget issues, I don't think it would be prudent to reduce state income tax at this time.

Yes. By even more!

The state desperately needs more revenue to increase pay and staff for teachers, police, and regulatory agencies. We could also add resources for mental health and family services.


*The responses reported were chosen by staff as exemplifying common themes from both points of view.
Local Legislation

In our first meeting of the DeKalb Delegation, we continue to wrangle with local legislation. It did no go well. Rep. Matthew Wilson and my efforts to move a "clean" bill to provide appointments to the DeKalb Ethics Board was  stalled. See today's news reports here.

At Glenn Memorial Church speaking to neighbors about the budget with fellow legislators.

Rep. Becky Evans and I speaking with 3rd graders from Talley Street Upper Elementary School.

Budget

Georgia's Constitution specifically requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget, which much originate in the House of Representatives within the 40 constitutionally outlined legislative days. Debt on state bonds is limited to 10% of the total budget amount and in recent history debt service has  been about 5 to 7%.  We are required to maintain "rainy day funds", and our current reserve funds are close to 3 billion dollars. The Governor makes proposed adjustments to the budget, estimates the total revenues in the next fiscal year, and gives the budget to the House. This week most of the subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee are conducting public hearings on the proposed 4% budget cuts requested by the Governor. 
 
The House Appropriations Committee reviews the changes for the next fiscal year. Governor Kemp's budget includes a teacher pay raise and the creation of a professorship at UGA for Parkinson's research to be named after retired U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, but also requires 4% across the board cuts. Such cuts can be found in the GBI's crime labs, mental health, public safety, public defenders, agriculture, state prisons, and health departments.   

Please note these CUTS to state services and programs by department

Department

2020
2021 2021 Program Cuts*
Education $7 million $12.5 million
Georgia Network for Education and Therapeutic Support (GNETS), Career, Technical and Agricultural Education and Technology program (CTAE)
Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
$33 million $35.4 million
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, adult behavioral services, adult addictive disease services
Community Health
$4.3 million
$6.2 million
Morehouse School and Mercer School of Medicine Operating Grant, Rural Health System Innovation Center
Public Health
$6.2 million
$16.4 million
County boards of health, Adolescent and Adult Health Promotion
Juvenile Justice
$14.7 million
$8 million
Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Forensic Scientific Services
Corrections
$47 million
$54 million
State prisons, Transition Centers
*top 3 programs cut in the 2021 budget.

On Political Rewind with Bill Nigut.

Coal Ash

A byproduct of coal fired power plants is coal ash, which has been disposed of  by Georgia Power in unlined areas called ponds. This year I worked with several colleagues and filed House Bill 756 to require all coal ash ponds to be lined, regardless of whether they are still receiving coal ash or scheduled for closure. Currently, there are five plants with unlined coal ash ponds that do not meet federal standards of maintaining a 5 foot buffer between the pond and the aquifer.  The toxins of coal ash residue can and do reach Georgia's water sources based on ongoing required well tests.

Under current Georgia law, our solid waste municipal landfills have more requirements and restrictions than Georgia Power has on coal ash ponds. Landfills, like the ones our household waste goes to, are required to be lined and have collection systems to ensure waste does not pollute the groundwater. Without a liner, Georgia Power's coal ash ponds can leak unacceptable levels of dangerous, toxic, carcinogenic metals like hexavalent chromium, arsenic, mercury, and lead into groundwater. Georgia Power is seeking permission from Georgia's Environmental Protection Division on its plan to "decommission" ponds where coal fire plants are being closed and leave the ponds unlined. 

We know from well water testing completed by the Altamaha RiverKeeper that there has been such contamination.  The purpose of this bill is to protect the water supply by requiring Georgia Power to line its ponds. 

This bill has been assigned to the Natural Resources and Environment Committee whose chair, Lynn Smith (Republican from Newnan), has yet to call a meeting on it. If you would like to urge her to hear this bill, call her office
404-656-7149 or email her lynn.smith@house.ga.gov.

Articles relating to HB 756:
Doing an interview with GPB.
 
Refugees

Since 1996 my church, All Saints' Episcopal, has welcomed refugees and their families into the parish and to Atlanta and provided support for their resettlement. I have long been proud of this effort. I have closely followed the national discussion and decisions by President Trump for states to elect whether or not to take refugees. 42 states agreed to welcome refugees while 1 state has refused. I urged  Governor Kemp to join the majority of governors, but he had not yet stated a position when he was relieved of the need to do so by federal courts, as you can read below. Once  again the federal courts have spared us from an unfortunate Trump action.

Georgia Municipal Day at the Capitol

What's Happening?

Some events in HD 82 that may interest you:

Wednesday, February 5, 2020, 7 pm: Brookhaven Planning Commission Public Hearing on Annexation by property owners on Briarcliff and North Druid Hills. Brookhaven  City Hall - Peachtree
4362 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven, GA 30319.

Thursday, February 6, 2020, 8:30 am: Council for Quality Growth DeKalb Advisory Meeting, featuring Stonecrest Mayor Jason Larry and DeKalb Commissioner Kathy Gannon, Druid Hills Country Club, 740 Clifton Road, Atlanta 30307. Registration required.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020, 6:00 pm: DeKalb Legislative Delegation Town Hall Meeting, Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur, GA. 
Contact and Thanks
 
As always, 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. 

Also, please consider how you might want to volunteer and join me next year in the 2020 Session--would your child like to page, would you like to follow a particular committee or bill for me?   Would you like to visit with me as my guest on the House floor? Please contact me or my staff members Sydney Cleland or Olivia Buckner.

I look forward to working with you again during the  2020 Georgia General Assembly.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST!
  
Mary Margaret

mmo@mmolaw.com
Law Office (404) 377-0485
Legislative Office (404) 656-0265
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