Mary Margaret Oliver
Email Newsletter
 
February 26, 2020
 
THE UNPRECEDENTED SESSION!  
 
L'Arche, a community-based group that builds relationships between adults with and without disabilities, visited the Capitol. See the photos below for all the fun they had while visiting. 

This year's legislative session is unprecedented . The tensions around the Governor's budget recommendations have come early and caused a 2-week break in our schedule. I've been especially focused on health services and am delighted that funding for the Marcus Autism Center in HD-82 was restored in the Amended 2020 Budget. Now that the House has passed the Amended Budget, it is in the hands of the Senate, so we can focus on other bills. Read on to learn about significant legislation and to take my survey of what's important to you. As always, keep in touch. 


Special thanks to Lauri Gaskell Begley for responding to our request for snow day pictures by sharing with us on Facebook her picture of Costco in North Fulton.
New Survey Question

Please answer our new issue based survey HERE.

On the survey, you will rank the following issues from most to least important to you, with 1 being most important and 5 being least important. As always, there will be a place for an optional comment.

- Lining coal ash ponds to protect ground water
- Raising the age for juveniles to be tried as adults from 17 to 18
- Keeping the high school dual enrollment program the same
- Raising the Cigarette Tax to $1
- Increasing protections for seniors in assisted living facilities


Previous Survey Results
 
Thank you for responding to my last survey questions. Here are the results:

1. Would you vote for Election Day to be a state holiday?
82.4% Yes
15.4% No
2.1% Other 

Written responses included*:

With early voting there is plenty of time for people to vote...not necessary to have a holiday.

It should be a paid holiday so that hourly workers do not have to sacrifice income to exercise their right to vote. It would go a long way in increasing voter turnout.

Probably a better alternative would be to have elections on a weekend.

ANYTHING we can do to increase access to voting will help all citizens' voices be heard.

2. If Election Day were a holiday, should it be in addition to or 
replace  State Holiday?
72.3% Replace
21.2% In addition to
3.7% Other

Written responses included*:

Either but easier on businesses to substitute one for another.

A stand alone day for elections should absolutely be passed and in addition to any existing State holiday.

Either way is fine but it would be best to replace anything connected to the Confederacy.

Either replace or addition would be a big improvement.


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

Speaking to advocates from Justice Reform Partnership about the Raise the Age Bill.
Budget

This past week the House voted on the Amended 2020 Budget and passed it with money added back for the Bobby Dodd Institute, the Marcus Center for Autism, and Grady Hospital's Poison Control Center as well as other programs. The 'Big Budget' the 2021 Budget will be next. 

I'm a self-confessed budget nerd, so I have scrutinized the whole budget. But as a member of the Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, I have a responsibility to give special attention to the Departments of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and Human Services, which have needed programs that I am committed to protecting and supporting. For instance, the State of Georgia is ranked as one of the last states in per capita spending on mental health. Many of you have written to me about these issues. Please know I am working on your behalf. 

Gov. Kemp's proposed 2021 changes to Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities include:
  • Cuts $24.3 million, a 2 percent decrease from last year
  • $4.9 million cut to funding residential treatment beds for people with addictive diseases.
  • A $7.4 million reduction in funding for adult mental health services, including $8.3 million from core behavioral health services, $2.4 million from supported employment services and a $1.2 million from provider support and training. Some of these cuts were offset by an increase of $5.1 million for a $1,000 pay raise for full-time employees in adult mental health with salaries at or below $40,000 a year. 
  • A $14.1 million reduction in funding for child and adolescent mental health services, including a reduction of $5.9 million for four crisis respite homes that were not yet implemented and a $3 million cut to supported employment and education services.
Gov. Kemp's proposed 2021 changes to Human Services include:
  • $28.8 million decrease in agency funding for fiscal year 2021
  • $6.2 million reduction due to the elimination of more than 130 vacant child protection and foster care caseworkers
  • $2.2 million reduction due to the elimination of more than 100 vacant caseworker positions that help children and families with low incomes access public assistance
  • $5 million reduction in funding for the Georgia Gateway online eligibility system for accessing public benefits
  • $1.7 million reduction due to the elimination of 101 child support services agent positions
  • $250,000 reduction in spending for foster parent outreach and recruitment
  • $3.9 million transfer of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to fill budget holes in child welfare services
  • $4.5 million in $1,000 pay raises to full-time agency staff who earn less than $40,000 annually
With the additional budget changes for 2021, the House is also expecting another income tax cut. In my previous email survey, 73.4% voted against it, so I'm voting against it. You are saying we cannot afford to keep cutting taxes and slashing budgets, and I agree.
   

HB 756: Coal Ash

House Bill 756
House Bill 756

This bill, House Bill 756, 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:

Juliette, Georgia residents came to the Capitol to lobby for HB 756 and SB 297 which would require Georgia Power to dispose of coal ash in lined facilities, as is already required for our household garbage. The citizens were interviewed by several media outlets and held a press conference. In the top left image, the group even went to offer Gov. Kemp water from their wells (image below), but he was either not there or chose not to come out of his office.

Juvenile Justice: Raise the Age and Shackling

There are serious issues with the juvenile court system. Representative Mandi Ballinger (R, HD-23 Canton, GA) and I have been working together for several years to increase the age for juveniles to be tried as adults. After 5 committee hearings, it is my hope that House Bill 440 will pass the committee and move on to Rules Committee this week. The video below explains some of the statistics and most affected communities.  Do we want to be the last state in the country to raise the age?

Updated CFYJ WhiteBoard Video - Youth Justice Action Month 2018
Updated CFYJ WhiteBoard Video - Youth Justice Action Month 2018

Shackling of children in juvenile court is considered an acceptable practice and routinely used in many courts in Georgia. More than 2/3 of court-involved children come with complex histories and traumas that are exacerbated by this practice. Shackling children can cause humiliation, stigmatization, and can re-traumatize. In a 2018-2019 research, it showed that children frequently appeared in court, regardless of the offense, wearing metal handcuffs, leg irons, and belly chains.  House Bill 438 would allow Georgia to join the 30 other states that restrict juvenile shackling but would allow judges to order shackles if necessary for safety reasons.  

The handcuffs on the left are for children whereas the ones on the right are for adults.
What's Happening?
Girl Scouts Day at the Capitol was Tuesday, February 25th, and they were lobbying for the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah to be renamed the Juliette Gordon Low Bridge to honor their founder. I also got to meet Troop 16184 from Decatur.

Some events in HD 82 that may interest you:

Join me for New Voting Machine Demonstration: Wednesday, March 4, 6:00 p.m. Central DeKalb Senior Center, 1346 McConnell Drive, Decatur, GA 30033

Thanks to everyone who came out the DeKalb County Town Hall last week.

Contact and Thanks
 
As always, please contact me at 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. 

Also, please consider how you might want to volunteer and join me here during this 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 am honored to work with you in the Georgia General Assembly again this year.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST!
 

Mary Margaret

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