Breaking News! 55+ NOW ELIGIBLE for Covid Vaccine
Today, Governor Kemp lowered the age for eligibility to 55. This is a much-needed step, along with opening more mass vaccination sites across the state, to bring Georgia out of last position in vaccine delivery. Breaking News!
Crossover Day Marathon
I introduced HB 579 for DeKalb County Public Safety and Judicial Facilities Authority, which passed. The bill corrects an anomaly to allow the Authority to issue bonds without a public referendum, just as other Authorities do.
Below: Speaker Ralston spoke in support of HB 290, the "Hospital Visitation Bill", which passed despite opposition in an emotional debate.
Above: During debate on repealing Citizens' Arrest, Rep. Gloria Frazier (D 126) brought a rose to the well for Amaud Arberry's mother: "from a mother to a mother."

Below: Crossover Day happened to be International Womens' Day, so the women of the House took to the well for recognition.
Above left and right: The Rules committee controls what comes to the Floor. We had three calendars on Crossover Day, each with a list of bills/summaries, and debate went into the late hours of the night.
Above: Rep. Bert Reeves (R 34) and Rep. Al Williams (D 168) share a powerful moment after the House voted to repeal the antiquated Citizens' Arrest Act -- brought by Rep. Reeves.

HB 479 Unanimous repeal of Citizens' Arrest. After the murder of Ahmaud Arbery last year, efforts began to repeal this law last modified in 1863. Since then, the law has been used to shield vigilantes and excuse lynchings, and it was cited as reason not to prosecute in the Arbery case. Brought by Republicans and enjoying the support of the Governor, the Speaker, and legislators from both sides of the aisle, this was the logical next step after passing the Hate Crimes Bill last year. Floor debate yesterday was moving, as legislators recounted Ahmaud Arbery's tragic death, and Black colleagues described their fears that they or their children would be victims without recourse. Bill author Rep. Bert Reeves likened its passage to the great historical acts of this body. I was happy to support this long overdue measure to leave the administration of justice to those authorized to carry it out, including security guards and out of jurisdiction law enforcement officers. Nearly every state has a law like this, so the repeal makes Georgia a leader in reform. AJC Article

HB 272 In our ongoing attempt to raise the age of defendants considered juveniles, 272 passed the House without debate, but on a vote of 113 to 51. The Senate Judiciary Committee now will consider the bill. Georgia, Wisconsin, and Texas are the only states still treating 17 year olds as adults rather than juveniles. To help pass HB 272 in the Senate, contact: Senate Judiciary Committee members, including Chair Brian Strickland

HB 109 We continue to advocate for HB 109, the Childhood Victims Protection Act. I co-sponsored this bill, providing more protection for those who experience childhood sexual abuse and extending the time to bring claims. It passed the House and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with HB 272.

HB 579 I filed this bill for DeKalb County to remove the requirement of a referendum for the Public Safety and Judicial Facilities Authority to issue new authority bonds. DeKalb is the one county with a Public Safety and Judicial Facilities Authority at this time and similar authorities issue bonds without referendum requirements. The bill passed the House and now goes to the Senate.
HB 647 Others and I have been fighting to get Georgia Power to put toxic coal ash residual from coal fired power plants into lined landfills. Georgia Power persists in efforts to "close in place," leaving the mess in unlined impoundments, including some that are in or near water tables or surface water. You'll remember the people of Juliette, Georgia who came to the Capitol last year to draw attention to this and to the bill I introduced then.

I voted for HB 647 because it enhances safeguards for closure in place, including a water monitoring period of 50 rather than 30 years, but we need a stronger law requiring Georgia Power to move contaminated ash to lined facilities. HB 176 is such a law, but that bill didn't move, so we used this chance to make our points, as you will see in the video above.
In Limbo

Bills that did not cross over are not necessarily dead. Simply put, the the language of those bills might be added as an amendment onto another bill (known as a vehicle). I'm looking for opportunities to add two of my bills to others that are still traveling and eligible for vote in the House or Senate.

HB 66 is my bill to bring greater transparency and more stakeholders into the process for annexing county property into municipalities. While the bill did not move to the Floor, discussions are continuing in a variety of ways, including the possibility amending another bill or of a study committee, which would be positive in my view.

HB 660 At the request of Fulton County Superior Court Judge McBurney and Fulton County State Court Judge Tailor and MARTA, I filed this bill to amend the act governing MARTA to allow actions against MARTA to be brought in State Court as well as in Superior Court (already provided for in the Act). It has been assigned to the House Transportation Committee, but did not move to the Floor. Again, I am hoping to find another measure to carry this as an amendment.

As I reported last time, HB 531, the House omnibus voting bill passed, purely on partisan lines. It is in the Senate for consideration, along with the Senate’s own omnibus voter suppression bill, SB 241 and other smaller bills.

It's not over yet. If you wish to participate further, write and call those in power to voice your concerns about these bills, especially if you have a relevant personal experience.

Your Voice Heard: Poll Results/New Poll

LAST POLL RESULTS: 82.7% of you would vote for a pay raise for members of the General Assembly, while 17.3% would vote no. The Senate agreed with those voting no, defeating the compensation legislation approved by the House. So no pay raise for now.

NEW QUESTION There are competing bills in the House and Senate that just crossed over. The House voted 112-48 to observe Daylight Savings Time year round (HB 44), while the Senate voted 46-7 to observe Standard Time year round until Congress changes the law (SB 100). Each bill is now in the other chamber for consideration.

What do you think? Take the poll below, and email me if you have comments.

Should we switch to year round Daylight Savings Time?
2022 Budget Highlights
I joined the Speaker's press conference announcing the House addition of $36 million for mental health to the Governor's proposed budget, bringing the total to $58 million. Desperately needed for many years, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated mental health problems for many Georgians. I serve on the House Subcommittee for Health and Human Services and advocated for additional funding.

We have passed a budget for FY 2022. There are still major gaps -- such as Georgia's refusal to participate in Medicaid funding that would help so many Georgians. Very disappointing. Highlights from the House Budget and Research Office.

Some highlights I pulled for you:

  • Nearly 90% of the new revenue for FY 2022 is programmed to be spent within education and health and human services agencies.  
  • $39.5 million for the OneGeorgia Authority to establish a Rural Innovation Fund to assist rural communities in developing targeted solutions for economic, medical, technological, or infrastructure challenges within their regions. 
  • $10 million to the OneGeorgia Authority to establish a broadband infrastructure grant program. This add, combined with $20 million provided in the Amended FY 2021 budget (HB 80, 2020 Session), will assist rural communities in leveraging federal, local, and private resources to target broadband needs in their area. 
  • $146.6 million in bonds dedicated to economic development. These projects improve infrastructure and promote tourism throughout the state. 
  • K-12 education is the largest single expenditure in the state’s budget, totaling $10.2 billion, or 43.8% of the state general funds budget. The FY 2021 budget included a reduction of $950 million to the Quality Basic Education formula (QBE) due to a decline in state revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; HB 81 restores $567 million, or 60% of that reduction, to QBE formula earnings. The sustained reduction to QBE is now $383 million, or (4%). 
  • Leadership positions in the state’s health agencies by annualizing three positions in the Department of Public Health for a chief medical examiner, deputy commissioner of public health, and chief data officer ($857,986) as well as two senior leadership positions to support the Department of Community Health’s increasing workload ($556,456).
  • $1.5 million for DPH for the ongoing maintenance and operations of the new vaccine management system funded in the Amended FY 2021 budget. 
  • The House restores $58.5 million for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which includes an additional $36.3 million over the governor’s recommendation. 
  • Additionally, $394,289 is added for suicide prevention services, including funds for suicide prevention training in schools and the state’s first suicide epidemiologist. 
  • The House provides $12.3 million for a 5% rate increase for providers, contingent on approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. $4.6 million is also added to fully restore the FY 2021 reduction to non-waiver services in family support. 
  • The House version of the FY 2022 budget also recognizes $7.6 million in collected ride share fees provided for by HB 105 (2020 Session). After receiving a revised revenue estimate from the governor, the House uses these funds to: boost the Intermodal program by $638,448 for transit programs across the state; add $1 million in funding for Athens-Clarke Transit; and fund $6 million to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). MARTA will use the funds to complete improvements at its Bankhead Station in order to improve accessibility near the newly announced Microsoft campus. 

Quick Links for You

You can search for and track pending bills, watch the House (or Senate) in Session, watch committee hearings, monitor legislation by committee, and find contact information —- all on the revamped General Assembly website. Here are quick links:

Flowers on my desk always help me make it through the day! Late in the evening of Crossover Day, Henry was home, unencumbered by cares we had at the Capitol.
Please Be in Touch

As always, I am here to serve you and want to hear from you. Contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns.

Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square, Suite 604
Atlanta, GA  30334