First things first: it is time for more love and less hate. This week our district was the site of a tragedy. On Tuesday evening, a 21-year-old white man killed eight people at three different spas (two right here in HD 57). Six of the eight victims were Asian-American women. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have been tragically affected. Justice must be served. No matter the motivation, we know that acts of hate against the AAPI community are rising. And it must stop.
Visit Asian Americans Advancing Justice for more information on how you can learn, stand in solidarity, donate, and get involved.
Please join a march and rally in support of the AAPI community TODAY at 1 PM.
This Week in the House
This week in the House saw increased committee hearings to handle the Senate Bills that crossed over. Some good and some bad, I’m also monitoring House Bill’s progress that have been moving in the Senate. We have 5 days left in the session, and I expect them to be packed. The best news of the week: my baby boy Jack turned 2 this week!
Happy Birthday Jack!
We asked you answered. We had 165 responses, and (drumroll) 47.3% supported having Daylight Savings Time year-round. I’m with you!
This Week’s Votes
Below are a few bills considered and voted upon in the House this week:
SB 34 would allow human trafficking victims to petition for a name change “under seal,” which means these petitions would be processed by the court confidentially and would not become a part of public record. Not only would this legislation provide privacy and peace of mind to these survivors, but it would also allow them to remain safe and protected from those who exploited them. I voted yes.
SB 163 would allow chief judges of Georgia’s superior court judicial circuits or state courts to continue to suspend statutory speedy trial deadlines after lifting the judicial emergency declared because of COVID-19. Once the current judicial emergency is lifted, there is an overwhelming backlog of cases waiting for jury trials. The bill balances the reality of the need to extend the time for courts to catch up on trial work and the need to ensure that defendants are not awaiting trial longer than necessary. I’m hopeful the State will allocate additional funds to pay for senior judges to help handle the backlog of litigation. The bill includes a sunset date of June 20, 2023, and the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice would have the ability to reinstate the speedy trial requirements at his discretion before this sunset date. While I wish this bill was not necessary, it is, and so I voted yes.
SB 66 authorizes the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to create a nonprofit corporation that could receive private donations to fund grants to public schools. I voted yes.
SB 88 also passed the House this week. This bill provides that Georgia’s Teacher of the Year has the option to serve as an ex officio board member at State Board of Education meetings or public hearings. It requires local school systems to accept the three-year military support provisional certificate approved by the Professional Standards Commission. A teacher candidate is eligible if they (1) are a military veteran or an active member of the military, (2) have a bachelor’s degree, and (3) have passed the Georgia Assessments for Certification of Educators (GACE). This legislation would also revise the state’s tiered evaluation system for teachers to focus their observational resources on teachers who need more support in the classroom. SB 88 would also require the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to create innovative programs to promote teacher education programs at Georgia’s historically black colleges and universities. Finally, this legislation would direct the PSC to provide aspiring teachers with increased coursework in differentiated instruction and reading fundamentals, which would better prepare new teachers before entering the classroom. I was away from the Capitol for a court hearing during the presentation of this bill, so I was excused from voting, but I fully support this legislation.
SB 5 prohibits anyone from administering conscious sedation in a dental facility or during dentistry practice in a medispa without a license to practice dentistry from the Georgia Board of Dentistry. It is considered illegal for anyone to administer sedation in office-based surgeries without a license to practice medicine from the state board. So why would it be any different in a dentist’s office? This bill requires dental assistants and dental hygienists to complete board training to perform phlebotomy and venipuncture procedures and administer conscious sedation. It does not prohibit certified registered nurse anesthetists or any person duly licensed as a physician assistant who has completed a board-approved anesthesiologist assistant program from administering conscious sedation in a dental facility. And, it does not prevent licensed dentists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, or licensed physician assistants who have completed a board-approved anesthesiologist assistant program from administering conscious sedation or anesthesia. This bill requires that the Georgia Composite Medical Board create rules and regulations for the administration of sedation and rescue in office-based surgeries before December 31, 2021. These rules and regulations will include standards that ensure competency and consistency and promote patient safety. I supported this measure and hope the Governor signs it!
SB 43 prohibits insurers from requiring an ophthalmologist or optometrist to accept a payment amount set by the insurer for services that are not covered eye care services under the covered person’s eye care benefit plan as a condition to join or participate in its provider network, as well as allow these eye care providers to decide whether or not to offer discounts for non-covered services or products, regardless of the insurer.
I voted and spoke against SB 221. This bill would allow for the creation of “leadership committees PACs” that could directly coordinate with individual campaign committees. Coordination between PACs and individual campaigns has long been illegal under campaign finance laws. These entities would be allowed only for the current Governor and Lieutenant Governor, nominees of any political party for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and the majority and minority caucuses of the State House and Senate.I spoke against this bill.
If you would like to watch my remarks, go HERE.
This week a 2-page voting bill changed to 94-pages. Many voting rights advocates have described this new substitute as a marriage between HB 531 and SB 241, the House and Senate “omnibus” bills.
So far, only legislators and a few activist groups have received copies. Once it is published online, you can find it HERE.
Here are some highlights:
Extends the definition of an election superintendent to an individual appointed by the State Election Board.
Creates a voter hotline to report any voter intimidation and illegal election actives.
Gives the Attorney General authority to investigate within 3 business days or as expeditiously as possible.
The State Election Board (SEB) chairperson will be elected by a simple majority vote of the General Assembly.
Relegates the Secretary of State (SOS) to an ex officio non-voting member of the SEB.
The SEB may suspend county of municipal superintendents and appoint individuals to take their places.
The temporary superintendent may exercise all the powers and duties of a superintendent, including personnel decisions regarding the director of elections, the election supervisor, and all the poll officers.
Prevents the SEB from suspending more than 8 superintendents and requires the SOS to provide any support the SEB requests for enforcement.
Outlines petitions, conducting hearings, suspensions, and other procedures so the SEB can exert control over a county Board of Elections.
The SEB may adopt emergency rules in situations of imminent danger to public health, safety, or welfare.
To adopt these rules, the public and officials must be given notice 5 days prior, by the SEB, to entering any consent agreement.
The SEB and SOS cannot enter into consent agreements that limit, alter and interpret any provision without obtaining the General Assembly’s approval.
Local election officials cannot accept funding or gifts from any source other than the local governing authority of the county, state, or federal government.
The SEB shall study and report to the General Assembly a proposed method for accepting and equitably distributing donations for election administration.
In a county that does not have a Board of Elections: if there is a vacancy or incapacitation of the probate judge for more than 5 days, the chief judge of the superior county in the county’s circuit can appoint an acting election superintendent.
If a vacancy is filled for a probate judge, the probate court judge will resume the election superintendent’s duties.
The county commissioner or board of elections sets the compensation of the acting election superintendent.
A poll worker may live in an adjacent county if the county superintendent waives requirements.
Creates a process to allow governing authorities to adopt a resolution to call for a local election performance.
Develops the ability for the removal of one or more election officials based on findings.
If a candidate in a nonpartisan election dies before the election, the candidate’s name remains on the ballot.
If the deceased candidate wins, the election is considered a failure to fill the office.
If the deceased candidate advances to a run-off, the run-off will move forward and, candidates will be determined based on another code section that says deceased candidates will be excluded from the subsequent highest vote receiver advances in their place.
Prohibits the board of registrars from accepting nongovernmental funds or gifts.
Allows any voter to challenge the qualifications of an unlimited number of voters.
Requires a notice to be served to the challenged person 10 business days following the challenge filing.
Requires that challenge hearing details be served within 10 business days after serving the notice of the challenge.
If there is noncompliance with this process, the SEB can impose sanctions.
Absentee ballot voter challenges can be made any day before 5 PM on the day before these ballots are to be scanned and tabulated.
There is no limit to the number of people whose qualifications an elector can challenge.
If there is noncompliance with this process, the SEB can impose sanctions.
The SOS must obtain regular information about voters who have moved, died, or become ineligible to vote for list maintenance.
For precincts with more than 2,000 electors, if wait times were more than 1 hour on Election Day, the superintendent must do one or both: reduce the precinct size to 2,000 electors or less and/or provide additional voting equipment or poll workers.
Requires election superintendent to post a notice of polling place change if the change occurs within 7 days before the election.
Requires advanced voting locations and polling places to be schoolhouses, municipal buildings or rooms, or public buildings.
Mobile voting units can only be used in emergency situations for the supplementation of existing locations.
Allows local election boards to reduce voting equipment to more than 1:250 in non-statewide elections.
County or municipal superintendents can use discretion when allocating equipment.
Requires absentee ballots to be printed on security paper, with the exception of uniformed and overseas citizens absentee voting.
Adds requirements for notice for testing and preparing voting equipment.
Shortens absentee application window from 176 days to 67 days.
Requires driver’s license or identification card number or a copy of license or card to be sent in with absentee ballot application. An electronic copy of the license or ID card with the application can be electronically transmitted.
Prevents pre-filled out applications from being sent to people and accepted.
Prohibits someone from turning in an elector application unless they are a relative, assisting for disability purposes, etc. If someone does and is not one of the exceptions, it could mean a misdemeanor charge.
Third parties sending applications must send blank applications and disclose their identity and affirm nongovernmental affiliation.
Third parties must check distribution lists against SOS lists to prevent electors from receiving multiple applications.
Absentee applicants’ identities (name, DOB, drivers license number or, ID card number) will be compared to registrar’s office files.
If the registrar’s office does not have a drivers license or ID number, the office must verify the application’s identification.
If the application is not received on time, the clerk or board of registrars must deny the application and notify the applicant promptly.
Prohibits rejection of absentee ballots based solely on a mismatch of identifying information on application and files with the board of registrars.
Electors should be promptly notified if the application is incomplete.
Allows voters in detention locations access to personal documents to obtain and fulfill the ID card requirements for absentee ballots applications.
Requires dropboxes to be inside established advanced voting locations.
Dropboxes are only accessible during hours of advanced voting at the location just on advanced voting days.
Requires adequate lighting and constant in-person surveillance for dropboxes.Creates a dropbox design requirement.
Creates a process for collection of ballots from dropboxes: collected at the end of each day by at least 2 people. Includes requirements for collectors to fill out certain forms and to deliver ballots to specific locations.
When advanced voting commences, the poll manager must confirm that the dropbox is empty.
Limits the number of dropboxes to 1 for every 100,000 active registered voters or the number of advance voting locations.
Shortens the window for absentee ballots to be issued and mailed for the presidential, general primary, general election, special primary for federal candidates.
For uniformed and overseas citizens absentee voting, an absentee ballot must be issued 49 days before the federal primary and election and not later than 45 days.
Voters in hospitals can apply for an absentee ballot 10 days immediately before the primary or election. (Previously was 5 days)
Envelopes for absentee ballots must be: large, have spaces for voter name, signature, drivers license or ID card number or SSN number if voter does not have a license or ID, date of birth, and designed so information cannot be visible when sealed.
Creates instant run-off for uniformed and overseas citizens absentee voting in general primaries and elections.
Creates a felony for anyone who knowingly opens an absentee ballot other than the ballot clerk, registrar, or an investigating law enforcement officer.
On the outer oath envelope, the voter must print drivers license or ID card number.
Changes advanced voting requirements to begin for run-offs from the general or primary election to as soon as possible before the run-off election but no later than the second Monday/8 days prior.
Weekday advanced voting hours are changed to 9 AM – 5 PM.
Counties can extend advanced voting hours to 7 AM – 7 PMand may add additional voting locations.
Early voting can only take place Monday-Friday, three weeks before the election and the second Saturday before the election.
Advanced voting locations cannot be changed during a voting period, cannot be 14 days before the advanced voting period for the general primary or election or a run-off, 7 days before advanced voting for a special primary or election, or a run-off for those elections.
Add that advanced voting locations must be available on a county website or if the county does not have a website, a newspaper and posted in a prominent county location. This notice must be 14 days before the general or primary election and 7 days before a run-off election.
Early processing of absentee ballots must begin at 8 AM, the third Monday before election day, 15 days before, but no tabulation can occur until polls close.
The superintendent must give written notice to the SOS at least 7 days before processing and scanning the balance.
Only those designated by the superintendent shall touch a ballot or container with ballots.
Allows SOS to audit information in applications or envelopes in the 24 months after the election.
Superior Court judges must find clear and convincing evidence that a person could not vote during the specified times.
Requires that any order extending poll hours beyond 9 PM be written with specific findings of fact supporting the extension.
Ensures locations designated for poll watchers by the superintendent and locations to observe the tabulation process which requires training for poll watchers created by the SOS.
Prohibits line warming activities within 150 feet and only allows self-service water from an available unattended receptacle.
Out-of-precinct votes will not be counted unless it is cast after 5 PM and before the regular time for closing the polls on election day and unless the person executes a sworn statement witnessed by the polling official.
The board of registrars shall be notified that provisional ballots were cast at the earliest time possible.
If the person is voting out-of-precinct between the hours of 5 PM and the regular closing time on election day and provides a sworn statement, the superintendent will count the person’s vote.
After the poll closing, poll officials must complete required accounting documentation and alert the election superintendent of the total number of ballots and provisional ballots cast.
The chief manager and at least one assistant manager will post a copy of the results on the precinct door as soon as possible but no later than 10 PM.
The superintendent will report to the SOS the number of ballots cast the day of the primary advanced voting locations and return to the board of registrar by the deadline.
A ballot cannot be processed by the tabulation machine.
The superintendent may order a duplication panel to prepare a duplicate copy of the ballot.
Duplicate ballots must have a unique number so that they can be linked back to the original ballot.
Superintendents must certify returns no later than 5 PM the following Monday.
This lowers the deadline from 10 days to 6.
The superintendent’s certification may no longer be extended by the discretion of the SOS.
The SOS to create a pilot program for posting digital images of scan paper ballots created by the voting systems.
Requires all run-offs to take place 28 days after the underlying election.
Special primaries and elections must be held at the same time as the general and primary elections.
They should use the same equipment and facilities that are used in the general and primary election.
Requires that candidates in special primaries be listed alphabetically on the ballot.
Combines special primaries in elections with general primaries elections on the same ballot if they have the same voter registration deadline.
Eliminates jungle primaries.
Vacancies in the chief judge’s office in civil or magistrate court caused by death, retirement, or resignation will be temporarily filled by appointment by the Governor.
Prohibits anyone from going into a voting booth while another is voting or marking the vote of another person or interfering with voter marking their ballot inducing or attempting to influence a particular vote. Also prohibits observing or attempting to observe how a voter votes.
Allows children to go into a voting booth with a family member. Creates a felony for anyone to look at another person’s ballot.
Adds ballot images to public record subject to disclosure.
In a recent Executive Order (03.12.21.01) on page 31, the Governor extended the deadline for current seniors (high school class of 2021)to submit qualifying SAT scores to receive the Zell Miller Scholarship. Once students submit qualifying test scores, they can be reimbursed previously paid tuition amounts. Students must submit SAT/ACT scores by June 30, 2022, and meet all other established qualifications for the Zell Miller Scholarship.
HERE is a link if you need to get tested.
Find a Georgia vaccine distributor HERE.
DPH has an interactive dashboard for vaccine distribution in our state; you can view that HERE.
The GEMA mass vaccination sites allow patients to enroll HERE.
If you have any questions about COVID-19 and the vaccine only (not for scheduling appointments), call 888-357-0169.