The ninth week of session was a heavy one. We mourn the loss of State Representaive Tish Naghise. She was a respected member of the Georgia House of Representatives and Democratic Caucus. Tish was deeply passionate about her work and dedicated to her constituents. Her presence will be profoundly missed.
This Week Under the Dome
This has been an eventful week! On Monday we had Crossover Day, which lasted until almost midnight. Then we were back at it on Tuesday, as Senate bills were assigned to House committees. On Wednesday night we held our second town hall (be on the lookout for our third and final town hall which will be scheduled post-session). We ended the week on Thursday when the House passed the 2024 budget.
Town Hall Recap
On Wednesday, March 8th, Senator Sonya Halpern and I held a virtual town hall to discuss Crossover Day and the 2023 Legislative Session thus far. We discussed hot topic legislation such as the prosecutorial oversight bill, anti-trans efforts, voucher bills, gun safety, sports betting, and more. Thank you to all those that came out to observe and participate!
Missed the town hall? Watch below.
Special Visitors at the Capitol
On Crossover Day, Griffin May, a superstar high school student in District 57, served as my legislative page. What an exciting day to be a page! Griffin was one of only a handful of pages that made it to the end of the loooong session day with us. Thanks, Griffin!
Speaking of special visitors, my daughter, Ashley, joined me for part of Crossover Day too. She had some great insights on legislation, and I was thrilled to have her counsel.
On Thursday the House passed the 2024 budget, HB19, and now it is headed to the Senate.
The highlights include:
- $11.9 million in additional funding for pre-K teachers.
- $4.3 million in additional funding for public defenders.
- $10 million in additional funding for postsecondary gap funding (transfer from low interest loan program to college completion grants).
- $5,464,800 in funds for non-Medicaid home and community-based services.
The lowlights include:
- $111.5 million reduction in Medicaid funding for Aged, Blind and Disabled.
- The HOPE factor rate is 95% in this budget instead of the 100% recommended by the Governor. I went to the well to speak about that.
Watch my remarks below.
HB 231, which passed the House Monday, would create the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission. I went to the well in strong opposition to this bill. This legislation essentially strips district attorneys and solicitors of their prosecutorial discretion. Not to mention this bill does not cover all prosecutors, including the State Attorney General. The partisan intent of this bill is apparent. We already have a system in place that creates checks on the power of prosecutors; there is no need for more oversight.
Watch my remarks below.
Other Votes this Week
HB 101 combined several tax breaks into one bill, one of which is to increase the annual limit on the Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit to $130 million from $120 million. This bill would take away from our public schools, so I voted no.
HB 128 provides for representation of minority business enterprises, women owned businesses, and veteran owned businesses in the area of procurement of state contracts for construction, services, equipment, and goods. I voted yes.
HB 611 would require all funds from legal judgements or settlements awarded to the state to be held by the state treasury until appropriated by the General Assembly per specific requirements.This ensures that significant funds are appropriated with more than the Attorney General’s opinion on where the money should go. I voted yes.
HB 189 raises the weight limit for trucks from 80,000 to 88,000 lbs. The weight increase applies to timber, concrete, and solid waste trucks on state highways. While I appreciate the industry needs to consolidate loads at a time when they are low on drivers, safety overrides everything here. According to the GDOT, our roads and bridges are not ready for this change. I voted no.
HB 249 would provide Georgia College Completion Grant eligibility to students who have completed 70 percent of a four-year program or 45 percent of a two-year program; the bill would include a maximum award amount of $3,500 per student; single grant payments could not exceed $2,500. This represents an increase in the pool of students who can qualify and an increase in the amount of funds available for each student. I voted yes.
HB 340 would protect planning periods for Georgia teachers; teachers would be guaranteed a duty-free planning period if they are in the classroom more than 50 percent of a regular school day, but there would be some exceptions related to safety. I voted yes.
HB 392 would create the Georgia Endowment for Teaching Professionals to oversee funding for outstanding teaching professionals in high-demand fields within the Technical College System of Georgia. I voted yes.
HB 538 provides for the “Georgia Early Literacy Act”; to require the State Board of Education to approve high-quality instructional materials to be used for teaching students in kindergarten through third grade. This is a huge deal for our Georgia learners, and will hopefully have a positive impact on the low literacy rates in Georgia. I voted yes.
HB 353 would update Georgia law to better regulate coin operate amusement machines (COAM); the bill would make the Georgia Lottery Corporation’s regulation of COAMs subject to the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act and would allow owners/operators of COAMs to issue gift cards for non-cash redemption for winners that could be redeemed anywhere in Georgia. I believe the COAM industry does not pay enough of its revenue to the State (currently only 10%, compared to 25-35% for the Lottery, and an anticipated 20% for sports betting—if ever legalized!). Giving COAMs the ability to issue gift cards for prizes is a huge benefit to the industry. Putting the State first, I could not vote for this win for the industry without insisting on a requirement that the industry pay more funds to the State. I voted no.
HB 458 relates to offenses against public health and morals, so as to prohibit the purchase of, sale of, and the offering of samples of hemp products by or to any individual under the age of 21 years old. I voted yes.
HB 343 or the Lowering Prescription Drug Costs for Patients Act, would require prescription drug coinsurance or deductible amounts to be calculated at the point of sale based a percentage of rebates that would be paid for dispensing the drug. The bill would also require pharmacy benefit managers to annually report certain data to the Georgia Department of Insurance. I voted yes.
HB 557 authorizes physicians to delegate the authority to advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances, which includes opioids. Because of the continuing opioid crisis, I do not believe it is a good idea to increase powers to prescribe opioids. I voted no.
HB 30 provides for the definition of antisemitism; to require state agencies and departments to consider such definition when determining whether an alleged act was motivated by discriminatory antisemitic intent. I voted yes.
HB 188 would implement several changes related to sexual offenses in Georgia; the bill would change the name of the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board to the Sexual Offender Risk Review Board (SORRB), add definitions of certain sexual felonies and add punishments for such crimes, as well as create harsher penalties for individuals previously convicted of sexual felonies who are convicted again; electronic monitoring, such as an ankle monitor, would be required as a condition of probation for such individuals; the bill would also clarify the procedure for a sexual offender who moves to Georgia and SORRB’s risk assessment evaluation process/timelines for sexually dangerous predators. I voted yes.
HB 383 or the Safe Hospitals Act, provides for enhanced penalties for aggravated assault and aggravated battery committed upon emergency health workers and healthcare workers located on a hospital campus. I voted yes.
HB 462 or the Raise the age act, changes the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to include certain children who are 17 years of age. I voted yes.
Compensation for wrongful convictions
HR 48 and HR 49 are compensation resolutions I sponsored for two individuals who were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 18 years for crimes they did not commit. They were the first exonerations by the Fulton Conviction Integrity Unit. While there is no amount of money that can truly compensate someone for 18 years spent in prison—not seeing their children grow up, losing out on income during their most productive years, missing family members’ funerals—I’m glad that we are on the path to creating some measure of compensation for them.
HB 364 or the Wrongful Conviction Compensation Act, would create the Wrongful Conviction Compensation Review Panel under the authority of the Claims Advisory Board to consider wrongful conviction claims in Georgia and recommend compensation; this panel would include judiciary professionals, such as a judge, district attorney, criminal defense lawyer and other criminal justice experts. This legislation would create a system that would avoid the need for individual compensation resolutions like the ones I sponsored above. It would be a much better system. I voted yes.
Cali at the Capitol to pump up Pre-K Week!
Pre-K Week will take place October 2-6. To spread the word, Voices for Georgia’s Children, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and mascot Cali came to the State Capitol. I was excited to say hello!
Yellow Rose Ceremony
Every session, I am able to nominate a woman from my district to receive the Nikki T. Randall Servant Leader Award. This year I awarded Lisa Cannon Taylor.
Lisa Cannon Taylor is a community leader in Atlanta who is renowned for her commitment, innovation, and wry wit. Today, she continues to work tirelessly, ensuring that more female arts are included and supported, building on her time as chair of the Georgia Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Lisa holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in design and visual communication from Auburn University, has served as Creative Director for Atlanta advertising firm Camp Communications and has taught at the Art Institute of Atlanta. She currently lives in Ansley Park with her husband, Chuck Taylor. The Taylors have two adult children, Alix and Miles. You can read more about Lisa here.
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As always, it is an honor to represent you under the Gold Dome. Please continue to reach out to me with your questions and thoughts on legislation.