On Wednesday, the House approved a midyear budget. With bipartisan support, the new budget does restore headcount to some necessary positions like food safety inspectors and public defenders, and it restores funding to important programs like mental health services and accountability courts. However, like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I continue to worry that we’re not adequately funding services and programs that are critical to Georgians.
I’ve heard from some constituents that deep budget cuts are warranted to combat wasteful spending. However, it’s important to understand that Georgia ranks 48th out of 50 states in per capita spending. Our budget is lean and designed to be efficient. Cutting spending too deep puts us at risk of greater expenses in the future.
Meanwhile, some Republicans are talking about passing another income tax cut, lowering Georgia’s rate from 5.75% to 5.5%. Another tax cut would save the average Georgian $42 a year, but would cost the state of Georgia $615 million in lost revenue. In a year when overall revenue is down, and essential services are being cut, it is irresponsible for lawmakers to consider another tax cut while struggling to balance the budget.
Days 14-17 of session are completed! Crossover day is on March 12th – this is the last day that a bill can be passed in one chamber and sent to the next chamber. If a bill does not pass prior to or on this day, then it has no chance of being signed into law this year.
Fulton County Delegation Meeting
Did you know that Georgia has the most people under correctional control per capita than anywhere else in the world?
This week, the Fulton County delegation focused on criminal justice reform and received presentations from the Southern Center for Human Rights, the New Georgia Project, Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson, and Fulton County Deputy Chief Operating Officer Alton Adams.
The Southern Center for Human Rights spoke eloquently about necessary reforms to reduce correctional control, such as capping probation, ending mandatory minimums, expanding parole eligibility, restricting solitary confinement, and ending the death penalty, as well as reforms to improve reentry into society, such as restoring voting rights.
The New Georgia Project is a nonpartisan effort to register and civically engage Georgians, with a goal to register all eligible, unregistered citizens of color in Georgia. Their legislative priorities include ensuring fair elections, preventing further cuts to the state income tax, expanding access to affordable healthcare, childcare, and elder care, and raising the age of criminal liability from 17 to 18.
We hope to work with these organizations in the future as we focus on legislative solutions to some of these problems.
Bills to Watch
HB 787 – The House Public Safety Subcommittee approved a proposal to allow anyone to bring a firearm into Georgia, as long as they have a permit. The law as it currently stands only allows those from states with reciprocity agreements with the state of Georgia to bring in a firearm. Georgia has reciprocity agreements with 32 states, and that allows us the ability to know that gun owners in Georgia have met certain requirements to carry a firearm. I oppose the move to reduce restrictions on who carries firearms in Georgia.
HB 784 – This bill allows local school boards to conduct public safety meetings in secret, including discussion of and voting on school safety plans. Critics worry that this would allow school boards to authorize arming classroom teachers. While I understand that some elements of school safety plans shouldn’t be made public, I oppose this approach to making important, drastic decisions about how schools are protected without parent input. I send my young child to a public school daily and would be incensed to learn that members of school staff were carrying firearms near my child without my knowledge.
Voting Spotlight of the Week
HB 195 – On Monday, this bill passed the House, increasing the amount of money families of firefighters killed in the line of duty can receive from the firefighters’ pension fund. Not only does this provide support for grieving families whose loves ones lost their lives helping our communities, the bill is fiscally sound – the fund is currently adequate to fund the change. I was proud to vote in favor of a bill that supports our brave men and women in fire departments across the state as well as their families.
The last day to register to vote for the 2020 Presidential Primary is Monday, February 24th, 2020. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Friday, March 20, and the deadline to return the ballot is Monday, March 23. The 2020 Presidential Primary is on March 24th, and early voting is March 2nd – March 20th.
Meet & Greet: Coffee with your Representative
Thanks to those constituents who joined me last week at Dancing Goats!
My next Meet & Greet is scheduled for Saturday, February 29th, 2020, at 1:30 pm at KarmaFarm, 54 Pharr Road, Atlanta 30305. Join me for coffee (or lunch or gluten free baked goods) and chat and share your feedback! What better way to use your extra day this year than to get more involved in local government?
If you haven’t already, please browse my website, betsyforgeorgia.com.
As your Representative, your concerns are important to me. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-656-0116 with questions, concerns, or solutions you may have regarding legislation or other happenings in District 54.
To stay updated, follow me on Twitter and Facebook (click on links at the bottom of this email), and follow the Georgia House of Representatives @GAHouseHub on Twitter. Additionally, in-depth information regarding current bills, Georgia’s annual and supplemental budgets, committee meetings, and livestreams from the General Assembly can be accessed via www.legis.ga.gov.
I encourage you and your family to visit our State Capitol and my office, where all constituents are welcome. I look forward to connecting with you!
My office is located at:
18 Capitol Square, SW
409-B, Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Representative Betsy Holland
GA House District 54