This week, the Georgia legislature reconvened for the first time since March 16th for legislative days 30-35. With five legislative days to go, we expect to have Sine Die (the last day of session) this Friday.
It’s been a strange time under the Gold Dome – masks are mandatory at all times, and many committee meetings now allow virtual participation. The members are spread out in three spaces to ensure social distancing, and the halls are eerily quiet with no pages or floor guests. We can hear the chanting of social justice protesters outside while we meet. And because we must vote by roll call (instead of pushing a button), passing each piece of legislation takes much longer than usual. It will be interesting to see how much we can get through by midnight on Friday!
Hate Crimes Bill
I’m receiving more emails about the Hate Crimes Bill (HB426) than any other issue. Here’s the skinny – the House passed HB426 in March of 2019. The bill has been stalled in the Senate ever since.
The bill finally got a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, where an amendment to include first responders (police officers, medics, and firefighters) among the protected classes was added. This now makes the bill highly problematic – first, police officers already receive this sort of increased protection through SB 160, the Back the Badge bill, signed into law in 2017. Second, occupation is not considered a protected class, making this bill likely to be struck down by the courts if it passes.
Sadly, the Senate has taken a good, bipartisan Hate Crimes Bill and saddled it with an amendment that makes it difficult to support. Our best hope is that the Senate Rules Committee will strip the amendment before the bill goes for a vote.
The other hot topic at the Capitol is the state budget, a version of which was presented by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week. This budget cuts $1 billion from K-12 education (yes, billion with a B), furloughs state employees, and reduces funding for public health departments. The GOP Senate has not included any new sources of revenue, such as raising the tobacco tax to the national average or closing certain loopholes. I cannot support a budget that leaves Georgians suffering, that destins our state agencies for failure, and leaves our children robbed of a quality education without at least exploring other ways to increase revenue. To be clear – I am not talking about raising the income tax. I am talking about exploring increased taxes on luxury items that could help fill the gaps.
Last week, the Fulton County delegation in the House also dropped legislation to reform the Fulton County Elections Board in hopes of rectifying many of the problems voters experienced in the June 9th primary. We must make changes before the August 11th run-off election to ensure everyone has access to voting.
Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the state of Georgia, as of June 21st, 2020. There have been 63,809 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,642 deaths.
7,020 new cases have been confirmed and 191 deaths have been reported in the last seven days.
This week we also had our highest daily total to date (on Saturday), at 1800 cases in a single day.The Fulton County Board of Health tracks the number of COVID-19 cases by zipcode. Their latest update is from June 17th, 2020. These are the statistics for confirmed COVID-19 cases for the zip codes located within District 54:
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, 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.
When this is all over, 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