The 2020 Georgia legislative session was the longest in modern General Assembly history, clocking in at over five months. Several friends and lobbyists commented that this is the strangest session they’ve ever experienced – and many of them have been working at the Capitol for decades!
After the long suspended break, the special session to grant the governor emergency powers, and the intense COVID-restricted return to the Capitol, where did we end up?
The Hate Crimes Bill
Perhaps no other legislation received as much press in the past few weeks as HB 426, the law that calls for increased penalties if a crime is motivated by bias based on the victim’s (real or perceived) race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability. The governor signed HB 426 into law during a ceremony at the Capitol last week.
Have you ever had an urgent medical issue or an elective surgery procedure that you believed was in-network, only to get an outrageous bill because someone involved with your care was out of network? We finally had success passing HB 888 through both chambers, which will protect consumers from those surprise bills in the future.
Did you know that Georgia has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the country? And that Black women are three times more likely to face death as a result of childbirth than white women? After much study and bi-partisan compromise, we passed HB 1114, which extends post-partum Medicaid coverage from two months to six months. I wish it could have been 12 months, but that gives us something to work for next year!
We also passed stronger protections for people living in nursing homes, created parity for Advance Practice Registered Nurses and physician assistants (which increases everyone’s access to healthcare), and put guard rails in place to help control prescription costs.
All the plans for the budget came crashing down around us as COVID-19 caused sales tax and income tax revenues to plummet. Democrats and Republicans had very different ideas about how to fill the gaps, with Republicans favoring deep cuts and Democrats asking to explore new sources of revenue, like raising the tobacco tax.
In the end, no new revenue sources were explored save for a small contribution from the state’s rainy day fund. Meanwhile, agencies across the board felt severe cuts. The k-12 education budget took the greatest hit – almost $1 billion dollars cut from the budget. The budget also cut funds for higher education, community and public health, and the department of corrections, among others.
I know we must get conservative in tough economic times, but these cuts went beyond belt-tightening. If there was a time to consider closing tax loopholes or raising luxury taxes on cigarettes, it was now. I was among the 60+ legislators to vote no on a budget that did not include any new sources of revenue.
You know what I really longed for during the COVID-19 quarantine? Home delivery of a bottle of wine. Until now, home delivery of alcohol was illegal, but in this session, we passed a bill legalizing home delivery of beer, wine and liquor.
Because of some water buffalo issues in parts of Georgia, we revised the fees for impounding stray farm animals. It’s more expensive than you would think to take care of a water buffalo!
We also christened the muscadine as the official state grape of Georgia, and the pecan the official state nut. Don’t worry – the Peanut Commission was consulted (turns out peanuts are legumes!). I really did not make those last two up.
Important community issues don’t go away just because the General Assembly has adjourned. My colleagues and I will be working through the summer to effect change in the elections system, so we do not experience a repeat of the voting problems from the primary on June 9th. We continue to work closely with the governor’s office to advocate for measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prepare the state for an economic recovery. We’re listening to the community outrage around issues of social justice, and we’re formulating ways the state can contribute to meaningful change, starting with the 2021 session.
Speaking of the 2021 session – I’m also kicking off my re-election campaign! I have been honored to serve as the representative for Georgia’s 54th House District, and I hope to earn your vote again in the fall.
My work has only just begun. In order to continue, I need help from you. Please contribute to my campaign by clicking here.
The run-off election for the primary is on August 11th. It’s never too early to request your absentee ballot! It’s recommended that you mail or fax in your absentee ballot request form, as there were problems with emailed requests last time.
The numbers in Georgia continue to grow at an alarming rate. Please continue to maintain social distancing, and I implore you to wear a mask when you go out.
As of 3 pm, June 29th, 2020, there were 79,417 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,784 deaths in the state of Georgia. In the last week (6/21-6/28), there were 12,509 cases, and in the last month, 30,224 cases. 39.1% of all new cases were reported in the last month. The Fulton County Board of Health tracks the number of COVID-19 cases by zipcode. Their latest update is from June 24th, 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 email@example.com 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