While we waited in line at the bloodmobile outside the Capitol earlier this week, I joked with some colleagues that it already felt like the middle of February. We usually expect a slow ramp up in January before the tough legislative work begins, but the past week has already seen wildly divisive bills dropped in the hopper and contentious bills reach the floor for a debate. With 32 legislative days still left to go, here’s a look at what’s been happening under the Gold Dome.

Mental Health Legislation

In a rare move, Speaker Ralston himself sponsored a bill this week, the bipartisan mental health omnibus legislation that could be the key to pulling Georgia out of its abysmally low nationwide ranking when it comes to supporting mental health. HB 1013 would expand Georgian’s access to care, require insurance companies to cover mental health and improve the support for first responders who respond to mental health crises. It’s hard to think of a sector in our state that’s NOT impacted by our current mental health crisis. Improving mental health incomes would benefit public safety, economic development, education, addiction recovery, and overall all health outcomes.

Thanks to our new Mayor Andre Dickens for walking the 400 steps from City Hall to the House chambers!

Bills to Watch

SB 319 – the Constitutional Carry Act. Gov. Kemp is putting his support behind this bill, that allows Georgians to open or conceal carry a handgun without a permit. A recent AJC poll found that nearly 70% of respondents said they do not believe adults in Georgia should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in public without first getting a license.
It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 345 & SB 372 are two Senate bills that are trying to limit the ability of governments to enact public health orders, such as vaccine mandates. The first bill was so vaguely worded that it would have prevented schools from requiring any vaccines. The second bill removes schools from their verbiage, but does bar healthcare facilities from requiring vaccines from staff members. 
SB 345 has been assigned to the Senate committee on Health & Human Services.
SB 372 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Four bills have been introduced that address the concept of teaching race in school: 
HB 888 – This bill would penalize school districts up to 20% of their budget for teaching “divisive concepts”. 
SB 377 – This bill would only withhold half that amount.
HB 1084 – This bill also disallows “divisive subjects”, such as “race scapegoating” and “race stereotyping”
SB 375 – This bill also targets worker training for state agencies, requiring annual reviews and termination of contractors who violate the provisions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the Southern Education Foundation and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Action Fund have come out against this legislation.

The Joint Senate & House City of Atlanta delegation met on Friday, and enjoyed a meaningful discussion with affordable housing advocates on Friday. Special thanks to Focused Community StrategiesAtelier 7 and Georgia Advancing Communities Together among others who shared strategies and ideas around housing Georgians.

Join me on Sunday, January 30th at 4 pm for another listening session! 
You must pre-register on Zoom for the link ahead of time.  You can pre-register here.

If you haven’t already, please browse my website, betsyforgeorgia.com.

As your Representative, your concerns are important to me. Please contact me at betsy.holland@house.ga.gov 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.

I encourage you and your family to visit our State Capitol and my office, where all constituents are welcome (subject to current COVID protocols). 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