Happy President’s Day! Whether you’re taking the long weekend to shop for a new mattress or  to watch endless programming about the U.S. presidency on the History Channel, I hope you’re enjoying this lovely weekend. Some of my favorite books, movies and television shows over the years have revolved around exploring the office of the presidency. This is a great weekend to binge watch The West Wing or pick up a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin or plan a visit to one of my favorite Atlanta sight-seeing stops, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. The General Assembly will be in recess on Monday, and we head back to the Gold Dome for Legislative Day 19 on Tuesday.

Check out the news below to see what’s keeping us buzzing this week.

Even though I sit on the Higher Education Committee, neither myself or my fellow committee members have a say in who is named the next chancellor of the University System of Georgia. That decision is made by the Board of Regents, who are moving full steam ahead with selecting former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, a man with no higher education experience. The process has come under great criticism for a lack of transparency, and many – including me – are concerned about the negative impact an inexperienced, largely political choice of chancellor could have on our schools, including the jewels in the USG crown, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. I am hoping the current public outcry might sway the Board of Regents to reconsider, but I think it may already be too late.

Ran into these APS students at the Capitol!

As you’ll see below, HB1013, the Mental Health Parity Act, got its first committee hearing this week. As I prepared to report on the bill’s progress, I pondered whether I should share a story about my own experiences with mental health needs. And my challenge was not whether I could come up with a story; the challenge was deciding which one to share. Do I talk about the panicked call from a girlfriend whose elementary school child was facing major mental health problems but couldn’t find a child psychologist with availability for at least six months? Do I talk about the family members who have struggled with various forms of addiction and often couldn’t find an affordable or available rehab option? Do I talk about the funerals – too many funerals – that I’ve attended for loved ones who have died by suicide? Or do I talk openly about my own mental health journey, my willingness to seek counseling when I need it, because I believe preventative mental health care is as important as an annual physical or mammogram? We’ve stayed quiet in our country way too long about the importance of mental health care. I am hoping we can come to good compromises with this bill and finally start lifting up Georgia families with the health care they need. Mental health care is health care. Period.

My Voting Record

HB 1028 & HB 1154. These are two Cobb county local redistricting bills (Board of Education and Board of Commissioners, respectively). The maps were redrawn without the approval of the local delegation (mostly Democrats), and removed from the local calendar to be voted on by the House separately. This flies in the face of how all local legislation is handled – Republicans are staunchly for local control, unless they are the ones that are no longer in control. The bills passed the House. I voted no on both bills. 

Bills to Watch

HB 1013 – The Mental Health Parity Act aims to ensure mental health is treated the same as physical health. Emotional testimony was heard on Wednesday in committee from House members who had personally experienced the difficulty of getting mental health care for their loved ones. The bill is drawing criticism from patient advocates concerned about patient registries and how it will be easier to involuntarily commit those with mental illness. This bill is still in committee. 

SB 449 – The Parental Bill of Rights will allow parents to object to classroom content, and includes the right to review all instructional materials used in a child’s classroom. School districts would be required to create a process allowing parents to object to material, and parents would be allowed to have their child opt out of a particular lesson. This creates undue burden on our already overworked teachers, and contributes to a climate of classroom censorship. This bill passed out of Senate committee on Monday.

Legislation will soon be introduced by Sen. Clint Dixon saying that no school districts could mandate mask wearing without also providing a way for parents to opt out. Governor Kemp is backing this legislation. It has not yet been filed.

I’m doing a little something different for my Listening Session on February 27th! Now you don’t have to just listen to me talk. Join me and Atlanta Public School Board of Education member Jason Esteves to discuss educational bills working their way through the state legislature. Pre-register for the Zoom link 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. 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