State lawmakers are back at the Capitol this Monday. The House will convene at 9:30 a.m. You can watch the session live here.
Members of the Georgia House of Representatives will have a new speaker following the death of Speaker David Ralston. A January 3 special election to fill the seat has gone to a runoff scheduled for January 31. Sheree Ralston, the late speaker’s wife, will face Johnny Chastain in the District 5 contest. Ralston is executive director, and Chastain is a board member, of the Fannin County Development Authority.
Some big issues likely to come up this session are pay increases for law enforcement officers, online sports betting, and legalizing casinos.
The Clayton County Legislative Delegation met with various stakeholders in September to set its priorities for this session. Those stakeholders included Clayton County Public Schools and Atlanta Tech on education, Clayton Center on mental health, Clayton County Government, Judge Will Simmons and Judge Robert Mack on Superior Court, Judge Keisha Wright Hill on Magistrate Court, and Carol Yancey of Oakwood Trails Neighborhood Watch on the Clayton County Ethics Board. (The Ethics Board is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday night.)
Among the first House members to prefile bills this session are Rep. Sandra Scott (D-76) and Rep. Kim Schofield (D-63). Scott was named Minority Chief Deputy Whip for the House. The “whip” is the person who keeps party members in line on a given vote. In the Georgia House, that will be Rep. Sam Park (D-107, Lawrenceville), Georgia’s first Asian-American to hold the position. Rep. James Beverly (D-143, Macon) will serve as Georgia House Minority Leader.
Scott has prefiled the following:
- HB3: Support for Students Living in Poverty Act; enact: Scott and Rep. Viola Davis (D-87) are cosponsors of this bill, which would require the Georgia Board of Education to provide grants to local school boards specifically for students living in poverty. The bill is related to how the state evaluates Quality Basic Education requirements, which was the subject of a Georgia Senate study committee last session. A PDF copy of the bill text was not available on the Georgia Assembly Prefile page as of press time Sunday night.
- HB4: Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Department of; create and maintain electronic inpatient psychiatric bed registry; require: This bill would set up an advisory committee to create an electronic list of available psychiatric beds. The committee would include representatives of DBHDD, the Department of Community Health, psychiatric facilities, “end users” such as hospitals and healthcare plans, consumers, families, advocates, and law enforcement. The committee would report quarterly, starting October 1, on the progress towards setting up the registry. Any secondary data use may be set up by DBHDD “in consultation with the advisory committee.” All registry information would be provided to “the contractor or entity that operates or maintains the Georgia Crisis and Access Line.” (That number is 800-715-4225 and is open 24/7/365.)
- HB5 would require the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia to provide free tampons and sanitary napkins to students in all campus restrooms.
- HB6 would allow the Georgia Department of Human Services to submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking that people who get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) be allowed to buy tampons, sanitary napkins, feminine wipes, and diapers with those funds.
- HB7 would establish a school-linked behavioral health grant program. The grants would allow community service boards, community mental health centers, licensed healthcare providers who primarily treat mental health or substance abuse, and Medicaid providers that employ licensed health care providers of mental health and substance abuse diagnosis or treatment to provide school-based wraparound services. Local school systems could not be third-party reimbursement sources and “[g]rantees shall serve students regardless of health coverage status or ability to pay.”
- HB8 would require schools to take into account a student’s mental and behavioral health in determining whether to excuse an absence.
- HB9 would mandate that DBHDD “create, operate, and maintain the Georgia Crisis and Access Line.” That would include “near real-time access” to a statewide mental health bed registry, connecting people seeking mental health and substance abuse support with mental health professionals via phone, text, online chat, and e-mail. It also would set parameters for data collection and patient follow-up.
Schofield prefiled HB10, which would require the Georgia Secretary of State to provide a secure electronic voting portal for visually-impaired voters. The portal would allow visually-impaired voters to vote the correct absentee ballot on their own devices, print it out and mail it to their board of registrars, or send in their ballot by e-mail.
HB1, the “Georgia Pro-Birth Accountability Act,” which is sponsored by Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick (D-95, Lithonia), would require the state of Georgia to compensate women who are “compelled by the state to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to a child” because of Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat” law banning abortion after six weeks. (While electrical impulses can be detected in the zygote at six weeks, a fetal heart does not develop until about ten weeks into a pregnancy.) The bill would entitle pregnant women, who would have to file an affidavit, to:
- “Reasonable living, legal, medical, psychological, and psychiatric expenses that are directly related to prenatal, intrapartal, and postpartal periods”
- “claim the embryo or fetus as a child for purposes of any child-related federal or state income tax credits or deductions, including, but not limited to, the child tax credit, the child and dependent care tax credit, and the earned income tax credit”
- “a specially trained nurse to provide home visits from early pregnancy through the child’s second birthday”
- “automatic eligibility” for programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), SNAP (until the child turns 18), and WIC
- reimbursement for “all associated funeral and burial expenses” if the fetus dies and compensation for loss of future earnings if the woman dies
- if the pregnancy leaves the woman disabled, all related surgical, physical and occupational therapy, treatment, and medical expenses
- health, dental, and vision coverage until the child turns 18
- lifetime coverage of all medical expenses if the child is born “with a congenital abnormality or disability”
- child support if the mother is single and the father is unknown or unable to provide for the child
- child support if the woman was impregnated through rape or incest
- a fully-funded 529 college savings account for the child.
No prefiles were listed on the Senate side as of press time Sunday night. The new lieutenant governor, Burt Jones, will preside over the Georgia Senate. Jones, a Trump loyalist who won Trump’s endorsement, was one of the fake electors who attempted to install Trump after the November 2020 election, did a brief turn in Clayton County during his campaign with several Black business owners at a closed event at Ray’s Southern Foods in Forest Park. Last July, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney blocked Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from pursuing charges against Jones, citing the fact that Willis had held a fundraiser for Jones’ opponent, Democrat Charlie Bailey.
Who are my state lawmakers?
Clayton County is represented at the Gold Dome by these elected officials. Note that some legislators listed below may not be based in Clayton County but may represent parts of Clayton County due to new maps the Georgia Assembly approved after the 2020 Census. Those maps were not posted on each legislator’s page throughout the last session. As of press time Sunday night, the Georgia Assembly website still has not posted new district maps showing detailed current boundaries on each member’s official page.
You can see general outlines of the House and Senate districts below, as well as how the reapportionment committee divided the population count within Clayton County by commission and school board districts. You also can download or order more detailed files and maps. Maggie Lee at Atlanta Civic Circle made maps that let you zoom in at street level here.
TL;DR: Come correct
While your elected officials work for you, they’re more likely to respond positively to someone who is polite and prepared. Provide them with specific information about your concern. Get to the point and ask them for what you want: help solving a problem, their vote on a particular bill or issue.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities offers this handy advice for contacting your legislators.
If you go to the Gold Dome
Your best bet by far is to take MARTA. Public parking is expensive and limited.
You can take the 196 bus to the airport, then transfer to the eastbound MARTA train and get off at the Georgia State station. You’ll need to walk about two blocks to get to the Capitol building. Enter on the side of the Capitol that faces the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.
You also can park and ride by catching the GRTA Xpress 440 or 441 bus from Clayton County to downtown.
Be aware that you will need to go through security and present your ID to enter the Capitol building. The House is on one side; the Senate is on the other. Visitors generally can watch from the gallery but are not allowed to disrupt the proceedings.
You might run into your elected official(s) outside the chambers, where dozens of lobbyists wait to cut deals with them. Check which groups are paying lobbyists to work the room for their cause here.
You also can take a self-guided tour or schedule a guided tour of the Capitol Museum, which includes historic portraits of elected officials and notable Georgians like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Clayton County’s own Sparkle K. Adams, as well as battle flags, artifacts related to Georgia politics and history, and a two-headed calf.
More redistricting maps you might want include:
- 2022 Statewide Voting Precincts (still not uploaded as of early Monday morning)