Mary Margaret Oliver

Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Georgia General Assembly for House District 82.

I am a lifelong resident of District 82 in DeKalb County and have served in the Georgia General Assembly in both the House of Representatives (1987-1992) and 2002 - present, and the Senate (1993 -1998). My past legislative accomplishments have included authoring and passing significant legislation for the protection of children and consumers, including Georgia's anti-stalking law, along with legislation to protect neighborhood activists from intimidation. Prior to my elections, I practiced law, was an administrative law judge and an Associate Magistrate Judge. See my biography for more detail.

I continue to practice law on the Square in Decatur where I have had an office for the last 25 years.

In 2016, I am working hard on the Judiciary, Appropriations, Juvenile Justice, Governmental Affairs, and Science and Technology Committees. Go to Georgia House of Representatives' link to view my legislation.

The new District 82 was created by the Georgia General Assembly in the 2011 Special Session in response to the 2010 census data. Our new district includes the middle DeKalb county neighborhoods of Druid Hills, Decatur, Emory, Sagamore Hills, Leafmore Estates, Oakgrove and the Hawthorne Elementary School area, as well as parts of Chamblee and the new City of Brookhaven, north of I-85.

Please take a look at my website and my legislative record. Write me or give me a call at my law office, mmo@mmolaw.com, 404.377.0485. I look forward to hearing from you and particularly want to know what issues are most important to you.

— Mary Margaret

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May 18, 2022

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Mental Health Bill Comes to Floor
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Not to be Missed
February 7, 2022

Eight Days Done
January 31, 2022

Session Opens January 10

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November 22, 2021

Maps, Maps, Maps
November 5, 2021

Just In: Reapportionment Date for HD 82
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How will American Rescue Plan Money Affect Georgia Budget

Sine Die Done

5 Days to Sine Die

Crossover and More

HB 531

Urgent: Voting Rights News

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Good News/Not So Good News
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MMO Newsletter-COVID19 Update
March 26, 2020

MMO Newsletter-Responding to COVID
March 21, 2020

MMO Crossover Week Newsletter
March 16, 2020

MMO Email Newsletter on Unprecedented Session
February 26, 2020

MMO Email Newsletter
January 31,2020

MMO Pre Session Newsletter
January 10, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving. MMO Email Newsletter
November 27, 2019

Town Hall meeting May 9
April 28,2019

Torpy AJC column on DeKalb Ethics bill.
April 10, 2019
Bill Torpy, in today's AJC, reports on the unfortunate 2019 DeKalb Ethics legislation passed in the past Session. Pretty bad, and MMO will be voting NO when it appears on her ballot in November.

March 22 Email Newsletter
March 22, 2019

Crossover Day Approaches-Email Newsletter
March 3, 2019

February 14 Email Newsletter
February 15, 2019

Session Begins-Email Newsletter
Jnuary 30, 2019

Pre Legislative Session Newsletter
January 4, 2019

What will kemp really do about his promises to the Trump base?
MMO trying to be hopeful, but there are too many unknowns.

Post Election Newsletter
November 12, 2018

Pre-election Newsletter
November 6, 2018

MMO named to Vanderbilt University Student Media Hall of Fame
October 11, 2018

Fall/Pre-election Newsletter
September 28, 2018

More women in elected offices?
May 7, 2018
Please listen to MMO on a GPB program she recently joined and decide whether we need more women in elected offices - MMO says YES!

But, most importantly, choose your candidates for the May 22 primary and VOTE!

Post Session Newsletter
May 1, 2018

March 14 Email Newsletter
March 14, 2018

February 25 Newsletter
February 26, 2018

February 10, 2018 Email Newsletter
February 10, 2018

January 20 Email Newsletter
January 24, 2018

January 19, 2018
MMO appearing on Lawmakers on January 19th, 2018 and Bill Nigut's Political Rewind--Go to Media section for links and other daily press items of interest.

Pre-session Email Newsletter
January 24, 2018

MMO December Legislative Newsletter
December 11, 2017

MMO prefiles HB 651 banning possession and use of bump stocks
November 16, 2017

MMO AJC opinion piece on law enforcement and the mentally ill
Too many families suffer the tragedy of suicide.

MMO attending Hidden Predator Act Press conference
July 29, 2017
MMO is joining Rep. Spencer for this week's press conference, support legislative change, and will report back on progress. It is always a good idea to assume progress.

MMO appointed to House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding
May 25, 2017
MMO says Georgia is close to desperate for improvements in transit governance and funding, and DeKalb County needs to help lead the discussion. She is very grateful for this opportunity to participate on this Commission. Press release below.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    Contact: Betsy Lynch
Thursday, May 25, 2017    (404) 656-3996

Rep. Oliver Appointed to House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding

    ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) was recently appointed by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) to serve as a member of the House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding. This commission, which was created during the recent legislative session by House Resolution 848, will study Georgia’s transit needs and analyze ways for the state to adequately plan and provide for those needs.
    “Georgia is close to desperate for improvements in transit governance and funding, and Dekalb County needs to help lead the discussion,” said Rep. Oliver. “I am very grateful for this opportunity to participate on this Commission.”
The members of the Commission are divided into four groups: six members of the House of Representatives, four representatives of transit systems or counties which provide mass transit, four residents of the state of Georgia, and ex-officio appointees. The directors of all metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are also ex-officio appointees to the Commission. HR 848 provides that none of the MPO directors will have voting rights as members of the Commission.
The Commission’s work will continue through the remainder of the 2017-2018 legislative session.
For more information on HR 848, please click here.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 82, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and she currently serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Resources and the Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Science & Technology committees.

Post Session Newsletter
May 24, 2017

March 12 Email Newsletter
March 12, 2017

Feb. 27 Email Newsletter
February 27, 2017

MMO Email Newsletter
January 29, 2017

MMO sponsors HB 53 expanding Juvenile Court oversight to 17 year olds
January 29, 2017


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    Contact: Betsy Lynch
Friday, January 27, 2017    (404) 656--3996

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver Files Bill Expanding Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) recently filed House Bill 53, legislation that would allow minors under the age of 18 to be tried in the juvenile court, rather than being tried as adults.
“There are only six states that allow minors to be treated as adults for the criminal prosecution of all crimes,” said Rep. Oliver. “HB 53 is intended to bring Georgia into the mainstream so that 17-year-old minors will no longer be prosecuted as adults, but will be adjudicated in the juvenile court. Expanded juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-years-old children is a needed reform.”
If passed, HB 53 would adjust the juvenile court’s jurisdiction to include children under the age of 18. This jurisdiction includes the investigation and examination of delinquent acts committed by minors. Under current law, only children under the age of 17 are included in the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
For more information on HB 53, please click here.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 82, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and she currently serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Resources and the Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Science & Technology committees.

Back in Session - January Email Newsletter
January 16, 2017

Happy Holidays. Back to the Capitol soon.
December 23, 2016

MMO hosting discussion of gun violence and legislation to ban the sale of assault type weapons
November 16, 2016

MMO invites all who are interested in making our state and country safer from gun violence to join her at the Georgia State Capitol, Room 341 on November 29 at 1:00 PM.

Last year she introduced HB 731 banning assault weapons, high capacity magazines and armor piercing bullets. This year she plans on introducing similar legislation and looks for support from those who would ask for an open, honest and bi-partisan discussion of the legislation. More information will be forthcoming.

October 20, 2016

For MMO's discussion of the State Constitutional Amendments and DeKalb issues to be voted on on the November 8th ballot, see the October 18 Email newsletter by clicking on the VOTE! headline or in the Media section. And please subscribe to the newsletter by adding your email address to MMO Friends. Thanks for your interest and go vote.

MMO Appointed by Speaker Ralston to Three Study Committees
August 28, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    Contact: Betsy Lynch
Thursday, August 25, 2016    (404) 656-3996

Rep. Oliver Appointed to Three House Study Committees

ATLANTA – House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) recently appointed State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) to three House study committees: the Special Study Committee on Judicial Qualifications Commission Reform, the Study Committee on Mental Illness Initiative, Reform, Public Health and Safety, and the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Commercial Space.
“I am pleased to serve on these study committees this summer, and thank Speaker Ralston for these opportunities,” said Rep. Oliver. “I enjoy the variety of issues, and look forward to working with advocates and colleagues on discussions about mental health reform, oversight of the judiciary, and economic development relating to the emerging outer space industries. These topics interest me and are important.”
The House Special Study Committee on Judicial Qualifications Commission Reform, chaired by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Spring), is created by House Resolution 1363 and consists of seven members. This special committee will investigate and study the operations of the Judicial Qualification Commission and recommend any action or legislation which the committee deems prudent. The special study committee is authorized to issue subpoenas of witnesses and documents pertinent to the scope of the committee’s investigation.
The five member House Study Committee on Mental Illness Initiative, Reform, Public Health and Safety, chaired by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), is created by House Resolution 1093 and will study efforts in treating and supporting mentally ill individuals, community based housing, residential mental health facilities and county and municipality care infrastructures.
The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Commercial Space, chaired by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), will refine the ongoing efforts to bring the commercial space industry to Georgia. The seven member subcommittee will issue a report of its findings to the full House Science and Technology Committee and the House of Representatives.
For more information on HR 1363, please click here.
For more information on HR 1093, please click here.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 82, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and she currently serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Resources and the Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Science & Technology committees.

MMO Email Newsletter-Emory Annexation into Atlanta and Bill to Ban Sale of Assault Weapons
August 28, 2016

May 26, 2016
Victory!! Thank you!! I am grateful!!

Newsletter - Happy Mothers' Day
May 10, 2016
MMO gives her thoughts on changes to the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Early voting starts May 1-Call Gov. Deal to VETO Campus Carry Bill-Vote for MMO House District 82
May 1, 2016

Email Newsletter - Campaign and Sine Die
April 4, 2016

April 3, 2016


May 24 Primary for House District 82 Seat

I am running for re-election to serve as your 82nd House District Representative! It has been a privilege to serve you, and I ask again for your vote and support!

Click the red “Campaign!” (or “Contact Us” in the case of FB) button to sign up to volunteer, request a yard sign, host a neighborhood gathering or sign on as a public supporter. Please join our campaign!

WHAT ARE YOUR ISSUES, YOUR WISHES FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 82? Call (404-377-0485) or email (mmo@mmolaw.com) to discuss any issue that concerns you. I look forward to meeting with you and continuing a conversation on how best to represent your interests at the Capitol. THANK YOU!

Recap of this week at the Legislature
March 18, 2016
In addition to passage of local legislation highlighted below, Day 38's big news is the passage of a "compromise bill" on Religious Liberty protections. GOVERNOR DEAL SHOULD VETO THIS BILL! The alleged need for legislation to protect the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom arises from a painful conflict within the Republican party, with huge economic damage consequences to our state. The personal injury to individuals is equally harsh and real if God made you gay. One legislator argued yesterday that a compromise everyone hates is a good compromise. As a lawyer who spent today in a failed mediation, sometimes a negotiated settlement over money that leaves both parties unhappy does represent a fair compromise. "Compromising" authority to discriminate against people is different, and unacceptable. I call on Governor Deal to VETO HB 757.

Day 38 of the 2016 Session began with a successful vote on SB 343 granting expanded homestead exemptions to Decatur citizens 65 and older. Also, at the request of DeKalb State Court and Magistrate Court Judges, two other local bills passed, HB 1115 and 1116, both related to procedural changes to the elimination of DeKalb Recorders Court and transfer of jurisdiction to Magistrate Court and a new division of State Court for traffic offenses. I sponsored this bill last year and HB 1116 this year. These bills smooth procedures for service of code violations on absent property owners and correct issues relating to fees imposed on Misdemeanor offenders. These local bills are important to the operation of our courts, and show that the judges and Representatives are paying close attention to mechanics and due process.

Thank you--Two days to go. Tuesday is Day 39 and Thursday is Day 40 of the 2016 General Assembly, and you are welcome to join us in person at the Capitol or live online.

Mary Margaret

Decatur Senior Tax exemption Finally Passes
March 17, 2016

E-mail Newsletter - Last four days
March 15, 2016

What to look for in the last Five days
March 14, 2016
FIVE DAYS LEFT IN 2016 SESSION--Monday, March 14 is Day 35 of the 2016 Session. I want to list some remaining items on my task list for this year for House District 82. Thank you for your interest, and please let me know of any other issue that concerns you. After Sine Die, I will be visiting with you on my campaign trail for re-election, and asking how you think we did this year -- the good and bad. I hope for many good conversations and suggestions!

1. From my seat on the Judiciary Committee, I will be active to derail further efforts to pass "Religious Freedom" legislation. Most of these bills come through Judiciary, and although the Governor, Speaker, and Democrats are consistent in their opposition to bills that send a message of discrimination against gay citizens, there will be more efforts to pass some version of these bad proposals. One of the important lessons I have learned is the Session is never over until the final gavel bangs.
2. This week in Government Affairs Committee, where I also sit, we will learn if the Chair will allow any of the Elena Parent Senate Study Committee Reforms on Cityhood and Annexation to have a hearing and vote. Thus far, the Senate Sponsors have received no encouragement from the Chair, and SB 375 contains the important language I am following and attempting to expand on pension legacy obligations for new cities contained in HB 711, the bill I introduced early in the Session.
3. I am the second signature with Chair Wendell Willard on several bills to reform the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and there are active negotiations with Senate leadership to move this effort forward. This is not a high profile effort, but is important, and I am involved on a daily basis.
4. I was moved this week that so many older Decatur citizens came to the Capitol to advocate for SB 343 which gives needed property tax relief. There has been a positive response, and I thank my colleagues who took time to meet with my constituents on the local bill that has been agreed to by all the Decatur participants. Representative Beskin, from Buckhead, who unilaterally stopped a vote on SB 343, refused to meet with the Decatur senior citizens, telling them to "send her an email."
5. A little noticed bill, SB 325, is on the Judiciary Committee for the third time on Monday, to "revise and clarify" state constitutional law on church property ownership when a congregation splits or divides. This is an interesting and complicated issue, relating to real, not imaginary conflicts, and I have helped organize the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, and other denominations for committee presentations. I oppose the bill as unnecessary, and can tell you why if you want to email me with questions.
6. The Fiscal Year '17 Budget is now in final House and Senate negotiations, and I am following closely the appropriation items that were recommended by the sub-committee I serve on DFCS, Mental Health, Aging and Veterans Affairs. The annual balanced budget is the most important bill passed every year. Our sub-committee made recommendations for expanded services in several areas, and I want these additions to be in the final document.

Everyday of the final five days will be busy, and I will be there from start to finish, working through the committee, Floor debate, and "back door" negotiation processes. Experience with both procedure and substance, combined with work ethic matter the most in these final days. There are many more items on my task list, and I ask you to come visit, and help me represent your voice! THANK YOU!

Mary Margaret

MMO qualifies for re-election to House District 82 seat
March 7, 2016

Monday morning, I qualified for re-election to serve the citizens of House District 82! I ask for your vote and your good wishes, and look forward to campaigning and visiting with you in your neighborhoods and homes soon. I hear from you daily about what issues concern you, and please continue to call, email, message or visit me at the Capitol----it is a privilege to represent you. Thank you.

Click on the "Campaign" button above if you want to sign up for yard signs and volunteer duties, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter! Thank you!

Mary Margaret

MMO speaks out on Legislative maneuvering on HB 781
February 28, 2016

MMO Email Newsletter
February 13, 2016
Town Hall Meeting to discuss Legislative issues and proposed Chamblee annexation. Thursday, Feb. 18, 7:00 - 8:30 PM, Lakeside High School Auditorium

MMO addresses perks for Legislators that others don't receive
February 11, 2016
The privilege of serving the people of the 82nd District is the only perk MMO needs.

MMO holds press conference on HB 731
January 15, 2016


MMO to hold press conference to discuss HB 731 - Assault Weapons ban
January 12, 2016

MMO and fifteen Democrat women House members introduced HB 731 on the first day of the 2016 Session. The bill bans assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Georgia needs debate about these weapons which are only used for rapidly killing people. Assault weapons are not necessary for deer hunting.

Please join legislators, faith leaders, law enforcement and gun safety advocates for the press conference THURSDAY, JANUARY 14 at 2:00 PM on the South steps of the Rotunda of the Capitol.

The definitions of assault weapons covered by the bill and all details of the bill may be viewed here:

Pre-session email newsletter
January 6, 2016

MMO speaks at press conference on redistricting resolution
January 6, 2016

MMO is co-sponsoring with Rep. Gardener HR 962 and HR 963 establishing an independent, non-partisan commission to deal with redistricting. A press conference was held on January 5 which included both MMO and Rep. Gardener along with Sen. Elena Parent and representatives of the state and national League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union and Common Cause. The hope is for and honest and open discussion during the 2016 Legislative Session. Details on the two resolutions can be found on the House of Representative's website.

MMO prefiles HB 711 addressing pension obligations
Decemeber 5, 2015
MMO prefiled HB 711 which addresses the issue of pension obligations owed to county employees by citizens of newly formed cities.

MMO discusses LaVista Hills defeat in November Newsletter
November 16, 2015

Results of survey on cityhood/annexation issues
October 19, 2015
Mary Margaret Oliver
Email Newsletter Survey
400 responses
July 29, 2015

1.    Should all new cities be required to follow a specific two year timetable before the voters are given the ultimate decision by a referendum vote?

Yes                335        85%
No                55        14%
No response            5        1%
2.    An economic feasibility study to create a new city must be filed by a specific date, and be conducted by only a Georgia university fiscal economics department.

Yes                299        77%
No                85        22%
No Response            6        1%

3.    An economic feasibility study must contain data on the impact on the county.

Yes                354        88%
No                44        11%
No response            1        -

4.    Maps for new cities must be filed by a specific date and not altered thereafter.

Yes                319        81%
No                69        18%
No Response            5        1%

5.    Should all members of a county delegation, or just members of a delegation who include territory to be changed, have authority to veto a proposed annexation to city?

All members can veto    202        53%
Only members in area    174        46%
To be annexed can veto
No response            5      1%

6.    Should voters have formal statutory process to be de-annexed from a city?

Yes                332        88%
No                36        9%
No response            11        3%

Community forum and survey on CEO role in October newsletter
Remember to vote Nov. 3, not only on cityhood initiatives, but also Ethics and other good governance proposals.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day.
July 3, 2015
And please stay safe, particularly around the newly allowed fireworks sales in Georgia. Please note the Wall Street Journal's recognition of what MMO has named the "Blow Your Child's Hand Off Bill". MMO voted NO.

Fireworks Sales Skyrocket as More States Lift Bans
Eased restrictions expected to boost purchases over Fourth of July; fire and health officials express concerns

By Lindsay Ellis and
Cameron McWhirter
July 2, 2015 2:42 p.m. ET

ATLANTA-—Fireworks sales are skyrocketing for the Fourth of July this year in some parts of the country, as more states are loosening restrictions on the devices to capture tax revenue.

Georgia lifted a longtime ban July 1 on the sale of consumer fireworks that shoot into the air, such as bottle rockets, Roman candles and flying spinners—despite concerns from some legislators about safety. Consumers had been buying them in neighboring states. “We were losing out on revenue,” said former state Rep. Jay Roberts, who co-sponsored the legislation this spring before leaving office to take a state transportation planning job.

On Thursday morning, customers loaded up for the weekend in newly opened Phantom Fireworks, in Duluth, Ga. Standing in an aisle filled with Roman candles, Bob Schinke, 34, held a package called “Flashing Thunder.” He and his son debated whether to purchase bottle rockets as well.

“This should be enough to keep mom excited,” Mr. Schinke told his son.

Like Georgia, other states are easing longstanding prohibitions. For the first time since the early 1900s, New Yorkers can now buy sparklers and smaller “novelty” fireworks items in about half the state’s counties, though bottle rockets and other fireworks that burst in the air are still not allowed.

In Ohio, a measure inserted into the state’s $130.3 billion budget, signed by Gov. John Kasich Tuesday, will eliminate a form that people must sign promising to take items like firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles out of state within 48 hours of purchasing them, though their use in the state will remain illegal. The form, to be eliminated in September, was widely known as the “liar’s form,” because people often ignite the fireworks in Ohio anyway.
Georgia’s new measure ends a ban on consumer fireworks sales going back decades. ENLARGE
Georgia’s new measure ends a ban on consumer fireworks sales going back decades. Photo: Melissa Golden for The Wall Street Journal

The eased restrictions are expected to boost national sales of fireworks over the holiday weekend, predicted Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a national trade group for the fireworks industry.

Since 2011, six states—Kentucky, Utah, New Hampshire, Maine and Michigan, along with Georgia—have lifted restrictions on the sale of most types of consumer fireworks, according to Ms. Heckman. Other states have loosened laws about sparklers and other smaller items, including New York, she said. Only three states—Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware—still completely prohibit fireworks sales.

The improved economy is also helping, the pyrotechnics association says. U.S. imports of consumer fireworks fell in 2009 to 182.2 million pounds from 255 million pounds in 2005. But imports—almost all from China—recovered to 225.3 million pounds in 2014.

Fire and health officials are concerned. About 18,000 fires a year are caused by fireworks in the U.S., and about 11,000 people went to emergency rooms in 2013 for fireworks-related injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association, a Quincy, Mass.-based nonprofit dedicated to eliminating fire deaths. More fires are reported to fire departments on July 4th than any other day of the year, said spokeswoman Lorraine Carli. Common injuries include lacerations and burns to the head and extremities, according to a 2013 association report.

“There is no safe way to use consumer fireworks,” Ms. Carli said. “It’s just not worth it.”

About half of New York’s 62 counties have legalized sales of sparklers and similar items since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill last November allowing sales around the July 4 and New Year’s holidays only on a county-by-county basis, excluding New York City.

“Each year thousands of New Yorkers go out-of-state to purchase consumer-oriented fireworks such as sparklers, poppers and novelty items,” state Sen. Mike Nozzolio, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said in an emailed statement. “This represents tens of millions of dollars in retail trade being lost to New York.”

Revelers in Massachusetts get around some of the strictest fireworks prohibitions in the nation by loading up over the border in New Hampshire. Hoping to cut down on the number of amateur explosions, state fire officials warned residents in a press release last week to leave fireworks to professionals. They also recounted several mishaps from last year, including a March incident in which a youth lost a hand.

Georgia’s new measure ends a ban on consumer fireworks sales going back decades. Previously, only sparklers and smaller items were allowed to be sold in the state. Supporters of the ban cited safety concerns during legislative debates over the new measure this spring. Democratic state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver said she called the legislation “the blow-the-child’s-hand-off bill.”

The longstanding prohibition gave rise to numerous fireworks stores right over the state’s borders with South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. About 360 licenses had been issued to Georgia purveyors as of Thursday by Georgia’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, said spokeswoman Laura Wright.

Still, despite the new competition, stores in Georgia’s bordering states reported soaring sales. Keesha Woodard, a 41 year-old manager of Dixieland Fireworks LLC in East Ridge, Tenn., just north of the Georgia border, said the new law had eased Georgia customers’ concerns about using fireworks in their state.

“They’re all talking about how now they are able to shoot them off, so they are just buying more,” she said.

—Jon Kamp in Boston and Kris Maher in Pittsburgh contributed to this article.

Write to Cameron McWhirter at cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com.mcwhirter

MMO named to Study Committee on Annexation, Deannexation and incorporation of new cities
July 2, 2015
Speaker Ralston has appointed MMO to the HR 743 Study Committee on Annexation, Deannexation and incorporation of new cities--a very timely effort to review the processes for all the new cities and annexations that are active in DeKalb County. But the issues are statewide, and this committee should lead to positive discussions and necessary recommendations. Email MMO with any ideas you have on this important subject.

Press release below:

Speaker David Ralston

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    Contact: Kaleb McMichen
Thursday, July 02, 2015    (404) 656-5020

Speaker David Ralston Appoints Members of the
House Study Committee on
Annexation, Deannexation, and Incorporation

ATLANTA — Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has appointed the following members to the House Study Committee on Annexation, Deannexation, and Incorporation:
• Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Brooklet), Chair
• Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta)
• Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)
• Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany)
• Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody)

This study committee is established by House Resolution 743 and will review current annexation, deannexation, and incorporation laws and procedures to ensure that the process is clear, open, equitable, and in the best interest of the citizens of Georgia.

Pre Sine Die Email Newsletter
April 7, 2015

AJC hooks MMO up to Truth-O-Meter.--she tells the TRUTH!
April 7, 2015

Sine Die April 2! What will the Governor sign or veto?
April 7, 2015

MMO votes for Governor's Opportunity School District
March 26, 2015
MMO had a tough vote and supported the Governor's legislation for the state to assume responsibility for the worst performing schools. DeKalb has 23 qualifying schools on the list of possible takeover schools. The debate was fair.

HB 586 annexing part of House District 82 into Atlanta is introduced
March 12, 2015
The following press release states MMO's position on HB 586 regarding annexation of parts of House District 82 into the City of Atlanta.


Contact: Betsy Lynch
Thursday, March 12, 2015
(404) 656--3996


Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver Comments on Bill Providing DeKalb Annexation Referendum

ATLANTA –State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) today released the following statement regarding House Bill 586, local legislation to provide a referendum on the annexation of parts of unincorporated DeKalb into the city of Atlanta:

“My constituents in the 82nd House district have clearly stated a wish to vote on whether to be annexed into the city of Atlanta. HB 586, local legislation of the Atlanta delegation, will give them a referendum, which will be held in November 2015. If passed and signed by the Governor, all citizens of the proposed annexed area in unincorporated DeKalb can engage in the democratic process through public conversation, asking questions about schools, taxes and services, and decide how they wish to vote.”

HB 586 was introduced on March 10 by Representative Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), Chair of the Atlanta legislative delegation. The area to be annexed includes parts of Druid Hills, Briar Vista, LaVista Park, Clairmont Heights and Medlock.
Rep. Oliver is a member of the House Government Affairs Committee, which has voted upon all proposed DeKalb cityhood bills. She has raised objections to the proposed city of LaVista Hills, due to conflicting borders with the proposed annexation into Atlanta. Rep. Oliver represents all neighborhoods affected by the proposed annexation and LaVista Hills legislation.
“People have a right to decide how they wish to be governed, and I support a referendum for a decision to be made,” continued Rep. Oliver. “Any border dispute between LaVista Hills and Atlanta must be resolved to give citizens clear choices.”
HB 586 must be approved by the Atlanta legislative delegation, before it can be considered by the full body of the Georgia House.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 82, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and she currently serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Resources and the Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Science & Technology committees.

March 6, 2015

MMO introduces HB 507 on behalf of Child Welfare Reform Council
March 2, 2015
Based on the recommendations of the Governor's Child Welfare Reform Council, MMO has introduced HB 507 along with Chairman Wendell Willard, to create a child abuse registry. This legislation is assigned to the Judiciary Committee and attempts to manage data and a registry of confirmed child abusers for the purpose of enhanced investigations and child safety. Previous child abuse registry legislation that MMO was involved in in the Senate was declared unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court, and this new legislation seeks to correct errors and incorporate new technologies. A link to the bill is provided.


MMO honored by State Bar of Georgia
March 2, 2015

On February 17, MMO was honored by the State Bar of Georgia as one of the recipients of the Robert Benham Award for Community Service.

MMO quoted in Jewish Times article on cityhood/annexation
January 24, 2015
MMO glad that there is continuing attention by voters in the Orthodox Jewish community and neighbors in Toco Hills.

Critical time for DeKalb Schools
January 24, 2015

MMO at Druid Hills PTA
January 9, 2015
Every night groups are meeting in MMO's middle DeKalb District to discuss annexation, cityhood and governance with good crowds showing up. Read this Decaturish report on last night's Druid Hills PTA meeting. MMO called out Mike Thurmond on his wish to LITIGATE first--almost always a bad strategy.

MMO to introduce bills requested by Blueprint DeKalb
December 28, 2014
Legislative Counsel has drafted three Bills for introduction in the first week of the General Assembly as requested by Blueprint DeKalb --- on ethics, procurement, and an independent auditor. MMO hopes that all members of the DeKalb Delegation will join her as sponsors.

Arbitration Panel issues map for Lavista Hills and Tucker boundary
December 19, 2014

The Arbitration Panel has set a border between LaVista Hills and Tucker. Both groups need to update their feasibility studies and make their case to the Governmental Affairs Committee

Arbitration Panel to meet Dec. 3
For those of you closely following DeKalb County cityhood border disputes, the Arbitration Panel will meet at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 1:00 PM to hear testimony from LaVista Hills and Tucker. Enjoy Thanksgiving first, then join us for an interesting discussion.


Contact: Betsy Lynch
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
(404) 656-3996


DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs to Hold Meeting at State Capitol

ATLANTA – The House DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee will meet on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. At this meeting the committee will hear testimony from representatives from the Tucker and LaVista Hills cityhood organizations. Following the testimony, the committee will take public comment.
“I look forward to hearing from the proponents of the LaVista Hills and Tucker cities, as well as from members of the community who want their voice heard on this subject,” said Rep. Buzz Brockway, Chair of the DeKalb Cityhood Subcommittee. “The members of this subcommittee take this process very seriously, and I feel confident that we will find a solution that will allow these two cityhood proposals to move forward during the next legislative session.”
House Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) recently announced the appointees to the DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of the House Governmental Affairs Committee. The following House members were appointed to serve on this subcommittee: Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Chair Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta), and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur). House Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Amy Carter appointed a panel of these five state House members to carry out the task of drawing city boundaries for the proposed cities in DeKalb County. The panel’s sole charge will be to produce a boundary map no later than December 31 by majority vote of the panel.

WHO: House DeKalb County Cityhood Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs

Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Chair
Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem)
Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming)
Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta)
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)

WHAT: Public Meeting to hear from cityhood organizations

WHEN: Wednesday, December 3, 2014
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Room 506
18 Capitol Square
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

MMO named to Arbitration Panel to review cityhood and annexation options
November 20, 2014

October Email Legislative newsletter

MMO speaks at rally in favor of proposed EPA carbon reulations
July 30, 2014

MMO's Summer Legislative newsletter
July 9, 2014


Both the Democratic and Republican primaries from the May 20th election have important runoff elections on July 22, and you are free to vote early at the Memorial Drive Elections office up through July 18--PLEASE VOTE.

For those of you choosing a Democratic ballot, please consider supporting my endorsed candidates:

Valerie is past Chair of the Decatur School Board and the statewide Georgia School Boards Association. She is an excellent education leader for Georgia.

Jeff is the interim sheriff following the resignation of Thomas Brown who ran for Congress, and has done an excellent job running the jail and sheriff's office personnel.
He is a lawyer and former member of the county's legal counsel office.

For Fulton County residents, there is a runoff for Superior Court, and Jane Barwick has
been voted most qualified by the Atlanta Bar members by a whopping majority.

If you have questions about any race on the July 22 ballot or my endorsed candidates, please email me anytime. mmo@mmolaw.com.

CITYHOOD UPDATE -- As you probably know, Briarcliff and Lakeside leaders are in active conversations and drawing new proposals for a combined new city in DeKalb County from the two previous proposals developed during the 2014 General Assembly Session. In part based on the decision of Emory University not to be a part of any new city, and the resulting obstacles for the Druid Hills and Fernbank neighborhoods to be included in Briarcliff, there is a recognition that a possible new city must be moved north of the Emory campus. There are many neighborhood discussions ongoing about these options and you are encouraged to participate.

SUMMER STUDY COMMITTEE -- I have been appointed by Speaker David Ralston to a study committee on child welfare residential service providers, and scheduled and public meetings will begin in August. You are welcome to attend, and all study committee calendars are listed on the Georgia General Assembly web site.



404 377 0485 Law office in Decatur

MMO comments in AJC article about frequent leadership changes at DFCS
June 13, 2014
Governor ousts DFCS leader, changes agency’s approach

Updated: 9:19 p.m. Thursday, June 12, 2014 | Posted: 9:10 p.m. Thursday, June 12, 2014
Email 1Facebook 1Twitter 2ShareThis 8

By Greg Bluestein, Alan Judd and Craig Schneider - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gov. Nathan Deal ousted the head of Georgia’s child protection agency Thursday and instructed her successor to embark on a more aggressive approach to protecting children, which could send more children into foster care.

In a significant strategy change for the state Division of Family and Children Services, Deal said he has issued marching orders to reverse the “indoctrination” of caseworkers, who he said have been trained to focus more on keeping families together than protecting children.

Deaths Under Scrutiny

Boy’s death shines light on agency’s secrecy

DFCS ignored abuse history, closed case with no investigation

Several warning signs predated 10-year-old girl’s gruesome death

“There is a culture within DFCS that probably has not produced the best results,” Deal said of the focus on keeping families together. “While that is a laudable goal, I believe the more appropriate goal is the welfare of the child.”

The distinction speaks to the toughest decision a caseworker can make — whether to remove a child in danger of abuse or neglect into foster care, or to keep the child in a troubled household as the agency works to improve care.

Throughout the years, DFCS has swung its emphasis back and forth between these starkly different approaches, rarely finding the right balance.

Recent deaths again bring scrutiny to Georgia’s child welfare system

A dangerous life, mysterious death highlight child protection failures

Deal made clear the pendulum was on the move again.

His announcement drew mixed reactions from child welfare advocates. Some saw it as the correct action following the highly publicized deaths of two children and reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that agency mistakes contributed to at least 25 deaths in 2012.

“I applaud Gov. Nathan Deal for being proactive and recognizing the need for major changes in this agency,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.

Others expressed concerns that the shift was an election-year tactic that could introduce new troubles at the Division of Family and Children Services, such as an overwhelming spate of new cases and children drawn into foster care.

“Anybody can score points by saying, ‘I’m going to get tough and protect children,’” said Normer Adams, a child advocate for 30 years. He worried that the new policy fails to recognize the emotional trauma on children removed from their homes. “My fear is that families will be destroyed in the name of child safety.”

Deal said Bobby Cagle, who currently leads the state’s early care department, will replace DFCS Director Sharon Hill, who will take a job in the state budget agency.

The governor also said he would support legislation next year that would make it a criminal offense for parents who know they are facing a DFCS investigation to move without telling state authorities. Child welfare advocates said that this is a common tactic by parents trying to evade the agency, and that investigations frequently stall when a family leaves town without telling anyone.

A similar scenario played out in the recent death of 5-year-old Heaven Woods, said Pat Willis, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children. When DFCS intervened in the family’s life, the girl’s mother moved to another county without informing the agency, she said. The child died May 20 of blunt force trauma, and murder charges have been leveled against her mother, Amanda Hendrickson, and the mother’s boyfriend, Roderick Buckner.

DFCS has yet to release the case file on the family.

While some child advocates praised the prospect of tougher penalties, Willis questioned whether such a law would have much impact on parents desperate to escape the agency’s eyes.

The appointment of Cagle as interim DFCS director drew praise from advocates, even as many complimented his predecessor. Hill had the support of many in the child welfare community, and some saw her departure as merely part of the sweep of change.

At the same time, Hill has overseen an agency long in the spotlight of public criticism for its problems with child protection as well as a crisis in the management of the food stamp system that resulted in thousands of Georgians wrongfully losing benefits.

Cagle was tapped in January 2011 to lead the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, where he oversaw the state’s pre-kindergarten programs and rolled out new day care licensing rules. While his status at DFCS is interim, officials are eyeing him to assume the post permanently.

Deal said he instructed Cagle to be “more aggressive” in handling early signs of abuse. He said under past administrations, case workers have been sanctioned for not meeting a certain family reunification ratio.

“Governor Deal has charged me with assuring Georgia’s child welfare system is first and foremost laser-focused on the safety of our children,” Cagle said.

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, a longtime child advocate, praised Cagle’s work with young children and said he understands the need to balance the goal of protecting a child with that of keeping a family together.

However, Oliver worried about the “repetitive leadership changes” occurring at the helm of DFCS — an agency that regularly sees one leader replaced by another — saying it “creates a level of chaos when there’s a shuffling at the top.”

Deal’s ideas represent a shift of policies adopted during the administration of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, himself a former foster parent. Perdue had hired a get-tough DFCS director after the deaths of two 2-year-old boys, but that strategy resulted in a tremendous increase in caseloads and children taken into foster care.

In response, Perdue appointed B.J. Walker as social services commissioner, and she ordered DFCS caseworkers to leave as many children as possible in their homes.

From a statistical standpoint, Walker’s policies succeeded. From 2004 to 2010, the number of children in Georgia’s foster care system dropped from more than 14,000 to about 7,000. The shift away from foster care made a fiscal impact, as well. The state saved at least $120 million a year by halving the number of children in its care.

But an AJC investigation last year found that children suffered under the policies, known widely as “diversion.” The newspaper examined the cases of 86 children who died in 2012 despite DFCS intervention in their families. In 50 of those cases, the agency had provided family “preservation” or “support” or similar services that kept children at home and out of foster care.

Deal said Cagle will report directly to the governor’s office rather than to the commissioner of the Department of Human Services. Deal said further changes may come. He previously backed a plan to spend $27 million over the next three years to hire more than 500 caseworkers and supervisors for the agency.

Deal ruled out a special legislative session this year to create an autonomous child protection agency, but said he would back a proposal to make DFCS more independent if these changes succeed over the next six months. DFCS currently is part of the Human Services department.

“I think it’s a very distinct possibility,” he said. “We just want to see in the short-term whether it works better this way, and I think we’ll see that.”

MMO in AJC on expanding mandated reporters of child abuse to all
June 9, 2014
Deciding who reports abuse
Some are wary of push for all adults to become mandated informants.
By Craig Schneider cschneider@ajc.com
Let’s say your child’s friend repeatedly shows up at your door with bruises on his back and face. One day, you see his mother grab him hard and slap his face.
In about 18 states, the law would require you report your suspicion that the child was being abused. Georgia is not among them, but the idea surfaces periodically — especially after a child dies at the hands of an adult.
Time and again, a neighbor or relative acknowledges they saw danger signs but didn’t make the call. Take the case of 5-year-old Heaven Woods, who died last month of blunt force trauma to the abdomen: Family members recounted a string of mysterious injuries that the mother — now charged with murder — tried to explain away. A knot on the girl’s head, supposedly the result of a clumsy fall. Marks around her throat, supposedly self-inflicted.
Would Heaven and children like her be safer if every adult had a legal duty to report suspected neglect and abuse?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution probed the issue with law makers and child protection advocates and by reaching out to states that have adopted such laws. Overall, there was great enthusiasm for the concept but serious doubt that it works in practice.
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur isn’t afflicted with those doubts. “I believe children would be safer if everyone had the legal obligation to report child abuse,” she said.
But even Oliver, among the state’s leading child advocates, hesitated when asked if she planned to submit a bill. She still remembers the defeat she faced years ago when she pressed for such a law. It’s government going too far, opponents said. Parents have the right to discipline their kids, said others. The punishment my father doled out made me a better person, still others argued.
Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, another child advocate, said that while she is sympathetic to universal mandated reporting, she sees difficulties in crafting a law that would hold up in court. How would you prove a person’s negligence? Who would be witness to it? What would be the evidence?
“It sounds good, it’s just not practical,” Unterman said. In addition, she said, any measure of the sort would strike some lawmakers as government overstepping its role in people’s lives. “I don’t see it being passed in Georgia.”
Certain cases of child abuse and neglect are clear to see: the father who repeatedly hauls off and beats his child in public. But some instances can be subtle, with the damage inflicted out of public view. When you see a child with injuries, how do you know the cause? And if you err on the wrong side and don’t report it, should you end up in handcuffs?
Georgia’s existing mandated reporter law goes back decades. It has long covered doctors, teachers and many other professionals who work with children.
In 2012, after the Penn State scandal focused attention on adults who fail to report, lawmakers expanded the law to include sports coaches, clergy and volunteers for groups that work with children. Mandated reporters who fail to report suspected abuse within 24 hours face a misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Advocates point to the 14,000-plus reports filed in each recent year by school employees, guidance counselors and day care workers as evidence that a legal mandate works. But there have been few prosecutions of mandated reporters who failed in their legal duty — evidence, in the eyes of one Georgia child protection expert, that expanding the mandate to all adults would have scant impact.
“Educating and training the entire adult population about how to detect and report child abuse may not be feasible,” said Melissa Carter, executive director of Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Poverty Center.
A 2012 analysis by the State Policy Advocacy & Reform Center found that states with universal mandated reporting had no higher rates of abuse reports than those without the mandate. In addition, administrators from several states with universal reporting acknowledged that many people simply don’t know the law exists.
States that require all adults to report include Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, New Jersey and Wyoming.
Nationally, a federal universal mandated reporting law was proposed in 2011 but was put on hold while lawmakers reviewed the impact of such laws in states that had them. When the proposal resurfaced this May, the Speak Up for Every Abused Kid Act limited mandated reporters to medical professionals, school employees, law enforcement and social service workers.
Proponents of broader reporting laws said they generate useful information for child protection workers and make family members more comfortable speaking up because they know it is the law.
“It puts a priority on the safety of children,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant of Rhode Island Kids Count. “It helps to create an atmosphere where people feel we are responsible for the safety of children.”
In 2012, Florida went so far as to upgrade failure to report from a misdemeanor to a felony.
But Andrea Moore, a longtime child advocate in Florida, said a universal reporting law matters little compared to having a well-resourced child welfare system that diligently investigates child abuse reports. Despite the law, Florida’s system continues to struggle to adequately protect children, she said.
Georgia, too, is struggling to improve a system with many documented gaps and weaknesses. The AJC has repeatedly exposed systemic failures that leave children vulnerable and shield agency errors from public view.
In April, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a Child Welfare Reform Council, which is headed by longtime advocate Stephanie Blank. Among the issues the panel will explore is overcoming people’s reluctance to report their suspicions of abuse or neglect, Blank said.
Some people are concerned their own safety if the person they report learns of it. (There is no need to fear: People can make reports anonymously in Georgia.) Some hesitate to intrude on the private goings-on inside another household. And some people just have trouble believing that a parent they know would actually go so far as to hurt their child.
“Sometimes the people most likely to know are the least likely to report,” Blank said.
The council, she added, could also discuss a universal mandated reporting law. Do you know the warning signs for child abuse and neglect in children? Find a helpful guide at www.MyAJC.com  .
This quiz is drawn mainly from the school district websites for Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb counties.
1. A mandated reporter is someone who is required by law to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the authorities. Who are mandated reporters in Georgia?
a. Medical professionals
b. Most school employees and day care workers
c. People who process or produce visual or printed matter
d. All the above
Correct answer: d. Anyone may report suspicions of child abuse, but these groups are required to do so, as are law enforcement officers and workers at child welfare agencies.
2. When you suspect child abuse, the correct course of action is:
a. Wait to see whether your suspicions are correct
b. Tell your supervisor and ask him or her to report to the authorities
c. Report your suspicions to the Department of Family and Children Services within 24 hours
d. Call the child’s parents and demand that they stop the abuse
Correct answer: c. In the school system, employees typically are expected to tell their supervisor or the principal AND call DFCS within 24 hours. If there is no DFCS office, reporters must call police.
3. What if I suspect child abuse or neglect and make a report in good faith, but my suspicions turn out to be baseless?
a. You can be sued by the parents or by other injured parties
b. If you’re acting in good faith, the state grants immunity from civil or criminal liability
c. You can be arrested and charged with making a false report
d. You can be ordered to move out of your county of residence.
Correct answer: b. The“in good faith”part is important. If you’re acting in good faith when you report your suspicions, you can’t be held liable for making the report. Your call is a request for an investigation by DFCS, not an allegation.
4. Any mandated reporter in Georgia who knowingly and willfully fails to report suspicions of child:
a. Could be charged with a felony and sent to prison
b. Could be charged with a misdemeanor
c. Faces the revocation of his or her driver’s license
d. Will be suspended and investigated by his or her employer
Correct answer: b. The failure to report is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The following people are required by Georgia law to report to the proper authorities whenever they have“reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused”:
› Physicians licensed to practice medicine, physician assistants, interns or residents › Hospital or medical personnel › Dentists › Licensed psychologists and persons participating in internships to obtain licensing pursuant to Chapter 39 of Title 43 › Podiatrists › Registered professional nurses or licensed practical nurses licensed pursuant to Chapter 26 of Title 43 or nurse’s aides › Professional counselors, social workers, or marriage and family therapists licensed pursuant to Chapter 10A of Title 43 › Schoolteachers › School administrators › School guidance counselors, visiting teachers, school social workers, or school psychologists certified pursuant to Chapter 2 of Title 20 › Child welfare agency personnel, as that agency is defined pursuant to Code Section 49-5-12 › Child-counseling personnel › Child service organization personnel › Law enforcement personnel › Reproductive health care facility or pregnancy resource center personnel and volunteers
Failure to report is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Source: Official Code of Georgia Annotated 19-7-5(c)(1)

MMO interviewed on WXIA re: Child Welfare Reform Council
March 14, 2014
The Governor has announced the creation of a new Child Welfare Reform Council, and if it works as well as the Criminal Justice Reform Commission, it will be helpful. MMO is hopeful that the revised Child Fatality Review Commission legislation, HB 923, will pass in the last two days of the 2014 Session which ends next Thursday.

MMO Op-Ed in AJC concerning Child Fatality Review overhaul
March 6, 2014
Happy that AJC has printed MMO's Op-Ed on HB 923 dealing with the Child Fatality Review process. With the Governor's support and Rep. Coomer's leadership, the passage of this bill is at least one good thing that will come out of the 2014 Legislative session.

Prevent Cruel Deaths of Children

By Mary Margaret Oliver

Why does Georgia require autopsies and fatality reviews of children who die in a manner that is “suspicious or unusual” from SIDS, from unintentional or intentional injures, or when unattended by a physician?

What has Georgia’s Child Fatality Review Commission accomplished in its review of suspicious child deaths since 1990? House Bill 923, introduced as part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2014 legislative package, attempts to answer these questions.

In 1990, when the General Assembly created the Child Fatality Review Commission, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation employed no doctor pathologists in its medical examiner’s office. Two PhDs in microbiology performed autopsies at the request of local coroners, elected to a county office with no qualifications other than being at least 21 years old..

Although coroners are still elected in approximately 154 counties, the GBI today employs 14 medical pathologists, one a dual board-certified pediatrician and forensics pathologist; they performed about 490 autopsies on children in 2013. We clearly have made progress in the professionalization of the state’s medical examiner’s office. We can assume such progress assists local law enforcement to prosecute and make accountable those who abuse and murder children.

The child death review process, however, has not accomplished the legitimate goal of preventing children’s deaths, nor has it improved data sharing among state agencies that touch the lives of vulnerable children. HB 923, along with new federal legislation passed in late 2012, will enhance Georgia’s child death review in the following ways:

• The Child Fatality Review Commission will be moved from the Office of Child Advocate to the GBI, which will provide greater coordination among law enforcement agencies.

• Multiple conflicting confidentiality statutes and regulations will be amended to remove barriers to data sharing; 2009 legislation that gave additional authority to the Department of Family and Children Services to redact certain facts from child abuse records will be repealed.

• The Department of Public Health will have an enhanced role, with epidemiology professionals to identify with greater precision children who are most susceptible to neglect and abuse. At a minimum, the protection of medically fragile children should be improved.

The Child Fatality Review Commission has an important state function, but it needs to be updated and refocused on prevention and data sharing in a more precise and scientific manner. Gov. Deal’s legislation should pass. Together, we can redouble our efforts to prevent the unnecessary and cruel deaths of children.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, represents District 82.

Town Hall Meeting Rescheduled
February 23, 2014
Please join me, Rep. Scott Holcomb and Re. Michele Henson at our rescheduled Town Hall meeting Thursday, February 27 at 6:30. Weather looks like it will be OK!

Contact: Betsy Lynch
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
(404) 656-3996


Members of DeKalb Delegation to Host Town Hall Meeting

ATLANTA – State Representatives Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain), and Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) will host a town hall meeting on Thursday, February 27, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Hawthorne Elementary School in DeKalb County. The previously scheduled meeting for February 12 was cancelled.
During this meeting, these representatives will give a legislative update on events that have occurred during the first weeks of session and hear questions from constituents.

WHO: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)
Rep. Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain)
Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta)

WHAT: Town Hall Meeting to discuss the ongoing 2014 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly and hear from constituents

WHEN: Thursday, February 27, 2014
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Hawthorne Elementary School
2535 Caladium Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30345

Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday, February 12
February 7, 2014
Please join MMO, Rep. Scott Holcomb and Rep. Michele Henson for an update on this year's legislative Session. We hope to see you there.


Contact: Betsy Lynch
Thursday, February 6, 2014
(404) 656-3996


Members of DeKalb Delegation to Host Town Hall Meeting

ATLANTA – State Representatives Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain), and Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) will host a town hall meeting Wednesday, February 12, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Hawthorne Elementary School in DeKalb County. During this meeting, these representatives will give a legislative update on events that have occurred during the first weeks of session and hear questions from constituents.

WHO: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)
Rep. Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain)
Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta)

WHAT: Town Hall Meeting to discuss the ongoing 2014 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly and hear from constituents

WHEN: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Hawthorne Elementary School
2535 Caladium Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30345

January 29, 2014
Decatur Town Hall meeting with Rep. Rahn Mayo and Rep. Howard Mosby scheduled for tonight is cancelled due to weather. We will reschedule.

AJC article on privatizing foster care
January 11, 2014
We always need to focus on details and outcomes....otherwise it is just talk.

Pasted from today's AJC

As DFCS failures mount, Deal considers private-sector approach to foster care
Updated: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 | Posted: 5:51 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, 2014
Email 1Facebook 2Twitter 5ShareThis 8
By Greg Bluestein and Alan Judd - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On any day, about 7,000 Georgia children reside in foster homes, removed from their abusive families by state social workers. Under a plan unveiled Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal would put private organizations in charge of those children and the care they receive.
Deal’s proposal, on the eve of the General Assembly’s 2014 session, is part of his response to revelations of widespread failings by Georgia’s child-protection agency, the Division of Family and Children’s Services.
+ Bob Andres
Nathan Deal during an interview with WSB and AJC reporters in the Governor’s office at the Capitol. Georgia’s top Republican leaders ... read more
“We should all be open to anything to improve the opportunity of children removed from their parents’ homes,” Deal said in an interview. “Privatization is one option that we should explore and we will be exploring very soon.”
The move toward privatization follows Deal’s earlier proposal to spend $27 million over the next three years to hire more than 500 DFCS caseworkers and supervisors — an increase of 26 percent. That proposal came shortly after the highly publicized deaths of two metro Atlanta children and reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that DFCS workers’ mistakes contributed to at least 25 deaths in 2012.
Deal’s aides are still working on the plan, so details remain sketchy. It also is unclear how privatizing foster care would address the problems identified in recent death cases. In 2012, 152 children died despite DFCS intervention in their families. But just 13 of those, or about 9 percent, died while in foster care. The rest either had been returned to their families from foster care or had never been removed despite allegations of abuse or neglect.
•    Neglected in life, unnoticed in death: Few children’s deaths spark public outrage
•    Ralston says Legislature likely to act on child welfare crisis
•    Ziyon Green DFCS
•    Boy’s death shines light on agency’s secrecy
Privatization has become the reform of choice for governors, especially Republicans like Deal, who want to fix broken child-protection systems. Deal said he wants to follow the example set by Florida, which began privatizing child-welfare services in the 1990s. Already, Deal has consulted with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who oversaw a transfer of authority to private agencies.
As in Florida, Georgia would retain authority over many aspects of the child-protection system, including investigations. State workers still would decide whether to remove children from family custody, and judges still would have to ratify those decisions. But private agencies — probably nonprofits — would take over once a child goes into foster care and would be involved in deciding when, or if, to send a child home.
Privatizing child welfare has taken hold in numerous states over the past two decades. Besides Florida, leaders in the movement include Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
•    DFCS review of Jeremiah Tucker's death
In most states, the efforts have received mixed reviews.
Nebraska, for instance, backed off the concept in 2012 when costs greatly exceeded projections. The advocacy group Children’s Rights says states should not expect privatization to save money; private agencies, the group said, are not inherently more efficient than the government.
More important, privately run foster care has not been shown to make children safer (or more vulnerable, for that matter).
+ Bob Andres
Nathan Deal (left) speaks with Teresa MacCartney, budget director, and Chris Riley, Chief of staff, prior to an interview with WSB ... read more
“Private agencies are about as capable or not capable as public agencies,” said Crystal Collins-Camargo of the University of Louisville, who has researched child-welfare privatization nationwide. “It can be done well and it can produce good outcomes for kids. Or it can go very badly.”
Privatization advocates say reworking a child-welfare system sharpens its focus.
“It gives an opportunity to really evaluate what the outcomes for kids in child welfare should be,” said Lisa Snell, director of education for the Reason Foundation, a libertarian research organization that promotes privatization. “It helps with a rethinking of outcomes. … It’s more of an opportunity to improve quality.”
•    In drive to reduce foster rolls, troubled girl had ‘nowhere to go’
•    DFCS ignored abuse history, closed case with no investigation
•    DFCS case history summary on Emani Moss
•    Several warning signs predated 10-year-old girl’s gruesome death
Deal has been quietly working with House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on an overhaul for DFCS. Cagle organized a working group last year to examine foster care, and Ralston said this week he was “open” to privatization.
In an interview with the Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV, Deal said he remains committed to hiring more DFCS workers. Privatization, he said, may be a longer-term solution.
“Any time we can involve the private community to assist the state, that’s a good thing,” Deal said.
•    Recent deaths again bring scrutiny to Georgia’s child welfare system
Lawmakers are expected to consider other child-welfare bills, including one to open more DFCS records to public scrutiny. That bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said she is open to shifting some functions to the private sector, but “I need more specifics and more details.”
Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, who chairs the lieutenant governor’s foster care group, said Deal’s comments reflect broad agreement that the system needs work. But he said major changes are unlikely this year.
“This isn’t an election year issue,” Millar said. “If you’re going to do this, then for God’s sake, let’s do it right.”

MMO pre-files HB 705 proposing changes in child death and child abuse reporting
December 12, 2013
HB 705 proposes moving the Child Death Reporting Panel to the Department of Public Health and removes some of the confidentiality barriers in reporting child abuse.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    Contact: Betsy Lynch
Thursday, December 12, 2013    (404) 656-0311

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver Pre-files Child Advocacy Legislation

ATLANTA— State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) recently pre-filed legislation in an effort to strengthen the Child Fatality Review Panel process. House Bill 705 would move the Child Fatality Review Panel and its functions from the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to the Department of Public Health, and amend confidentiality provisions relating to child abuse records.
“The Office of the Child Advocate needs to strengthen their efforts to analyze and prevent child fatalities in this state, or it should be eliminated,” said Rep. Oliver. “I believe that The Child Fatality Review Panel’s functions can be handled more effectively by the Department of Public Health, and House Bill 705 would make this change possible. I know there are many interested parties in this issue, and I look forward to a good effort in 2014 to review the child advocacy process.”
House Bill 705, which will be formally introduced in the 2014 legislative session, would remove the responsibility of the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel from the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children to the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. The commissioner will coordinate and supervise the work of the panel to provide administrative support, planning, policy, and budget functions.
Additionally, HB 705 is designed to improve the sharing of information by allowing any adult who requests information involving a child fatality to have easier access to that information. Under HB 705, any child abuse records that relate to a child fatality will no longer remain totally confidential.
The Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel is currently coordinated through the OCA and was created to determine the cause and circumstances around child deaths and to prevent child fatalities through the review and collection of data. The panel’s goals include improving response to child fatalities, improving understanding of how and why children die, and influencing legislation, policies and programs that affect the health, safety and protection of children.
For more information about HB 705, please click here.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 82, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and she currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Science & Technology committees.

Jim Galloway tries to predict DeKalb cityhood options in the 2014 Session
December 8, 2013
A Mystery....what do you think should happen.

MMO interviewed on WXIA re: pre-filing legislation to address child fatalities
December 6, 2013
MMO will be pre-filing legislation to improve Georgia's Child Fatality review Commission and the Office of Child Advocate. The Office of Child Advocate needs to be changed and improved or defunded.

MMO quoted in article on defeat of Druid Hills Charter Cluster
November 13, 2013
The DeKalb School Board denial of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster Monday night was very disappointing, to say the least. This does not sound as irritated as MMO was in the AJC story...see below

Rejection of charter school proposal reflects DeKalb divisions
Posted: 6:37 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013
Email 0Facebook 1Twitter 0ShareThis 1
By Ty Tagami - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
If any clarity emerged from this week’s messy debate about charter schools in DeKalb County, it was that the regional divisions that delivered the school system to the brink of accreditation loss still persist.
Across Georgia, parents have expressed frustration with public schools, with many demanding alternatives to the old bureaucracies and teaching methods. In DeKalb, that yearning manifested in a petition to separate a group of public schools from the central office and put them under private charter management.
•    Druid Hills Charter Cluster supporters: Board denial shows 'tyrannical insistence on mediocrity'
On Monday, though, after a protracted and sometimes angry discussion, the school board split largely along geographic and racial lines in rejecting the request. The next day, the spurned parents and teachers accused the district of a “lack of transparency and fair dealing,” and hearkened to the district’s troubled past with accreditation.
Last year, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed DeKalb on probation, accusing board members of prioritizing the interests of “their” election districts above those of the system as a whole. That in turn prompted Gov. Nathan Deal to replace most of the board.
The pique on display Monday probably did not reach the level of “abhorrent behavior” and “yelling” that SACS cited in its assessment of the old board, and the new board hasn’t been accused of micromanagement and deficit spending, which were among SACS’ other big criticisms last year.
But the petitioners included this angry slap in a statement Tuesday about the school administration’s handling of their Druid Hills Charter Cluster proposal and the school board’s 5-4 vote against it: The district’s reaction, they wrote, “will demonstrate plainly a continued challenge with basic governance at the DeKalb board level that is counter to the accrediting guidelines from SACS.”
They also predicted that the outcome would encourage separation movements. Some in DeKalb advocate a constitutional amendment that would allow new cities to create their own school systems. There is also talk of annexing Druid Hills into neighboring Atlanta.
SACS will be issuing an update in December on DeKalb’s accreditation status. Asked if Monday’s meeting might affect the agency’s thinking, the organization’s leader, Mark Elgart, responded that the decision would be based on the board’s work “over a period of time, not just one meeting or one issue.” He said SACS recognized “the emotional nature of the debate” and added, perhaps ominously, that the agency “will continue to monitor this issue.”
All five votes against the petition were cast by black school board members, most of whom represent the southern part of the county. All but one of the four votes in favor were cast by white board members who represent the northernmost districts.
Marney Mayo, a parent and charter school advocate who has endured countless hours watching school board meetings, witnessed the proceedings Monday night. This school board and administration performed “better” than the leaders in place a year ago, she said. “But they’re still a group that reflects a system of widely divergent viewpoints.”
DeKalb is Georgia’s third-largest school district, with 99,000 students. Whites are a distinct minority and are more numerous in schools to the north. The district, a destination for international refugees, is also home to immigrants from across the globe who speak scores of languages.
Though Druid Hills, near Emory University, is known for its stately old mansions, the schools in the proposed cluster contain a lot of diversity. The cluster comprised Druid Hills High and Middle schools, and their five feeder elementary schools, Avondale Estates, Briar Vista, Fernbank, Laurel Ridge and McLendon. The leaders of the petition noted that their charter mandated the success of all the schools, so parents from successful schools would have a motivation to help out those that are struggling.
Cheryl Crawford has three children at Druid Hills High and was among the scores of “devastated” petition supporters who left after the four-hour meeting ended around 11 p.m.
The school serves her daughters well with its International Baccalaureate and advanced placement programs, she said, but it could do better for students in general education courses. “I want more being done for them,” she said.
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat who represents the Druid Hills area, characterized the petition as a “legitimate, positive chance for parents to engage, and the school system is not interested in their engagement.”
But Eugene Walker, the former school board chairman who was removed by Gov. Deal, said the petitioners displayed “arrogance and presumptuousness” with their assertion that they could do things better for their “section” of DeKalb. “They need to help us make the whole system better, not one section,” he said.

Excellent article by Melissa Carter of Emory's Barton Center on child deaths in Georgia
November 3, 2013
Barton Clinic's Director writes an excellent analysis in response to AJC stories on child deaths in Georgia. What is a preventable death or serious injury? Can we ever find the correct balance on confidentiality?

Child protection’s a responsibility for all

By Melissa Carter

In 2011, Georgia had the 12th highest rate in the country of number of children dying as a result of child abuse and neglect, according to federal reports. This high rate of child maltreatment — along with the deaths of 152 children whose families were known to the Department of Family and Children Services — is a rallying point for us all, one that demands a call to action.

A single child maltreatment-related death is unacceptable for our child protection system. No lesser standard can be stomached. This burden rests heavily on the shoulders of thousands of dedicated caseworkers throughout the state and the rest of us who support them. These professionals are confronted every day with assessment of incomplete information under the most imperfect of circumstances. They must skillfully take apart and knit together complex families, in environments full of danger, as agents of a system that is under-resourced and under-appreciated.

They must balance their professional judgment against legal mandates, cultural standards, an inadequate service array, and moral imperatives limiting government interference in the family. The call to action requires that we support our child protection system with our tax dollars and with our shared convictions about the daunting task at hand.

Georgia has established data collection systems and case review procedures, including internal reviews by DFCS and the statewide child fatality review and reporting process. These activities produce vital information about how many children die, the causes of their deaths, and the age, race, and relationship characteristics of the child and the perpetrators. The patterns reveal insights about the risk factors associated with child fatalities.

And yet, the tragic stories of children like Jonathan Sturdy and the Terrell Petersons and Kyshawn Punters and Bryan Morenos continue to command headlines decrying the state’s failure to protect children. The call to action requires that we work to better understand which children are most at risk and move that analysis into information and action.

DFCS alone cannot solve the problems of child maltreatment and related fatalities, however. Georgia’s child welfare system does fail. Experienced and trained workers sometimes miss or respond improperly to red flags. But DFCS is only one aspect of the continuum of child protection. Child protection starts with each one of us. Jonathan, Terrell, Kyshawn, Bryan and hundreds of others had relatives, teachers, neighbors and other adults around them who had the opportunity and responsibility to intervene. Our elected and public officials are also part of the child protection system. The call to action requires that we act boldly within our roles and systems to ensure all children are safe and connected to families and communities.

Deaths from child abuse and neglect are preventable, and we have a shared responsibility to prevent them. We must insist that data on child fatalities and serious injuries be analyzed well and shared outside of government. We must be willing to act on what we learn, beyond just satisfying ourselves with more criticism of the system. We must exercise our courage on behalf of children in our families, schools and communities, and we must require public investments and priorities that will keep all children safe.

We must rally this time. The cost to children, their families, society, and our humanity is too great to allow our resolve to ebb again.

MMO interviewed on WABE re: closing of Paulding County Regional Youth Detention Center
October 29, 2013

MMO participates in Voices for Georgia's Children Pre-k week
October 1, 2013

MMO did a masterful reading of "Pokey Puppy" to Pre-k'ers at the Coralwood Center in DeKalb County

MMO sponsors scholarships to Annual Georgia Women's Assembly
September 20, 2013
To any young women currently attending Emory, Agnes Scott, Georgia Tech, Georgia State or Spelman:

Georgia Women for a Change is hosting the 23rd Annual Georgia Women's Assembly on October 18 at the Loudermilk Center, and MMO is sponsoring 10 scholarships that will cover the full price of student admission. Please send an e-mail to cpsterne@gmail.com if you would like to apply for one of the scholarships. They will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and must be requested by October 11. The event, with a theme of "What Women Want" and a keynote address from Eve Ensler, is sure to be inspiring and a great experience - so even if you don't qualify for a scholarship, you should attend and pass this on to your friends.

Non-students, sign up!

October 18, 2013
8:00 am – 1:30 pm

Loudermilk Center
40 Courtland Street
Atlanta, GA 30303


Eve Ensler

Join our email list

You are invited to join us, along with leaders like you from the non-profit, corporate, governmental, philanthropic and academic sectors to explore. . . . . .

"What Women Want"

23rd annual Georgia Women’s Assembly

Friday, October 18, 2013


8:00 – 8:30 Registration

8:30 - noon Opening plenary with Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver and Deborah Richardson. Workshops in human trafficking policy; how to achieve a family-friendly workplace; Medicaid Expansion as a woman’s issue; Lobbying 101

Noon – 1:30 Luncheon with Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, founder of One Billion Rising and world-changing, global activist on violence against women and girls in a conversation with Pat Mitchell, her best friend and CEO of The Paley Center.

Legislator of the year award to Sen. Renee Unterman for helping to advance the fight against human trafficking. Family-friendly workplace award to Cathy Adams, VP, Federal Home Loan Bank

See the full agenda here

All participants at the Women’s Assembly will receive a complimentary copy of Eve’s new book In the Body of the World.

5:00 – 7:00 pm Reception at The Four Seasons to thank sponsors, host committee, and friends for some one-on-one time with Eve and Pat. Host committee is in formation—join us now! Separate ticket required.

Sponsorships available. Discounts for low-income, students, non-profit staff and seniors available. All inquiries: stephanie@gwomen.org

Georgia Women for a Change is a non-profit, non-partisan organization impacting thousands of women and girls every year with progressive public policy on violence against women and girls including human trafficking, access to health care, economic security and reproductive justice.

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MMO quoted in AJC article on change from CEO DeKalb form of government
August 23, 2013

MMO receives award from Friends of Georgia Archives and History
July 15, 2013

MMO's legislative duties yesterday included a happy visit from Tim Crimmins of Georgia State to receive an award from the Friends of Georgia Archives and History.

For more drama, MMO attended the DeKalb Superior Court hearing between Chamblee and Brookhaven to hear the fight over which city gets to annex the Century Center property adjoining Clairmont and I-85. Bare knuckles contest -- too bad the voters cannot decide like was planned in the legislation MMO passed during the 2013 Session.

Druid Hills Charter Cluster vote overwhelmingly positive
August 14, 2013
Our neighbors in middle DeKalb who have been working so hard for a Druid Hills Charter Cluster for Druid Hills High and Middle Schools, plus five elementary schools, have won support of parents and teachers in the first "vote"! 92% favor this new Charter structure! Congratulations, and I look forward to helping all I can with this important education effort. Thank you for your hard work.

MMO interviewed in article about Justice Deartments bad report on sexual abuse in GA YDC's
June 9, 2013
The United States' Justice Department has issued a bad report on Georgia's Juvenile Youth Detention Centers--high rate of sexual abuse offenses--

MMO Legislative Newsletter with survey results from May 6 Town Hall Meeting
May 22. 2013

May 6 Town Hall on DeKalb Cityhood Report and Survey Results
Thank you to all who attended the May 6 Town hall on DeKalb Cityhood issues at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, and for participating in a positive community discussion. Below is a summary of the meeting, and results of the survey that so many of you answered before you left. Thank you again to Clairmont Hills Baptist Church for begin such a good host for us!
Report and Survey Results
On Monday, May 6, a meeting was held by members of the DeKalb legislative delegation who had sponsored bills pertaining to new cities. The meeting was chaired by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, and besides the legislators, participants include DeKalb County Commissioners, leaders of neighborhood associations and representatives of community groups involved in cityhood efforts. Over 250 people attended the meeting and 107 attendees returned surveys. There was a broad representation from throughout the county as shown on the attached map. The largest concentration of attendees was from an area bounded by Chamblee-Tucker Rd., I-85, Clairmont Rd. and Lawrenceville Highway.
Virtually all attendees said the meeting was helpful. Asked if they wanted to be part of a new city, roughly 1/3 responded positively, 1/3 negatively and 1/3 undecided. When asked if interested in being a part of a new city, 67said definitely or possibly yes, and the following are the results:
Briarcliff 59%
Tucker 16%
Lakeside 16%
Stonecrest 3%
Anything but Lakeside 3%
South DeKalb County 1%

When asked the open-ended question of the main reasons for wanting to be part of a new city the top five responses were as follows:
Local control of zoning 20%
Local control 16%
Improved police attention 11%
New school district 8%
DeKalb Commission/government 8%

When asked the open-ended question as to why they did not want to be a part of a new city, the top five responses were as follows:
More taxes 22%
Leave as is and hold county
Officials accountable 12%
Add inefficiency 11%
Current services adequate 11%
Less revenue means
Less county services 8%


150 East Ponce de Leon, Suite 230
Decatur, Georgia 30030
404 377 0485

Governor signs HB 21 covering post adoption agreements
May 7, 2013

Bill signing days are happy!We now celebrate the Governor signing HB 21 into law. Thanks to the many people who helped make this happen.

Good Patch article on Town hall meeting
May 7, 2013
Good reporting on last night's Town Hall meeting on cityhood. Thanks to Fred Pitts and Clairmont Hills Baptist Church for being such fine hosts.

MMO hosts Legislative Town Hall meeting to discuss cityhood
May 7, 2013

MMO hosted a great Town Hall meeting last night at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church on new cityhood options for DeKalb voters. Over 200 people in attendance. Thanks to all participants and volunteers. Good discussion!

Governor signs Juvenile Justice reform Bill
May 3, 2013
Governor signs HB 242, Juvenile Justice Reform, and now we move into the next critical steps of implementation. We must commit to take this new direction and spend our money wisely. MMO is grateful to be a co-sponsor of this bill and thank you, Governor Deal!

May 6 DeKalb Town Hall meeting to discuss possible new cities
April 24, 2013
Members of the DeKalb House and Senate delegations, including those who have introduced legislation to create new cities or annex new areas to existing cities, will hold a Town Hall meeting on May 6, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, 1995 Clairmont Drive, Decatur 30033, the corner of Clairmont and North Druid Hills Road. We want all DeKalb citizens to learn about the options available to them for local governance, and how you may participate in the efforts that will be on-going this summer. PLEASE JOIN US!
House Rules of the Georgia General Assembly require that a new city may only be created over a two year term, not in one year. Legislation, listed below by primary sponsor, was filed in the 2013 Session that ended March 28, 2013, to give an opportunity procedurally to create possible new DeKalb cities of Druid Hills, LaVista Hills, Lakeside, Stonecrest, City of DeKalb, and Tucker. Also, annexation bills are pending for Chamblee and being discussed for Decatur, and legislative limitations on annexations options have also been filed. We ask neighborhood associations or groups who are reviewing current legislation, or working for or against possible new cities to describe briefly their efforts.
The meeting will provide information on the costs of planning for new cities and the resulting possible tax implications. We will discuss procedures for legislative enactment, give a summary of ongoing cityhood activities, and learn about other governance options.
The following are bills that have been introduced and may be reviewed on the General Assembly web site by Bill number:
HB 22---Primary Sponsor Mary Margaret Oliver. HB 22 sets out additional procedures and enhanced financial requirements for creation of new cities.
HB 619—Primary Sponsor Mary Margaret Oliver. HB 619 passed in 2013 and allows an area in unincorporated DeKalb that adjoins Chamblee to vote to be annexed into Chamblee
HB 665—Primary Sponsor Mary Margaret Oliver. HB 665 is a placemholder bill to create new city of Briarcliff/Druid Hills.
HB 677—Primary Sponsor Billy Mitchell. HB 677 would create a new city of Tucker.
HB 687---Primary Sponsor Pam Stephenson. HB 687 limits the ability to annex new areas to existing cities by geography.
SB 270—Primary Sponsor Fran Millar. SB 270 would create city of Lakeside
SB 275—Primary Sponsor Jason Carter. SB 275 would create new city of LaVista Hills.
SB 278---Primary Sponsor Ron Ramsey. SB 278 would create new city of Stonecrest.

MMO and Rep. John Lewis at Colbert fundraiser
April 21, 2013

MMO was a guest for lunch with Congressman John Lewis and Congressional candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who is running against former Gov. Sanford of South Carolina. Congressman Lewis talked about Elizabeth's father and knowing him in years past, not about her more famous brother, Steve. She was moved and appropriately grateful for Congressman Lewis' support. He will be campaigning personally for her in the Charleston district for the upcoming special election. More women in Congress---YES!

Final Newsletter of 2013 session
April 19, 2013
Note meeting sponsored by DeKalb Legislators who have sponsored cityhood or annexation bills. Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, May 6, 6:30-8:30 PM.


This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s FINAL WRAP-UP email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and adjourned at midnight March 28. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and learn about opportunities to participate please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!

MEETING ON CITYHOOD BILLS – On May 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, members of the DeKalb delegation who have introduced new cityhood or annexation bills will hold a Town hall Meeting at the Clairmont Hills Baptist Church at the corner of Clairmont and North Druid Hills to discuss all the bills introduced, including provisions for Druid Hills, Lavista Hills, Tucker, Lakeside, and the City of DeKalb. Please come, learn about your options and how you may participate in a broad discussion about DeKalb governance. More details about this meeting will be forth coming in future notices, but please put this date on your calendar. Thank you for your interest! .



HB 242 and HB 349 Passage —Final passage of the Juvenile Court Code re-write combined with the positive proposals from the Governor’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform are substantial good acts from the 2013 General Assembly. As with all legislation, time and energy must now turn to implementation strategies. I will be encouraging DeKalb County Juvenile Court leaders to apply for pilot project money from the approximate 6 Million dollars the Governor and General Assembly budget will commit to fund local programs for lower risk juvenile offenders in lieu of secure detention in state youth jails. Savings from a reduced population in the state’s YDCs can be redirected in the future to more effective programing, with lower recidivism rates. A major focus in the newly funded pilot programs will be the mandate that projects be effective in an provable, evidence based review. Proving effectiveness of appropriated money is a valuable provision and will set standards for future work.

HB 21 Passage – MMO’s bill introduced on behalf of Judge Michael Key and others to authorize Post Adoption Contact Agreements passed both Chambers and is on the Governor’s desk for signature and final passage. I will be working with private DFCS leaders, adoption agencies, private attorneys, and Adoptees on how best to implement this new policy, particularly focusing on foster care children. We know from other states' experiences with PACA and from research that voluntarily agreed upon exchanges of information between Adoptees and members of birth families can support adoptions from the beginning and ongoing. Thank you to all the folks who helped with the huge amount of work to pass this important legislation, with special thanks to Kirsten Widner and the excellent law student help from the Barton Child Law and Advocacy Center at Emory University School of Law.

HB 142 Passage – Passage of HB 142 placing a cap of $75.00 on gifts to legislators and implementing other ethics reform proposals is more good than bad. There are many additional provisions of gift limitations that I would have supported, but passage of HB 142 is an important step, and represents progress. There is clearly more work to do, and I am ready for new efforts, but after 10 years of proposing limitations on gifts to legislators, I am pleased with at least a cap. Restoring to the Ethics commission the authority to issue rules and regulations, and limiting reimbursement of travel expenses are also helpful steps.


HB 122 – As an add-on to a good bill about the sex offender panel bill, the Department of Corrections successfully led effort to make a state secret of the way in which death penalty offenders are executed. The pharmacy “cocktail” of drugs used in executions has been subject to litigation, and the participation of the large pharmaceutical companies in authorizing and sale of drugs, is now a “state secret” which I believe is a violation of Georgia’s Open Records Act. This amendment was added on the House floor without any earlier debate in committee, and was never introduced as a separate bill. It represents a poor process and the reality that its implementation will cause more litigation for all concerned---including the victim's families.


Although efforts were unsuccessful, to the credit of the many, strong attempts were made to eliminate medical coverage for abortion services for 650,000 beneficiaries of the state health benefit package–hugely controversial, which the Governor says he now supports. Finally, the gun legislation debates as set forth in HB 512 and SB 101 were very depressing and ugly. Toward the end of the debates, however, the private colleges (Emory and Agnes Scott as examples) were exempt from “guns on campus” provisions and allowed to make decisions on their own private property. Nothing passed in 2013 on guns on campuses, in churches, or in more bars, but the debate will return next year without doubt.

One more question and you decide the category of good, bad or ugly–Did the 2013 General Assembly do anything positive for public education, or only continue to support private education scholarships and options?

My opinions, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Also, for any question you may have, hit reply, or feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.

MMO Legislative Activities:

Since the Session, MMO has spoken to the Family Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association on the Session’s family law legislation, the Judicial Council (invited by Chief Justice Carol Hunstein), and the Dresden Neighborhood Association. On behalf of the Governor’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform, MMO accepted an award from the Georgia Justice Project, and attended the Georgia Holocaust Annual Days of Remembrance Ceremony at the Capitol. MMO’s Facebook documents many of her daily visits and activities. This weekend, MMO is supporting and attending the Druid Hills Tour of Homes–please come and enjoy the tour, which includes lectures and an antique car show!

MMO introduced HB 619 and passed through both Chambers, to allow two precincts north of I 85 decide by a voter referendum if they wish to be annexed into the City of Chamblee. She is arguing with the Governor’s legal counsel about whether this bill violated Senate rules in passage and whether the Governor will veto or sign the bill. Stay tuned. And, she is making plans for an assortment of Session follow-up work and will report on these activities more in the future.


Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

MMO quoted in article on options for DeKalb residents on cityhood and annexation
April 4, 2013

MMO files cityhood (HB 665) and education (HB 669) for post Session discussion
March 26, 2013

MMO introduces HB 665 providing opportunity for DeKalb citizens to create new city
March 26, 2013
MMO introduced HB 665 to give DeKalb citizens in Druid Hills and Briarcliff neighborhoods an opportunity to analyze and possibly create a new city. House rules require that new cities be created over a two year process and HB 655 is a "placeholder" bill that begins the discussion. If citizens wish to finance and organize their neighborhoods into a new city in the 2014 session, then they now have that chance. Let the conversation begin! Please participate!

MMO 7th Legislative newsletter
March 23, 2013

ry Margaret Oliver ---- GIRL SCOUTS AT THE CAPITOL!!!!

Law office: 404.377.0485
Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building


This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s SIXTH email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed 37 of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!
In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!

SIXTH newsletter question:

Would you support funding a Venture Capital fund from Tobacco settlement payments for investors to come to Georgia to start high tech companies?

For over two decades Georgia has funded the Research Alliance to support research projects
in six public and private universities in Georgia. Emory and Georgia Tech have been recipients of these funds, and in addition Georgia Department of Economic Development in many ways provides financial incentives for new businesses to come here. Also, for many years, the national tobacco settlement funds have come to Georgia and are distributed throughout the budget including major contributions to One Georgia, a special economic development fund, originally designed to assist south Georgia tobacco counties.

The proposal for a high tech venture capitalist budget item, to be funded by One Georgia, is part of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Discussion. Is this a good use of tobacco settlement funds? Can we lure venture capitalists to Georgia effectively, and convince them to invest here, hopefully through our university research offerings?


To reply to the weekly question about a Venture Capitalist Fund please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/

MMO Legislative Activities:

MMO’s HB 21 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and initially received positive support in Senate Rules. In the last 24 hours, we have learned, however, that a former Governor has personally intervened to stop final passage on the Senate floor. This opposition comes totally out of the blue and reflects the mystery of the democratic process. MMO has not given up and will keep fighting for good adoption legislation in HB 21. Stay tuned!

MMO introduced HB 619, which has passed the House to allow two precincts north of I
85 decide by a voter referendum if they wish to be annexed into the City of Chamblee.

Also, introduced this week, to be studied over the summer, is HB 632 offered by the State Bar of Georgia relating to testamentary guardian procedures. MMO was asked by the State Bar Family Law and Fiduciary Law sections of the Bar to file this legislation.

On Monday March 25, MMO will file a “place holder” bill to allow residents of Druid Hills and other neighborhoods the opportunity to decide whether they wish to be consider a new DeKalb County City in the 2014 Session. We anticipate other groups in the Lakeside and Tucker areas will also file similar bills in order to have ongoing discussion over the summer. To create new cities, legislation must be filed in one year in order to be voted on in the next year. In future newsletters MMO will discuss the procedures more fully in hopes that there will be a robust discussion on how citizens wish to be governed. This is important question for the voters, not elected politicians.

Best news of the week --- Criminal Justice Reform legislation unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday! HB 242 contain excellent reforms for juvenile justice and sets forth a new comprehensive Juvenile Court Code, and represents many years of work

Worst news of the week – Gun legislation allowing guns on campuses, in churches, on in bars passed the House again on Friday, and will be in conference with the Senate for passage of something allowing more guns, more places by the end of Day 40. The Georgia Board of Regents opposes guns on campus.

MMO presented to a Conference this week at Emory on Critical Health decisions with Ken Thorp and Art Kellerman. Thank you, Kathy Kinlaw, and the Emory Ethics Center, for this excellent conference.

And, thank you Girl Scouts from Immaculate Heart of Mary for visiting your Capitol this week!

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

MMO continues to host pages from District 82, and children twelve years and older are eligible. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

MMO meets with Girl Scouts from Immaculate Heart of Mary School
March 20, 2013

MMO relived her girl Scout days when she was visited at the Capitol by 25 Girl Scouts from Immaculate Heart of Mary School. They had a big day getting picture made with Governor, meeting the Lt. Governor, visiting with Rep. Scott Holcomb and getting autographs from the House Doorkeeper and Clerk of the House, Robbie Rivers. Wish more groups would come visit us. Just call our office to arrange.

March 13 is a big day
March 14, 2013

Governor Deal appointed the six new members of the DeKalb School Board in the morning and in the afternoon MMO's House Bill 21 on post adoption agreements was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thank you Sen. McKoon. The same Senate Judiciary Committee also passed House Bill 242, Juvenile Justice Reform. Congratulations to Chairman Wendell Willard for all of his hard work. A good day.

6th Legislative Newsletter
March 10, 2013

Law office: 404.377.0485
Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building


This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s SIXTH email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed 30 of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!
In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!

Sixth Newsletter Question:

Would you vote for HB 512 which passed the House this week to expand gun rights to carry concealed weapons into churches and onto college campuses, except for dorms and fraternity and sorority houses?

The House voted for HB 512 overwhelmingly, based on a Republican majority vote. Only three of 119 Republicans voted no, and only two Democrats voted yes. The Senate has passed another strong bill expanding gun carrying rights, and a possible combined bill may pass in the final ten days of the Session. I voted no, and spoke against HB 512 on the House floor, on behalf of Emory and other constituent voices, citing facts of history relating to gun control and the current imbalance of the debate that is driven by the NRA and GeorgiaCarry.org.


To reply to the weekly question about HB 512 and gun control, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com. The specific language of HB 512 or any other bill may be found on the Georgia General Assembly web site.

MMO Legislative Activities:
Much of MMO’s legislative work is spent of local issues, matters directly impacting House District 82. The following are current local issues that are hot and requiring time and attention:

DeKalb School Board Removal – MMO and the DeKalb delegation have met personally with Governor Deal to discuss his decision to accept the State Board of Education’s recommendation to remove six of the DeKalb School Board members. This week, Governor Deal gave us the list of 403 citizens who have applied to serve as appointed members to replace the removed members before the list was made public. We are also meeting with the Nominating Committee this weekend to review the names and make our suggestions. MMO anticipates the Governor’s committee will move quickly to give the Governor names for consideration and new Board members will be appointed by the end of the week. MMO supports the Governor’s decisions to remove Board members and to move quickly. The legal proceedings will be ongoing, but the Governor is not enjoined from making new appointments. MMO also supports and is co-sponsor of HB 468 which prohibits removed or sanctioned School Board members from using taxpayer money to pay for attorneys to stop their personal removal from the Board.

HB 474, Druid Hills Protection of Georgia Historic Preservation Commission Districts — This week, the House Judiciary Committee voted to table HB 474, which guts the Georgia Historic Preservation Commission Act to assist one developer attempting to override Druid Hills Historic Commission rulings on a Clifton Road property. The issue may continue to be raised in the next ten days in the form of amendments to other bills, and MMO and many others are watching closely for any such attempts. There are 138 Historic Preservation Districts in Georgia, and many others are concerned about HB 474 dramatic negative impact on local control and zoning issues.

HB 481 Relating to Embryo Scientific Research ---MMO was appointed to a Special Committee of the House Judiciary Committee to hear testimony on HB 481, entitled the “Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act”. Similar to past political and faith-based discussions on stem cell research, Emory scientists have an interest in prohibitions on specific cellular research that make scientists subject to criminal sanctions. The hearing was lengthy and confusing and did not answer what exact research tools would be banned under the possible passage of HB 481. The debate will continue over the summer and fall, and MMO will continue to serve on the special committee that directly involves Emory’s research work on cancer and multiple sclerosis among other illnesses.

AGL Regulator Substation Construction -- Many neighbors in the north Clairmont and Tanglewood Road area are concerned about a major AGL construction project, and MMO is communicating on a frequent basis with Atlanta Gas Light and the Public Service Commission on safety issues being raised. A gas leak occurring yesterday and shutting down neighborhood roads did not help feelings of insecurity.

DeKalb Cityhood and Annexations – There are many ongoing discussions about possible new cities in DeKalb, and MMO is working with constituents in the Dresden neighborhoods on their wishes to me annexed into Chamblee. Local legislation will be introduced this week for the voters in this area to decide their fate. Part of the impetus of this annexation is the wish to be protected from inclusion in a possible new City of Lakeside. Talks will continue on all these boundary issues and self determination questions. On a procedural issue, any group seeking to create a new city must file a “placeholder” bill in 2013 in order to have an opportunity to pass legislation in 2014 to make a new city a reality by votes of the impacted citizens.

Supplemental and FY 2014 Budget Issues -- MMO serves on the Appropriations Committee and the Supplemental Budget to the 2013 Budget passed both Chambers this week. The only thing the General Assembly is required to do each year is pass a budget, and MMO is involved in budget activity on a daily basis. Of particular interest to HD 82 is the Medical Residency appropriations that impacts Medical training of residents through Emory and Grady Hospitals. MMO continues to question the possible loss of child and Adolescent psychiaric resdiency slots and resulting loss of mental health services for children in DeKalb County. The creation of a new state agency for Behavioral Health has created both opportunites and challenges for children's mental health services. The lack of progress on coordinated or managed care option for foster care children is also an issue in the 2014 Medicaid budget.

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

MMO continues to host pages from District 82, and children twelve years and older are eligible. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

MMO named to Suicide Prevention and Awareness Committee by State Bar of Georgia
March 7, 2013
State Bar tries to take on suicides
Greg Land
2013-02-27 00:00:11

Click here to review the State Bar of South Carolina’s study, “The Lawyers’ Epidemic: Depression, Suicide and Substance Abuse."

The recent suicide of a federal public defender in the State Bar of Georgia parking deck served as a tragic exclamation point for an effort by bar associations in Georgia and elsewhere to stem an often-unseen tide of suicides—successful and attempted—among attorneys.

In what she termed a "bizarre, intense" revelation, Georgia Bar President Robin Frazer Clark said investigators determined that at the very time Thomas "Jake" Waldrop was sitting in his car and preparing to take his own life, between 1 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 12, she and the bar's Executive Director Cliff Brashier were having a lengthy conversation about her proposed "How to Save a Life" initiative.

"It's chilling," said Clark. "Literally two minutes after we hung up, Cliff called me back and said, 'I have some very bad news.' We were discussing it while a man was committing suicide in our parking deck."

Clark said she is aware of at least three Georgia lawyers who have taken their own lives in the last nine months, including Waldrop. The suicide of an Emory Law School student last year had already spurred a panel discussion there aimed at throwing light on the stresses that can trigger depression or substance abuse and start a spiral that can, if left unchecked, end in suicide.

Three days after Waldrop's death, Clark named a five-member panel to a new Suicide Prevention and Awareness Committee that was part of her initial plan.

J. Randolph Evans of McKenna Long & Aldridge will chair the panel, which also includes Duane Morris partner and former bar president Bill Barwick; bar executive committee member Elizabeth L. Fite of Kutak Rock; Decatur family law practitioner and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver; and Atlanta solo Charles "Chuck" Pekor Jr., who chairs the bar's Lawyer Assistance Program Committee.

The panel's task, according to the appointment letter, is to "develop new means through which to provide Bar members, their families and colleagues with suicide prevention resources and information, including understanding the warning signs, myths and realities, and attorney specific risks."

According to figures circulated at a bar seminar last week, "The Attorney's First Aid Kit," the suicide death rate for lawyers is six times that of the general population, and it is the third-highest cause of death for lawyers.

Attorneys are also among the professionals most prone to suffer from depression, according to course materials. A 2008 review of several studies estimated that of about 1 million lawyers in the United States, 250,000 suffer from some form of depression.

Evans, whose practice includes professional negligence, said his interest in the causes and prevention of suicide began with a client.

"I had a client, an attorney with a potential malpractice claim, and it just consumed him," Evans said. "He had [malpractice] insurance, but this claim was all he could think about. He had a 30- or 40-year practice, and he felt like it was about to collapse around him."

After the client took his own life, Evans said, "I tried to learn everything I could about it. Over my career, I've had a couple of other acquaintances who've attempted suicide; between the career pressures and the economic pressures, people are becoming more susceptible, I think."

Evans said that educating lawyers—as well as their colleagues, friends and families—is key to the program. Other states are already taking the lead in such efforts, he said, and Georgia is learning from their experiences.

"Texas has got a very progressive program and a great video, and some other states do as well; we're trying to collect all of that," said Evans. "Education is really the single most important tool. There are patterns of communication that are pretty clear signs that something is wrong."

According to a 2009 white paper authored by attorney C. Stuart Mauney of Greenville, S.C.'s Gallivan, White & Boyd, "The Lawyers' Epidemic: Depression, Suicide and Substance Abuse," the symptoms of depression include a depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, a change in sleeping patterns, fatigue, indecisiveness, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of suicide.

The warning signs of suicide include an unrelenting low mood, pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, inner tension, withdrawal and sleep problems.

Alcoholism, according to the paper, is a factor in 30 percent of all completed suicides, it said.

Evans said that, had he been more cognizant of the warning signs, he might have been able to intervene and prevent his former client's suicide.

"If I had only known; there are certain kinds of language patterns, certain kinds of conduct that indicate that they don't see any solution to their problems," he said. "The signs were there, I just didn't see them."

The bar has a 24-hour confidential hotline through its Lawyer Assistance Program that is served by an outside referral service. Attorneys and law students can call 1-800-327-9631 for help. Pekor lauds the service it provides, which includes the availability of round-the-clock professional counselors.

As a member of the LAP Committee for six or seven years, Pekor said he and fellow committee members are often called upon to offer after-hours advice, referrals, or even to drive a troubled lawyer to an emergency Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

"I get these calls literally at 2 o'clock in the morning," said Pekor. "We have a hotline, but sometimes a lawyer wants to talk to another lawyer. The LAP Committee has a pretty extensive program: You can get counseling, your family and children can get help. We get a lot of calls from family members, and even some from judges who are worried about a lawyer."

"Everything is completely confidential," Pekor emphasized.

Pekor, himself a recovering alcoholic who weathered his own professional and personal turbulence many years ago, said he appreciates the need for a dedicated suicide-oriented program.

"There's not a practicing attorney anywhere, essentially, that doesn't deal with anxiety on a routine basis," said Pekor. "The depression goes hand in hand with that; there's so much stress. … An awful lot of our suicides over the last few years haven't been down and out, or about to be disbarred, they're people from all walks of life, outwardly successful with a good practice."

"Probably 75 percent of those suicides were preventable," Pekor said. "There are a lot of warning signs you can look for, and that's what we're trying to raise awareness of. It's astonishing how much good you can do just talking to someone who's willing to listen."


Good week at the Capitol
March 4, 2013

Last week was a good week at the Capitol. HB 242, the Juvenile Justice bill, of which MMO is a co-sponsor, passed the House unanimously. This represents years of work by a lot of people.

Then on Friday, MMO's HB 21 covering post adoption agreements passed the House by a vote of 157 to 3.

On to the Senate for both bills.

MMO co-sponsors HB 468
February 27, 2013
Spending taxpayer money to save your elected job to avoid SACS sanctions is just wrong.

HB 21 passes out of committee
February 25, 2013

It was a good day in that HB 21 passed out of the Juvenile Justice Committee with a unanimous vote. A lot of Committee time and effort and input from a lot of smart people helped move this needed legislation along.

Governor suspends 6 members of DeKalb Board of Education
February 25, 2013

Even though it is a sad day for DeKalb County, MMO believes that the Governor did what he had to do - to accept the recommendation of the State Board of Education. This gives us the opportunity to move forward to secure accreditation which is our goal.

MMO interviewed on Channel 2 regarding Bishop Wright's message
February 21, 2013

MMO introduces Bishop Rob Wright as Chaplain for the Day
February 21, 2013
MMO was proud to introduce as Chaplain of the Day, Bishop Rob Wright, to give the morning devotional to the House of Representatives. Bishop Wright gave his very timely concerns on guns and challenged the legislators to be courageous! Thank you, Bishop Wright for unnerving a few of my friends WHO prefer different messages from the pulpit.

MMO hosts Decatur Town Hall meeting
February 16, 2013

Sen. Jason Carter, Rep. Howard Mosby, Rep. Rahn Mayo and MMO hosted a Decatur Town Hall meeting on Feb. 13. Good discussion on a variety of topics that we all hope was helpful for our constituents.

MMO introduces House Bill 136 to insure consistency in monitoring wet coal ash ponds
February 15, 2013

Contact: J.D. Easley
Friday, February 15, 2013
(404) 656-0311


Rep. Oliver Introduces Legislation Aimed Regulating Georgia’s Solid Waste Management

ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) today announced the introduction of House Bill 136. This legislation would make Georgia’s wet and dry ash waste created by coal burning power plants monitored in a more consistent way.
“We must pay extra attention to this matter,” said Rep. Oliver. “Georgia’s statutes are inconsistent right now, and Georgia Power has a big job ahead of itself as it goes about closing coal ponds.”
Coal burning plants produce both dry and wet coal ash. Although Georgia’s Solid Waste Treatment Act requires monitoring of dry ash ponds to ensure that they do not contaminate the local water supply, the act does not apply to wet coal ash. As a result, wet ash ponds in Georgia are monitored inconsistently based on size and Georgia’s Safe Dam Act.
HB 136 would correct the inconsistency in state law by requiring all coal ash ponds to obtain a permit from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD). To receive an EPD permit, the pond would need to have an adequate ground-water monitoring system. This measure will thus ensure that both dry and wet ash ponds are monitored. HB 136 would also require all new coal ash ponds constructed after January 1, 2014, to include liners that prevent environmental contamination.
The introduction of HB 136 comes on the heels of Georgia Power announcing earlier this year that the company will be closing 15 coal and oil-fired units at plants throughout the state. Georgia Power is taking the units offline to comply with federal rules aimed at reducing air pollution. While these closures will reduce the amount of coal ash generated in Georgia, it also raises issues concerning the long term storage of existing ash in the closing units.
“This bill is timely and important because Georgia Power is preparing to shut down about half of its coal burners and will have to figure out what to do with their coal ash ponds. This legislation will provide needed direction for Georgia power and further protection of our water,” added Rep. Oliver.
Coal ash is the waste byproduct that remains after coal is burned. It includes fly ash, bottom ash, and boiler slag residue. Coal burning plants typically store coal ash in landfills and surface impoundments, like ponds, pits, or lagoons.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), coal ash contains a broad range of metals, including arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead, and mercury. While the concentrations of these metals are generally low, the EPA warns that coal ash may cause a risk to human health and the environment if it is not properly managed. The EPA considers proper management to include the use of lined storage units.
Georgia generates over 3.1 million tons of coal ash per year, making it the 13th highest generator of coal ash in the country. This coal ash is stored in a total of 28 ponds at 10 power plants throughout the state. According to a 2007 EPA risk assessment, 11 of these ponds are unlined. Of these 11 unlined ponds, 10 do not have leachate collection systems to remove environmentally harmful substances for treatment and disposal, and 9 of the 11 unlined ponds do not have any groundwater monitoring.
For more information on HB 136, please click here.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 82, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and she currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Science & Technology committees.

MMO's advantage at having a front row seat to see Preident in Decatur
February 15, 2013

MMO on WXIA talking about Georgia's leaderhip role in pre-K education
February 15, 2013

MMO discusses new DeKalb School Superintendent
February 15, 2013
More to come...

February 7, 2013
Join Rep. Rahn Mayo, Rep. Howard Mosby, Sen. Jason Carter and me Wednesday, Feb. 13, 6:30 to 8:00 at Decatur City Hall to hear about what is happening in the Legislative session and to let us hear from you. See you there.

MMO wants people to know what HB 22 is written to accomplish
February 4, 2013
I've been hearing from folks and reading some things that lead me to believe that the intent of HB 22 needs to be spelled out. The following does just that.

This is Mary Margaret Oliver and I reside in unincorporated DeKalb, not a city, and have for my entire life. I am a graduate of Druid Hills High School and have represented parts of DeKalb County in the State House of Representatives and State Senate for most of the years since 1987.

The current process by which Dunwoody and Brookhaven have taken choice high dollar value commercial property into new cities, leaving all of the rest of the county with increased financial challenges, is flawed. I believe new cities are coming to DeKalb, and the purpose of HB 22 is to improve the process and add requirements of financial viability and values of economic development that are positive for the entire county population. I may even vote for a new city at some point in the future for my middle area of DeKalb. At present, I am concerned about how we are proceeding, and the energy spent on accusations, instead of the tough economic and planning tasks that are involved in creating a new city.

If I were authorized personally, I would design new cities for all the county that would fairly distribute the population and tax base at one time, and allow citizens to vote on a comprehensive plan--a possible goal of HB 22. In voting for possible new cities, they could vote for a plan in which they decide what services they want new cities to provide and what services they want to purchase from the county. Such a process might encourage all of DeKalb at one time to decide on its governance structures that best suit them personally and all of us together. The process of creating new cities does not have to be piecemeal, and should be done in one big conversation and analysis. This would be my personal preference.

I am happy to discuss any of these issues with you if you would like to call or email me. Thank you for your interest.

Mary Margaret
404-656-0265 Legislative Office

MMO's 3rd e-mail newsletter of the session
February 2, 2013
Mary Margaret Oliver
Law office: 404.377.0485
Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Suite 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334 mail to: mmo@mmolaw.com


This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s THIRD email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed nine of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!

In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!
Third newsletter question:
Would you vote to create additional financial responsibilities and analysis before citizen groups would be allowed to create new cities by referendum of the voters?
I have introduced HB 22 to create additional responsibilities for citizen groups to ask voters to create new cities. The purpose of additional procedures is to strengthen financial accountability and analysis of comparative costs for counties and cities to deliver services. Also, HB 22 would require new cities to create some form of county-wide cityhood proposal if 25% of the county is already in cities. The intended purpose of HB 22 is to make decisions for new cities based on more real economic impact factors, and to improve planning and economic development.. The argument against HB 22 is that it would create barriers to new cities. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about HB 22, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/

MMO Legislative Activities: MMO has filed HB 136 to require wet coal ash ponds resulting from coal fire plants in Georgia be regulated and monitored in the same manner as dry coal ash ponds under the Georgia Solid Waste Treatment Act. There is federal scrutiny and pending federal regulations on wet coal ash ponds and the Georgia wet coal ash ponds are treated differently under Georgia law. Some ponds require ground water testing by Georgia Power, the entity that creates all coal ash ponds from its plants, and some do not. Also this week, neighboring citizens of Georgia Power Plant Scherer have filed suit over alleged ground water pollution from wet coal ash ponds. This issue is pretty hot currently, and HB 136 attempts to make monitoring and protection of water resources consistent. You may review HB 136 and any other bill filed in the 2013 Session on the General Assembly web site. http://www.legis.state.ga.us. HB 136 has been assigned to the Natural Resources Committee, and additional updates will be provided on MMO’s Facebook and web site www.marymargaretoliver.org.

MMO has participated in the last two weeks in Appropriation Committee hearings. She has been assigned by Speaker David Ralston, in addition to the Appropriations Committee, also to Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, Science and Technology, and Juvenile Justice Committees--all excellent assignments. All committees have met, organized and have begun hearing new bills. All committee meetings are open to the public and may be viewed on-line live on the General Assembly web site. Please visit your Capitol or Tune in!

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO, Representatives Howard Mosby, Rahn Mayo, and Senator Jason Carter will hold a Town hall meeting on Wednesday night, February 13, 6:30 to 8:00 pm, at Decatur City Hall. Please attend and tell us what you think!

MMO visited recently with Nursing students from Emory on Nurses Day at the Capitol and Barton Child Law and Policy Center law students who are working on HB 21 on post adoption agreements. She hosted Ella Biehn as a Page for the House–thank you Ella for your service! National Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway was a big hit with the House and MMO and she personally met with Governor Deal who presented Natasha with his formal Commendation.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Discussion of DeKalb County organization is ongoing
January 30, 2013

MMO hosting Town hall meeting in Decatur February 13
January 30, 2013

MMO quoted in AJC article on new Chair of Science and Technology Committee
January 23, 2013

2013 Legislative session convenes. MMO pre-files HB 21 and HB 22
January 21, 2013
HB 21 deals with post-adoption agreements and HB 22 deals with the municipalization process. Much discussion to be had.

Second MMO newsletter of the 2013 session
January 21, 2013
Go to Media section to read MMO's second newsletter of the 2013 session and answer her question about what the State Board of Education should do about the DeKalb School Board.

Article in Daily Report on HB 21
January 15, 2013
The discussion begins...

Unfortunately, the Daily Report article is hidden behind a subscription firewall. Click on Facebook logo on my home page a read the article there.

MMO on VOICES panel to preview upcoming children's legislative issues for 2013 session
January 9, 2013

MMO joined other legislators yesterday at the Capitol on a panel sponsored by VOICES to preview children's legislative issues in the 2013 General Assembly session. The crowd was huge! She talked about the Juvenile Justice recommendations from the Criminal Justice Reform Commission and HB 21, which she has pre-filed, that deals with post adoption contracts.

Criminal Justice Reform Commission Report issued
December 20, 2012
I have served on Gov. Deal's Criminal Justice Reform Commission for a second year and have learned about the challenges and am also proud of the progress that we made last year. This year's report, which mainly focuses on Juvenile Justice issues, offers strong and positive proposals for the Governor and General Assembly to pass in the 2013 Session. Please follow this legislative action and help your elected officials pay attention and vote as you wish them to.

First MMO Newsletter of 2013 Session
December 18, 2012
Go to Media page to read MMO's first newsletter and provide your answer to her question of what you think about using $300,000,000 in hotel/motel tax to fund a new stadium for the Falcons.

MMO quoted in AJC article discussing budget disaster at rape crisis centers.
December 17, 2012

DeKalb House delegation to hold three town hall meetings prior to 2013 Legislative session
December 12, 2012
We will be talking about the upcoming Legislative session and want to hear our constituents' concerns. Please plan on coming to one of the sessions.


Contact: J.D. Easley
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
(404) 656-0311


UPDATE: DeKalb County Delegation to Hold Series of Town Hall Meetings

ATLANTA – The DeKalb County Legislative Delegation of the Georgia House of Representatives will hold three upcoming town hall meetings: Thursday, December 13th at 6:30 PM, Tuesday, January 8th at 6:30 PM, and Thursday, January 10th at 6:00 PM. The meeting originally scheduled for Thursday, January 3rd at Maloof Auditorium has been rescheduled for Thursday, January 10th and will now be held in Rebekah Scott Hall at Agnes Scott College.
The purpose of these meetings is to discuss important issues and initiatives likely to come before the General Assembly in the 2013 Legislative Session. The delegation would also like to hear comments and concerns from their constituents as they prepare for the upcoming legislative session. All DeKalb County residents are strongly encouraged to attend.

WHO: Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia)
Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta)

Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates)

Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain)

Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody)

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)

Rep. Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain)

Rep. Ernest “Coach” Williams (D-Avondale Estates)

Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Pam Stephenson (D-Atlanta)

Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur)

Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D-Lithonia)

Rep. Elect Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia)

Rep. Elect Karen Bennett (D-Stone Mountain)

WHAT: Town Hall Meetings to inform residents of DeKalb County about the upcoming 2013 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly.

WHEN: Thursday, December 13, 2012
6:30 PM

WHERE: Cross Keys High School
1626 N Druid Hills Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30319

WHEN: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
6:30 PM

WHERE: Porter Sanford Center
3181 Rainbow Drive
Decatur, GA 30034

WHEN: Thursday, January 10, 2013
6:00 PM

WHERE: Agnes Scott College
Rebekah Scott Hall
141 East College Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030


MMO prefiles two bills in the House for consideration in the 2013 General Assembly Session
December 6, 2012
HB 21 deals with open adoptions and post-adoption contracts. Click on headline for link to Clerk's office and to view bill.

HB 22 provides additional procedures for creating new cities. Click below for link to Clerk's Office and to view bill.

MMO looking at possible legislation to assist adoption families
November 4, 2012
What do you think about Post Adoption Contracts between adoptive parents and birth parents? I have made two presentations at Continuing Legal Education seminars in the last week to adoption and child advocate lawyers on how Georgia treats these voluntary agreements. Stay tuned for a larger important discussion on possible new legislation to assist adoption families -- parents and child. Let me hear from you about this.

Ethics disclosure on the way for 2013 General Assembly session
October 14, 2012
MMO looks forward to progress...finally!

MMO reads "Pete the Cat" to College Heights Pre K students
October 10, 2012
MMO reading
MMO reading
I enjoyed reading "Pete the Cat" to pre-k students last week at Decatur's College Heights Child Care Center---congratulations Decatur and Georgia's pre-k program! 150 legislators, plus Governor and Mrs. Deal, also visited four year old programs across the state last week.

MMO falsley accused of hypocrisy
July 27, 2012
Ethics Chair accuses legislators signing a pledge to cap lobbyists' gifts of hypocrisy because they violated disclosure rules? Except, in my case, I violated no ethics rules. Whoops. Name calling is bad form in the southern gentlemen world, particularly on wrong facts.

Joe--your apology for calling me a hypocrite for wanting to cap lobbyist gifts will be accepted upon delivery of a flower bouquet--as long as you buy the flowers and not a lobbyist. I prefer roses.

AJC examining HB 535 and funding issues for State's Veterans' nursing homes
July 7, 2012
It is good that the AJC is examining HB 535, which I sponsored, and funding issues for the State's Veterans' nursing homes. When the State homes start accepting Medicaid and Medicare funding, the next steps, then Georgia can serve more veterans. More work is needed.

MMO told to do her job by DeKalb BOE head Dr. Walker. She is doing her job.
June 18, 2012

MMO files complaint with Attorney General alleging DeKalb School Bd. violation of Open Meetings Law
June 5, 2012

MMO unopposed for 82nd District election
May 24, 2012
Qualifying for election for House District 82 ended at noon today, and I am unopposed! I am so fortunate and grateful and look forward to the privilege of representing the newly drawn House District in middle DeKalb County for another term. House District 82 includes parts of Decatur, Druid Hills, Emory University campus, Leafmore, Sagamore, Hawthorne, Woodland Hills and Briarcliff Lavista neighborhoods. More work to do and I look forward to the challenges! Thank you for your support and good wishes.

Mary Margaret

MMO qualifies for 82nd District seat
May 23, 2012

I ask for your vote and your good wishes.

Mary Margaret

Governor Deal signs Criminal Justice Reform Bill
May 2, 2012

I attended Governor Deal's press conference and bill signing ceremony today at the Capitol for the Criminal Justice Reform Commission's HB 1176. Governor Deal is reappointing the Commission by Executive Order, and I am one of those who will continue to serve. He is asking that the work go forward with recommendations from the Commission that were not included in HB 1176. Also, the Governor wants the Juvenile Court Code Reform project to be a part of the 2012 and 2013 efforts. I look forward to working with the other Commission members on these efforts. All of this is very positive for our state.

MMO's language added to HB 1176 will increase the number of adults who must report child abuse
April 24, 2012

MMO quoted on ongoing analysis of DFCS funding inequities
April 13, 2012

More important news about DFCS
April 12, 2012

Barton Center Newsletter
April 12, 2012
The Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School has the best legislative wrap-up for child related issues for the 2012 General Assembly session.

MARTA woes continue...
April 4, 2012

MMO and Stephanie Stuckey Benfield catch "them" trying to pull a fast one
April 2, 2012

MMO's HB 535 has passed the House and Senate and is headed to Governor for his signature
March 23, 2012

MMO's 6th Legislative e-mail newsletter
March 23, 2012
Description: MMO_EmailMary Margaret Oliver

Law office: 404.377.0485

Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building

Suite 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334 mail to: mmo@mmolaw.com

March 23, 2012, 2012 – 40 Day Session Completes Day 37


Link: https://.facebook.com/marymoliver

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s sixth email newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session which convened January 9, 2012, and has now completed 37 days of the 40 day session. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at
http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

HOME STRETCH---Thank you for your interest!

In each previous newsletter this Session, I have asked how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. THE FOLLOWING IS HOW YOU VOTED:

Would you ban cell phone use for all drivers of cars, not just teenage drivers?

Yes 68% (18% would allow hands free exception)

No 32%

Would you increase the Tobacco tax to $1.00 for a package of cigarettes?

Yes 79%

No 21%

Would you grant an Energy Tax Exemption for Manufacturing?

Yes 32%

No 35%

Undecided 33

Would you vote for no tax changes without comprehensive overhaul?

Yes 55%

No 38%

Undecided 9%

Would you impose an Income cap of $140,000 for HOPE scholarship eligibility?

Yes 62% (51% cap should be less or on a sliding scale depending on income/grades)

No 24%

Undecided 14%

Would you add Clergy and Coaches to list of mandated reporters for suspicious child abuse?

Yes 92%

No 6%

Undecided 2%

Do you think all adults should be mandated child abuse reporters?

Yes 51%

No 42% (44% worried about vindictiveness/false claims)

Undecided 7%

Do you think possession of drugs should be presumed to receive probation instead of prison time?

Yes 95%

Undecided 5% (not enough local resources to handle)

To comment on your “votes” or ask questions, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.

MMO Legislative Activities:

Good news to report! On Day 37 of the Session, MMO’s HB 535 passed the Senate and now is on the way to the Governor for his signature. HB 535 grants new authority to the state Veteran’s Administration to participate in additional federal funding streams for the Georgia’s two veteran’s nursing homes. This bill will begin the process, long overdue of modernizing the funding for this service, and MMO will be monitoring the bill’s implementation over the summer. This effort was based on the work of the Appropriations committees and passed with the governor’s support. HB 535 is the first bill of the 2012 Session to be passed by a Democrat.

HB 1176, the Criminal Justice Reform package, passed the House on Thursday with only one “no” vote, and now moves to the Senate. HB 948, authored by MMO, to add clergy and coaches to the list of mandate reporters of child abuse, is included in the bill. These criminal justice reforms may be the most significant action of the 2012 Session.

A tax package has been voted on by both Chambers and also moves to the Governor for final action. HB 386 contains many provisions that were part of the 2011 Tax Reform Council recommendations, but not all, and it is not a comprehensive re-write or modernization of Georgia’s tax structure. But, it does include elimination of the “birthday tax” ad valorem for cars and replaces it with a one time title fee, expands the marriage couple exemption for income tax, grants a energy tax ecemption for manufactures, imposes a limit on the income tax exemption for taxpayers over 65, and recreates the sales tax “holiday” for pre-school shopping. A comprehensive review of this bill may be best found at the http://gbpi.org/bill-analysis-house-bill-386-lc-34-3484s-tax-package. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute provides an independent review of budget and tax legislation and is an excellent resource.


Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – This week international law and graduate students from Emory Law School visited the Capitol along with a special group of AARP members. MMO will speak to Decatur Rotary on April 6 with Senator Jason Carter, and to the Hunting Hill Garden Club in late April. If your group would like to invite MMO to review the 2012 Session, please ask.

Thank you!


Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334
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MMO's Juvenile Justice projects for last 10 days of session
March 12, 2012
Passage of the Juvenile Code rewrite will be MMO's highest priority.

DeKalb AARP members visit with MMO at Capitol
March 12, 2012

Drug testing welfare applicants will cost the taxpayers more
March 9, 2012

HB 535 passes. To save State $3-6 million
March 5, 2012
My HB 535 passed the house this afternoon, 147 to 13. The legislation allows state VA to accept Federal monies. Conservative! And there is more work to do to modernize funding for veterans' homes - currently the state VA refuses to accept either Medicare or Medicaid funds to support the 2 veterans' nursing homes in Milledgeville and Augusta. Amazing!.

HB 535 will save between $3-6 million annually.

HB 641 passes 172 to 0
February 29, 2012
HB 641 just passed the House on a vote of 172 to 0. Excellent! Significant progress on a very important issue!

Under Chairman Willard's leadership, I and several of my colleagues presented portions of the Bill on the floor of the House. Congratulations to a lot of very smart people who worked very hard to get this done.

Report of HR 1162 - Authority to Create and Fund Charter Schools
February 22, 2012
Charter Schools, magnet schools, and specially designated curriculum schools have been important to House District 83, and I have been supportive of these alternative approaches consistently. I particularly have tried to assist the International Charter School in Avondale that has served the neighborhood and refugee children for years, and I am glad to report that the DeKalb School Board has approved the International School to occupy Medlock Elementary School beginning in the fall. Medlock Elementary School was otherwise designated to close and stand vacant, and the International School has sought a new home for a long time.

In a past General Assembly session, a bill was passed to allow the State Board of Education to by-pass local School Boards, create charter schools in the School District, and take money from the local Boards to pay for the newly created Charter Schools. This measure was declared unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court, and HR 1162 was offered to overturn this decision. I think the Georgia Supreme Court was correct, on issues of local control of tax monies, and I voted against HR 1162 initially, which did not gain the constitutional majority needed to pass.

This past week, a revised HR 1162 was brought to the House floor, which allowed the state Board of Education to create charter schools, but the new charter school will be paid for by state funds, and not local funds. I voted for this compromise, and I am happy to talk to anyone who may have a question about this compromise and my vote change. Thank you for your interest!

Report of HB 641 - Re-write and Modernization of Georgia's Juvenile Court Code
February 22, 2012
Good news! Many individuals, private funders, Juvenile Court professionals, and child advocates have worked for several years on a major project to update, modernize and improve Georgia's Juvenile Court Code, HB 641. This week, HB 641 passed out of the house Judiciary Committee unanimously, and we anticipate it will be on the House floor soon, perhaps Tuesday, February 28. We all owe particular thanks to Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard, the Younger Lawyers Section of the State Bar, JustGA, and the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory for the high quality work on this important project. I am a co-sponsor of HB 641, and have worked for its passage consistently for years. It is refreshing to report good news from the State Capitol and I will continue to post progress on this bill. HB 641, like all bills in the General Assembly, can be reviewed in detail on the Georgia General Assembly web site.

HB 630 creating employment protection for gay state employees was tabled
February 22, 2012
MMO voted against tabling the bill and will continue working for its passage.

MMO on WABE discussing timing of a referendum vote on Dekalb School Board size
February 20, 2012
What do you think?

MMO co-sponsors HB 949, easing ballot access for independent and third party candidates
February 20, 2012
E-mail me your thoughts on this.

Conversations continue about the size of the DeKalb School Board
February 20, 2012
The more people who join the discussion, the better. E-mail me with your thoughts.

MMO op-ed in AJC about her HB 948 expanding mandated reporters of child abuse
February 18, 2012

MMO speaks on floor of House opposing HB 636, the Brookhaven/Ashford incorporation bill
February 17, 2012

MMO interviewed on WABE over ongoing work of DeKalb School Board redistricting
February 17, 2012

MMO interviewed on Channel 2 about adoption reimbursement mismanagement
February 17, 2012

MMO awaiting response from DHS on psychtropic driug report from Barton Center at Emory
February 16, 2012

MMO welcomes staff and residents of the Frazer Center on Disability Day at the Georgia State Capitol
February 16, 2012

MMO is a proud member of the Frazer Center Board. All are welcome.

MMO and Sen. Fran Millar meet with parents about Dekalb school board redistricting
February 16, 2012

MMO asks for answers to two questions as redistricting moves forward
February 15, 2012

MMO "I think we're in a ditch right now" on school board redistricting
February 15, 2012

Hearing held on MMO sponsored HB 23 dealing with oversight of psychotropic medications administered
February 10, 2012

MMO and DeKalb Legislators hold Decatur town Hall meeting
February 5, 2012
Click on title to read article and see photos in our Media section.

MMO interview on WSB concerning truancy bill
January 30, 2012
Click on title to see interview on WSB with MMO and Rep. Rahm Mayo concerning their introduction of new truancy legislation.

MMO and Rep. Parent introduce Municipalization legislation
January 30, 2012
Click on above headline to read about HB 830 introduced by MMO and Rep. Elena Parent which will help voters and the General Assembly assess the financial viability of proposed municipalities.

MMO co-sponsors Ethics bill
January 26, 2012
Click on title to view article about MMO's co-sponsorship of Ethics bill.

MMO introduces legislation focusing on truancy
January 26, 2012
Click on title to hear interview with MMO on WABE

MMO in two articles concerning first hearing on incorporation of City of Brookhaven
January 26, 2012
Click headline to see articles in our media section.

Barton Center Newsletter
January 24, 2012
The current newsletter from the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory provides a comprehensive overview of child advocacy efforts being discussed during the 2012 Legislative session.

Second Newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session
January 21, 2012
Click on title to read the newsletter in the Media section.

MMO on committees recommending new county commission and school board boundaries

MMO named as one of 175 Emory History Makers.
January 12, 2012
Click for more information in Media section.

DeKalb County Town Hall Meeting
January 11, 2012
State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) and State Representative Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) will hold a town hall meeting with State Senator Jason Carter (D-Decatur) on Thursday, January 26, at 6:30-8:00 PM at the Decatur City Commission Chamber, 509 North McDonough St. All DeKalb residents are strongly encouraged to attend.

First newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session
January 8, 2012
Click to read newsletter in the Media section

NTSB recommendation on cell phone use by drivers
December 18, 2011
MMO was interviewed on Channel 11 last week on the NTSB recommendation that states ban cell phone use by all drivers, not just teenagers. Good article in the New York Times on the issue.

December 15, 2011
Congratulations to Oakgrove Elementary School of the DeKalb County School District and Clairmont Elementary School of the City of Decatur School District for being named two out of twenty-six Schools of Excellence in Georgia!! Wonderful achievements for the 83rd House District -- keep up this exciting progress that is based on the hard work of students, teachers and parents. Good job!!

Longleaf coal fired plant defeated.
December 12. 2011
MMO to focus her efforts on HB 43 which will impose a moratorium on permitting of new coal fired plants, particularly one proposed in Sandersville by a consortium of EMC's.

MMO pre-files HB 671 reducing size of DeKalb School Board
November 23, 2011
By pre-filing this bill MMO is hoping for open discussion leading toward more effective school governance. Read the Press release in our Media Section.

MMO pre-files HB 672 to improve process to create new cities.
November 17, 2011
MMO has pre-filed HB 672 that will require communities to follow a two year process before incorporating as a city. Read the press release in our Media section.

DeKalb Legislative delegation to host 2nd public hearing November 15.
November 14, 2011
First was held last week at Chamblee Middle School. See our Media section for more information

MMO discusses incorporation of Brookhaven and legislation regarding Dekalb School Board terms.
November 9, 2011

MMO on panel at National Prisoner Reentry Conference
October 12, 2011
MMO sat on a panel at the National Prisoner Reentry Conference in Atlanta. More information in the Media Section.

MMO appointed to Committee on Justice for Children
October 5, 2011
MMO has been appointed by the Georgia Supreme Court to its Committee on Justice for Children. Read the entire press release in our Media section.

Immigration Panel Slammed for Lack of Diversity
September 12, 2011
MMO opposes the new immigration review board for lack of diversity.

2011 Special Session Adjourned
September 2, 2011
Click to see MMO's report in the Media section!

Scott Bonder Announces Campaign for Georgia Supreme Court. MMO is One of Many Supporters
August 30, 2011

MMO and Fran Miller Propose that William "Brad" Bryant Head Dekalb County School System
July 6,2011
"State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, called in to say that both he and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, had pitched the name to the DeKalb County Board of Education on Tuesday."

Criminal Justice Reform Panel Named
May 17, 2011
MMO named to panel that will explore ways to reform Georgia's criminal justice system.

MMO Receives Common Cause Democracy Award
June 5, 2011
Common Cause conveyed to MMO its annual Democracy Award for her service on ethics legislation in the 2011 General Assembly Session.

MMO Receives Conservation Voters Legacy Award
June 1, 2011
MMO was awarded the Georgia Conservation Legacy Award at a ceremony on June 1 for her specific efforts in 2011 on the bill board legislation, coal fire plant reform, and amendments to the Reservoir legislation.

Mary Margaret Attends Amy Howell's Swearing In
Mary Margaret Attends Amy Howell's Swearing In
Mary Margaret Attends Amy Howell's Swearing In

MMO Introduces HB 633
March 31, 2011
HB 633 requires that DHS create centralized child abuse 800 number and web based reporting

MMO Introduces HB 43 Regarding Coal-fire Plants
January 28, 2011
HB 43 would place moratorium on permitting new coal fire plants in Georgia, and limit importation of coal from MTR mines--see press release under MEDIA.


State Office:   Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square, Suite 604
Atlanta, GA   30334
Email:   mmo@mmolaw.com
Phone:   404-656-0265
Fax:   404-463-2634

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