Crossover Day, day 28 of the General Assembly 2023 40-day Session, ended at approximately 11:40 PM on March 6th after 14 hours of legislative action. As usual, it was a day of drama and unknown strategies and resolutions. If a bill does not pass from one chamber to the other by the end of Crossover Day, it is believed not to have a chance to pass in this session. However, we know from experience that it is never over until the governor signs or vetoes any legislation.
Because Representative Todd Jones and I were fortunate to have House Bill 520 on the calendar for Day 27, last Thursday, our main project for mental health reform was accomplished before Crossover Day. Remaining on my task list for Crossover Day was vigilance in relation to bills I opposed with intention to speak in opposition. Almost every year I get more messages and emails from constituents on environmental issues than any other subject. I was prepared on Crossover Day to speak against House Bill 370, which significantly changed legal protections for Georgia's marshlands and barrier islands, but, gratefully, House Bill 370 was never called for a hearing.
We never know on Crossover Day until we adjourn if a bill will be immediately placed on the floor calendar via a Supplemental Rules Committee meeting. Here I am in a late-evening strategizing session with Judiciary Committee Chairman Stan Gunter.
Mental Health House Bill 520, building on the passage of 2022 House Bill 1013, passed the House on Thursday, March 2nd. As you can imagine, we did much work to make that happen, including Representative Todd Jones and I presenting the bill in various forms twice to the Public Health Committee with Representative Sharon Cooper as Chairperson. We presented on Monday the 27th and again with amendments on Tuesday the 28th. With further amendments, we presented to the Rules Committee on Thursday morning, March 2nd. No bill makes it to the House floor without approval from the Rules Committee.
Thankfully, House Bill 520 made it to the House floor on Thursday afternoon, and it passed 163-3. Go to the Georgia General Assembly website to follow the path of House Bill 520 or to read the bill in its present and past versions. Next, the bill will go to the Senate Appropriations Health and Human Development Subcommittee on Monday afternoon, March 13th. Stay tuned! Below is last week's timeline for House Bill 520.
Public Health Committee on Monday, February 27th
Here are Representative Jones and myself on Monday along with some of the advocates for mental health reform in Georgia, including Kim White of National Association for Mental Illness, Darlene Lynch of Center for Victims of Torture, Jeff Breedlove of Georgia Council for Recovery, and Roland Behm of Georgia Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Representative Jones and I went before the Rules Committee on Thursday, March 2nd at 9:00am.
Representative Jones and I presented the bill and fielded questions on Thursday afternoon in the House chamber. House Bill 520 passed 163-3.
U.S. NEWS/WORLD REPORT 3/2 - Georgia House Seeks More Improvements to Mental Health
WABE 3/2 - Mental Health Reform Package Clears Georgia House and Heads To Senate
GEORGIA RECORDER 3/2 - Georgia Senate Next Stop For House Bill That Aims To Expand Access To Mental Health Services
Now that Crossover Day has passed, my attention inevitably turns to legislation from the Senate now in House committees. Most importantly, as earlier stated, Representative Jones and I will present House Bill 520 to the Senate Appropriations Health and Human Development Subcommittee on Monday afternoon, March 13th.You can watch live at the Georgia General Assembly website. I will keep you updated on Facebook and in future newsletters. Thank you for all your support!
In addition, I will be carrying bills forth from the Senate onto the House floor, and Senator Elena Parent has asked me to carry Senate Bill 55, the Lemonade Bill - a happy task! Much of my work over the next 10 days is unknown at this time, unpredictable, and will require quick pivots. Stay tuned!
House Bill 18 is the supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2023 that passed on Crossover Day. I was successful in adding $800,000 for additional teams to work directly with the homeless population in and around Atlanta, helping them find permanent housing. The passing of the budget is the most important thing we do. You can review House Bill 18 online. Furthermore, as with all legislation, please call me if you have any questions.
House Bill 71: We were all disappointed that House Bill 71, protection of Georgia's beloved Okefenokee Swamp from mining, was never allowed a hearing by Lynn Smith, Chairperson of the Natural Resources committee, despite the fact that the bill had 91 bipartisan signatures.
Senate Bill 145: We had two days of frustrating hearings on leaf blowers, an unusual issue to become partisan. Republicans are usually against preemption bills, usually against taking over local control, usually against weakening home rule, usually against interfering with the market, and usually against taking away individual rights.
However, the Republicans did all of this in a preemption bill prohibiting all cities, including Decatur. from limiting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
House Bill 404: The Safe at Home Act, which extends modest protections to tenants, passed the House. I hope the bill will ultimately be strengthened on the Senate side. This bipartisan legislation, of which I am a co-sponsor, along with Decatur Representative Omari Crawford, is a priority for the House leadership.
Local Bills: The City of Decatur bills to expand homestead exemptions for all taxpayer property, tax payers and additional benefits for senior citizens 65 and over passed the House today. If you want to read the specifics of the bills, they are House Bills 632-635.
I know there are many bills which interest you. I always want to hear from you!
Congratulations to my basset hound, Henry, for winning the AJC Crossover Day Dog of the Day! "The locally famous seven-year-old basset hound of State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver...is known to photobomb Zoom committee hearings and town hall meetings. He can also often be heard during Oliver’s appearances on GPB’s Political Rewind and the occasional news interview." Thanks to Patricia Murphy at the Atlanta Journal Constitution for featuring Henry. Read the full story here.
Here are the results from our last newsletter poll:
Should Georgia prohibit cities from prohibiting usage of gas-powered leaf blowers?
Yes - 34.7% No - 65.3%
March 3, 2023 - Buckhead City, 'Don't Say Gay,' sports gambling bills all die in the Senate.
Listen to the entire Political Rewind episode here.
I enjoyed talking in person with the Laurel Ridge Civic Association on Thursday, March 2nd at the Druid Hills Middle School. Senators Kim Jackson and Elena Parent had to attend via Zoom due to their Senate schedule.
LEGISLATIVE PAGE PROGRAM
Thanks to 15-year-old Evee Owens, ninth-grade student at Decatur High School, for serving as my page!
JOIN US AT THE CAPITOL!
I participated in a press conference with Senator Nan Orrock, Representative Kim Scholfield, Fulton County Commissioner Chairman Robb Pitts, and others to highlight a civil rights complaint filed against Wellstar Health System, Inc.'s closing of their Atlanta Medical Center and Atlanta Medical Center South location in East Point. Learn more about the press conference here.
On Alzheimer's Association Day on March 1st, I enjoyed talking with my constituent Jhazzmyn Joiner as well as Kristina Kimball of the Alzheimer's Association Georgia Chapter. Thanks for meeting me at the ropes!
Our Emory Intern Joy Emenyonu invited the Emory University NAACP and Emory Votes to the Capitol! We recognized them from the House floor. Joy is planning an Emory Town Hall for me with students on April 4th. Thanks, Joy!
I enjoyed meeting Sandra Price and residents of The Art of Living in Tucker on Employment First/Ending Subminimum Wage Day for Georgia Council for Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) at the Georgia Capitol. Thanks to Representative Imani Barnes for introducing us!
Thanks to Faithful Advocates, members of St. Luke's and All Saints' Episcopal Churches, for coming to the Georgia Capitol! I enjoyed talking with them and Senator Kim Jackson, who hosted the group. Kudos as well to the Rev. Dr. Jennifer McBride, a new priest at All Saints', who served as Chaplain for the Senate on March 9th!
March 12th - Oscar party!
March 16th - Carter Center Mental Health Conference
March 29th - SINE DIE
I appreciated being invited to the annual Media and Judiciary conference sponsored by the Georgia State Bar. Governor Deal reflected on his contributions to criminal justice reform, and I was glad to be with him. Atlanta Journal Constitution editor Kevin Riley moderated.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I was happy to join Melita Easters and a Georgia WIN List legislative panel to discuss our 2023 session.
BIRTHDAY BRUNCH - In addition to Crossover Day and extensive legislative drama, I also celebrated my birthday this week, and many friends very generously recognized my special day. I am very grateful for everybody's kind words, and many presents and flower bouquets! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Another year and more to go!
At one of my birthday celebrations, I was joined by Barbara and Lois, two friends from our childhood Brownie Troop at Fernbank Elementary! All three of us became lawyers, and that would not have been a thought in our heads as we learned to build fires and camp out. Progress!! Barbara's and my mother were both Troop leaders.
You can search for and track bills, watch the House (or Senate) in Session, watch committee hearings, monitor legislation by committee, and find contact information —- all on the revamped General Assembly website. Here are quick links:
Make your views known and tell me what issues interest you the most.