My ongoing House District 82 work during the summer of 2023 has been moving legislation forward on bills introduced during the Session, and following up on legislation that was passed in previous years, specifically HB 1013 implementing mental health reform. I was invited to join President Biden for a Mental Health Parity event at the White House! I've also enjoyed visiting with many of you at summer and neighborhood events. Please email or call me anytime I can be of help. Thank you for your interest!
If you are interested, please read the following Atlanta Journal Constitution articles where I was interviewed during the past month. The first, published on September 11th and written by Katherine Landergan and Maya T. Prabhu, is entitled Georgia insurers fail to prove compliance with mental health law. "Oliver said she was encouraged that so many lawmakers and advocates continue to be engaged in the mental health law. "I have always felt the biggest fault of legislators is not following up on a bill that we’ve passed,” she said. “That is not a mistake we’re going to make [with this law].”" https://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta-news/georgia-insurers-fail-to-prove-compliance-with-mental-health-law/RWDA3DIBEJEOPPKJECS2BGAAZM/
The second is an opinion piece by Bill Torpy, published on August 30th and entitled Uncivil political wars a threat to public service. "Last year, as legislators debated a sweeping mental health reform bill, protestors in the state Capitol’s hallways chanted, “Heads on pikes! Heads on pikes!” The QAnon-inspired crowd somehow thought the bill was pro-pedophile and anti-gun. “That’s not a benign chant,” said state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a sponsor of the bipartisan bill and a master of the obvious. “I wondered what it is? Is it a rallying cry? Is it performative? Is it a threat?” I’d venture to answer: All of the above!"
Also read this article from Atlanta Civic Circle's Rick Zickgraf regarding rank choice voting. Results of our newsletter poll are quoted! "Oliver, a co-sponsor of HB 200, conducted an informal poll in her legislative newsletter in January. She found that 79% of the 244 respondents wanted to end Georgia’s current runoff system, and 65% favored ranked-choice voting instead.
“I think there’s an interest in it. And the expense and irritation voters feel at constant campaigning in a runoff makes them more interested,” said Oliver."
I encourage you to join our Legislator Line Up on October 24th, hosted by EIGHT of your State Senators and Representatives, and moderated by Thomas Wheatley of Axios Atlanta. You won't want to miss this multi-panel discussion of top issues affecting the lives of those in House District 82. Mark your calendars!
As earlier reported, our second year of mental health reform in Georgia which began with HB 1013 in 2022, and continued this year with HB 520, was stopped in the Georgia Senate by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones. Additionally, this summer Governor Brian Kemp decided to either veto or "disregard" significant funding allocated in the FY 24 budget. At present, many are working to repair and reverse the lack of progress dictated by Lieutenant Governor Jones, and restore the budget items "disregarded" by the Governor.
Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) Kevin Tanner is a strong proponent for progress, and is working diligently to implement portions of HB 520 that do not require legislation. For instance, Commissioner Tanner has contracted for a staffing report and a crisis bed study report, both of which were mandated in HB 520. As Chair of the Workforce Subcommittee and through my work for the Behavioral Health Commission, I will be conducting hearings this fall on workforce proposals and other issues relating to reform efforts, We will also review and analyze in depth Governor Kemp's Executive Order on data collection and sharing, which he issued following his veto of legislation included in HB 520, but inserted an alternative bill passed in response to 2022 proposals. The Executive Order is a positive step. Find a PDF of Executive Order 09.01.23.01 here: https://gov.georgia.gov/executive-action/executive-orders/2023
In addition, Commissioner Tanner and other commission leaders are planning new legislation regarding the mentally ill population who are criminally charged, and are presently hospitalized in Georgia's forensic hospitals. The issues relating to those that lack mental capacity to be tried in court, and how the state manages the 680+ forensic beds housing charged or convicted prisoners, are complex. Commissioner Tanner and his leadership team recently hosted a conference on behavioral health and the law and I was invited to attend. Judges, law enforcement officers, civic leaders, clinicians, and agency staffs reviewed the progress made in HB 1013 through the creation of co-responder programs and assistant outpatient treatment (AOT) programs. Many new suggestions were made to improve specific procedures in response to the rapid growth of new services.
Stay tuned. We are working hard for reform despite the actions of Lieutenant Governor Jones. I am optimistic that we will continue to make progress and overcome his opposition.
Question from last newsletter: Should Georgia continue offering a one billion dollar tax credit to the film industry?
Yes - 40.5% (66 votes)
No - 59.5% (97 votes)
The state of Georgia purchased Stone Mountain Park in 1958 from William and Samuel Venable. Until 1958, the Venable brothers were the sole owners of Stone Mountain and much surrounding land, which they purchased in 1887. Though the state of Georgia controls many features and monuments of the park, Georgia law does not protect its street names. Most of Stone Mountain Park's roads are named after Confederate generals: Robert E. Lee Boulevard, Jefferson Davis Drive, Stonewall Jackson Drive, and John B. Gordon Drive (Gordon was also a leader of the KKK). There are streets named for people who were not Confederate generals, including James B. Rivers, who was a longtime African American Stone Mountain city policeman and Stone Mountain Park employee. However, the road named after Rivers, legislated by the Stone Mountain City Council, is just outside the gates of the park. Other roads outside of the park include Memorial Drive, created in 1930 as a pilgrimage route from the Georgia State Capitol to Stone Mountain Confederate Hall, called by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February 1930 as "another step in the effort of Atlanta and Georgia to honor the memory of the heroes of the Confederacy." https://dekalbhistory.org/historical-articles/memorial-drive-a-history/
Representatives Billy Mitchell, Omari Crawford, and I recently visited with the CEO of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA), former State Senator Bill Stephens. Bill Stephens has been leading the SMMA for 11 years, and believes that he is making progress, along with his board, to rectify the incorrectly-reported history of Stone Mountain Memorial Park. The three of us suggested to Stephens that his progress is too slow and that we would like to see a speedier timetable for reform. HB 794, introduced by all members of the DeKalb delegation, removes the word "Memorial" from the name of Stone Mountain Park and eliminates language in the current statute that requires the sale of Confederate memorabilia. The bill also prevents preservation of the carving on the mountain, a historical artifact.
The changes already adopted by SMMA include both the removal of Confederate flags from the entrance to the walkway up the mountain and the relocation of the flags to an area by a small grove of trees at the base of the carving. The flags are now off the beaten track from the main thoroughfares through the park. Stephens says there are no sales of Confederate flags in the park, nor has there been for some time. Furthermore, there are no ongoing sales of any Confederate memorabilia. The SMMA has contracted with the Warren Museums firm of Nashville to present the to build a new "truth-telling" museum showing the accurate history of Stone Mountain, including early leadership by the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan. There is a timetable for the completion of the exhibition, and Stephens stated that public hearings will be conducted. The creation of the new museum was funded in the FY 24 budget. Read more about the exhibition here: https://www.ajc.com/neighborhoods/dekalb/stone-mountain-park-board-selects-creator-of-truth-telling-exhibit/335S3DLEXVFGVOVLCWXZWTXSSE/
We will be again seeking a hearing for HB 794 in the 2024 Legislative Session.
I was very happy to attend a July 25th briefing by President Biden in the East Room on new regulations to enforce mental health Parity laws. Georgia’s 2022 HB 1013 included mandates that the Insurance Commissioner and Department of Community Health (DCH) create new portals for complaints for Parity violations. Parity laws have been enacted since 2008, and we are all working to move the ball forward on a difficult issue—all bipartisan efforts. Progress!
On September 14th, I met with Dr. Gyimah Whitaker, a teacher, who is the new Superintendent of the City of Decatur Schools. Later that evening I met with another teacher, Dr. Jill Biden, also FLOTUS. Both inspiring. Thank you both!
Over 80 Emory students are trained and volunteer as Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians and answer over 1000 calls annually on the campus. Senator Kim Jackson and Commissioner Chris Nunn were student volunteers in the early years of the program. President Fenves visited with them on September 13th. Almost everyone I met are women applying to medical school - YEA!!
I love the Chattahoochee River. On September 12th, I enjoyed listening to Shirley Franklin and Riverkeeper Sally Bethea talk about the cleanup of the river and federal court settlement with the city on sewer upgrades. It would not have happened without these two women. Thank you.
On September 7th, I joined Commissioner Kevin Tanner, Chief Justice Mike Boggs, and hundreds of law enforcement, therapists and crisis mental health professionals to improve our partnerships to serve Georgia families needing services. Important work on Georgia’s beautiful coast.
Labor Day! Perfect day for Fightingtown Creek kayaks and floats— plus hummingbirds! Henry in front seat, ready for any adventures!
I traveled to Maine in late August and enjoyed a week of beauty, cool weather, long time friends, and no hurricanes. Perfect.
On August 23rd, Elena, Becky, and I enjoyed lunch with Emory President Greg Fenves. We touched on many topics and met some of the students across the Quad starting their school year. It was fun!
I enjoyed visiting with the North Atlanta Rotary Club on August 11th, and we had a good discussion about tax credits. The focus shifted quickly to credits for affordable housing, with arguments for and against—- always worth a listen. Thank you Lance and Christopher for your hospitality!
On August 4th, Mayor Dickens and my Congresswoman Nikema Williams helped open the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley - Let The World See exhibit at the Atlanta History Center. Rose Scott moderated a panel following moving talks from Emmett’s family. The exhibit is open and free this weekend—important history lessons.
Tuesday, September 26th - Tour of Hillside Mental Health Treatment Facility
Thursday, September 28th - GBHRIC: Hospital and Short-Term Care Subcommittee meeting
Thursday, September 28th - GBHRIC: Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Subcommittee meeting
Thursday, September 28th - IGNITE National, Agnes Scott Panel
Monday, October 2nd - MANA neighborhood meeting at North Decatur Presbyterian Church
Tuesday, October 3rd - Decatur Housing Authority National Night Out
Thursday, October 12th - Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) meeting joining Rep. Todd Jones for a discussion on expanding county mental health services
Sunday, October 15th - Emmaus House fundraiser
Thursday, October 24th - State Legislator Line Up at Decatur Presbyterian Church
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.