MENTAL HEALTH DAY AT THE CAPITOL
Celebrating Mental Health Day gave us an opportunity to review our progress from 2022 HB 1013 and to highlight the proposals that will be incorporated into the 2023 bill to continue our efforts for reform. I am working daily with Commissioner Kevin Tanner, advocate groups, Governor Kemp's Health Policy teams, and Legislative Counsel on the new draft.
You can watch the House floor special recognition by Speaker Jon Burns honoring former Speaker David Ralston and his work on HB 1013 starting at 50:34: https://vimeo.com/showcase/8988696?video=794168249
Please watch the Lawmakers GPB segment in the news section of this newsletter where Representative Todd Jones and I discussed previous and upcoming legislation. Or go to this link: https://www.gpb.org/news/2023/01/31/lawmakers-mental-health-day-at-the-capitol-on-day-10
The gun debate continues, and on Monday, February 13th at noon at the State Capitol, Representative Michelle Au and I are hosting a press conference with many national gun safety leaders. We have introduced
a legislative package to enhance gun safety and reduce gun violence. These bills include: HB 44, requiring private gun sales and transfers to be subject to background checks; HB 45, requiring a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases; HB 135, establishing that firearm owners would be found responsible if their firearms were available to be obtained and used by a minor to make a threat of violence; and HB 161, or the Pediatric Health Safe Storage Act, which would require firearms that may be accessible for minors to be stored securely.
Please come visit your State Capitol and join us!
Here are the results from your votes on the questions I asked in our last newsletter. What a turnout!
Should Kemp offer $1.5 billion of property tax relief to homeowners?
Yes - 39.5% No - 60.5%
(390 Responses Total)
Should Kemp return to taxpayers $1 billion in cash benefits, perhaps $250 per taxpayer?
Yes - 35.7% No - 64.3%
(456 Responses Total)
I ask subscribers of my email newsletter to vote on pending questions before the General Assembly.
Tobacco and Vape Tax: Georgia has the second lowest tobacco tax in the United States. Current bills I am co-sponsoring include HB 191, which raises the tax on cigarettes, and HB 192, which raises taxes on vape products. HB 191 would raise the tax from $0.37 to $0.57 for one pack of 20 cigarettes. The national average on state cigarette taxes is a $1.91 tax per pack. The federal tax on cigarettes is $1.01 per pack.
Many people view both HB 191 and HB 192 as public health legislation rather than a tax hike. Would you support a tobacco tax increase? For more information on state cigarette taxes, see: http://tobaccofreekids.org/
"SAVE OUR HISTORY" PROGRAM
I was honored to speak at the DeKalb County NAACP at their 2023 Celebrate Black History Month program entitled "Save Our History." Thanks to Albert Fields for inviting me to talk about HB 1084, Georgia's Republican-led "divisive concepts" or anti-CRT law, passed on April 4th and 5th in 2022. These messaging laws are being challenged in the courts nationwide. I consider laws like these a threat to free speech and education in the United States. Thanks to Emory intern Blaine Milton for doing research for this presentation and to Emory intern Joy Emenyonu for attending the NAACP program!
11 ALIVE NEWS - TUESDAY, JANUARY 31
Gun Safety Legislation - by Doug Richards
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D) says HB 135, which she is co-sponsoring, isn't about taking away guns. She said it's about holding owners accountable. "The bills deal with gun safety and personal responsibility for the misuse of your gun," explained Oliver about the proposed legislation. Watch the full news segment below.
WSB CHANNEL 2 - JANUARY 31st
Georgia Democrats say you could be held responsible if someone steals your gun and commits crime - by Richard Elliott - “(I) think guns are taken out of cars and taken out of homes every day and used in crimes,” Decatur Democrat Mary Margaret Oliver said. Oliver is working on legislation that would allow police to charge a gun owner if their unsecured firearm is taken out of a house or car and then later used to commit a crime. “What is the personal responsibility for you as a gun owner to make sure your gun is not used by a child or by a criminal,” Oliver asked. https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/georgia-democrats-say-you-could-be-held-responsible-if-someone-steals-your-gun-commits-crime/EARDUKEIPNEYFGKH7EPSRDPXDA/
11 ALIVE NEWS - WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8
Gun laws up for debate in Georgia - by Doug Richards No Republican, in my view, has been willing to have a bipartisan partnership on gun safety. And I think that’s very frustrating," said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver.
LAWMAKERS GPB-TV, TUESDAY, JANUARY 31
ENTIRE SHOW DEDICATED TO DISCUSSION OF MENTAL HEALTH LEGISLATION - host Donna Lowry
"[Rep.] Jones and [Rep.] Oliver were chosen by the late Speaker David Ralston to carry House Bill 1013, the Mental Health Parity Act, in the House last year. Both the House and Senate passed the Mental Health Parity Act overwhelmingly, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law. Now, Jones and Oliver are looking at HB 1013 as a foundation to build upon future legislation. Oliver said that more mental health legislation is anticipated this session. Rep. Oliver: "We look forward to perfecting this legislation with you, particularly in the area of workforce, which we know is a challenge for Georgia. We are expanding the loan forgiveness program.” Oliver also said, “We are working again on licensure barriers to get more folks working." Watch the full segment below.
GEORGIA RECORDER - JANUARY 31st
Mental health advocates descend on Georgia Capitol to rally for continued service improvements - by Jill Nolin - Follow-up measures are expected this session, although some of the proposals are still taking shape. Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Decatur Democrat, and Rep. Todd Jones, a South Forsyth Republican, said Tuesday they were working on a bill. “The work is not completed,” Ralston’s successor, House Speaker Jon Burns, said Tuesday. “We still have work to do.”
DECATURISH - MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6th
DeKalb legislators discuss mental health, education, housing during town hall - by Zoe Seiler - Regarding gun safety, Oliver said that of all the issues she had dealt with throughout her political career, the most partisan issue is guns. "That was not true when I started my career, and it’s true today," Oliver said. “I want to have at least, at a minimum, a bipartisan discussion about gun safety, and particularly the question I’m asking…what is your personal responsibility as a gun owner?”
Our Joint House and Senate Mental Health Caucus, along with leading advocates and friends, are working every hour of the day on a new mental health bill for the 2023 session. Stay tuned I will report more next week! Pictured from left to right: Jeff Breedlove of Georgia Council for Recovery; Representative Matthew Gambill; Representative Todd Jones; Senator Kim Jackson; me; Representative Michelle Au; Kim Jones, Executive Director of NAMI; and Representative Gregg Kennard.
We had a fabulous crowd on Sunday, February 5th at Glenn UMC with Senator Elena Parent and Representative Becky Evans, plus another 40+ crowd joining via Zoom - thank you all for your interest!
Thanks to all the attendees, including former Representative Beth Moore, at our virtual Town Hall meeting on Thursday, February 9th hosted by Representative Scott Holcomb and myself. Special thanks to Dr. Ann Abramowitz for moderating!
Joy Emenyonu - Public Health Committee Meeting
During my time at the Capitol, I have been struck the most by the hard decisions and everyday compromises that I have seen legislators make in hopes of improving the lives and experiences of their constituents. As a bioethics student, my perceptions are largely informed by ethical principles and theories. When I attended the Public Health committee meeting with Rep. Oliver on February 7th, representatives in the committee voted to pass legislation to expand the eligibility of the temporary assistance for needy families, TANF to include pregnant women. Upon hearing the discussion, I had concerns about the ethics of enforcing the federal work requirement (which I learned is a characteristic of TANF) on pregnant women.
But beyond the logistics of the bill, the legislators demonstrated an understanding that addressing those specifics where beyond the scopes of this hour-long meeting. There was a shared understanding that what was hoped to be gained from passing that bill then and there, had a more immediate solution to a long term, far more convoluted systemic issue. To me, this exemplified the compromises and hard decisions that legislators are tasked with everyday, several times a day. They have to be intentional about doing the most good with the choices that they make. It's fascinating to witness, and has expanded my perspective on governmental proceedings. As Rep. Oliver would say, "This is real politics."
Video of Georgia House Public Health Committee Mtg - 2/7
Blaine Milton - Judiciary Committee Meeting
Since joining Representative Oliver’s team this past January, I look forward to my weekly visit to the State Capitol and partaking in that day’s legislative agenda. Whenever entering the State Capitol, with its gold-plated dome and marble staircases, one cannot help but feel in awe of what the building represents and the history made behind each closed door. Recently, I attended a judiciary committee meeting where HB30, a bill proposing the codification of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, was introduced. While antisemitic hate crimes are far from new, they undoubtedly have recently risen.
As my first committee meeting at the State Capitol, I did not know what to expect. Twenty minutes before the meeting convened, the room was already full. Georgians of various ages, religions, and ethnicities came to exercise their right to provide testimony on HB30’s implications. While the testimonies of advocates and opponents of HB30 moved me, the amount of respect, decorum, and sympathy the parties displayed for each other left an even greater lasting impression. In such divisive times, it felt reassuring to witness that disagreeing, but with compassion and humanity, still exists.
Video of Georgia House Judiciary Committee Mtg - 1/31
DEKALB COUNTY HOUSE DELEGATION MONDAY MEETINGS
The House and Senate DeKalb County Delegation meets every Monday, and our meetings are always livestreamed. Thanks to Senate Delegation Chairwoman Kim Jackson and House Delegation Chairwoman Karla Drenner for organizing these meetings. Different presenters speak to our delegation each week, and there is always a lively discussion! These are photos from our January 30th meeting with the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.
MARTA CLIFTON CORRIDOR
MARTA seeks your help in sharing this information with your network. Participants will have three opportunities to engage and provide feedback on the MARTA Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative. Register for any of the following meetings at www.connectclifton.com
Public Forum (In-person)
Monday, February 13
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Emory Rollins School of Public Health Auditorium
1518 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30322
Public Forum (Virtual)
Thursday, February 16
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Open House (In-person)
Saturday, February 18
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
North Decatur Presbyterian Church
611 Medlock Rd Decatur, GA 30033
I was happy to join LINKS supporters to discuss issues of mental health when they came in huge numbers to the Capitol! Thank you for coming to YOUR Capitol!
My constituent, Darshanit Miriam Udel, an Orthodox Rabbi and professor at Emory University, led the opening prayer Wednesday, February 1st in the Georgia House of Representatives! Here she is with my colleague Representative Esther Panitch of HD 51.
I am always proud to meet some of our outstanding doctors and advocates from Emory University!
Feb. 11 - Mavis Staples concert!
Feb. 12 - Superbowl party!
Feb 13 - Gun Safety Legislation press conference at
noon - 2nd floor of Capitol
Feb 14 - New Americans Celebration and Press
Conference at the Capitol
Feb 26 - Teaching "Jesus on the Front Page" at All
Saints' Episcopal Church
Feb 26 - Purim Parade, Congregation Beth Jacob
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.