January 5, 2022

Session Opens January 10

I preview bipartisan legislation that I hope will make an actual difference to you and other Georgians.


Photo credit: Scott Bryant, Statesboro Herald

This picture of Governor Kemp and former Senator Perdue encapsulates the predictable political distractions that will dominate the upcoming 2022 Session. We have many challenges and opportunities as we enter Year 3 of COVID. COVID protocols will be strict for the House and will impact your visits to the Capitol. We again will be taking COVID tests twice weekly, wearing masks, sitting at distance on the floor and in the gallery and in a hearing room, and operating without pages, interns, and personal aides. January infection rates will be high again without question.

What can we accomplish in this historic and unprecedented political year? The incumbent Governor will be fully involved in fighting for his political life from a credible challenger, and many House and Senate incumbents are running for statewide new offices. The money spent on 2022 campaigns will be unlimited given Georgia's national prominence--very unpredictable environment and results, but undoubtedly will be harsh and partisan.

Despite many challenges, I choose to be optimistic, and below I preview bipartisan legislation that I hope will make an actual difference to you and other Georgians.

Behavioral Health Commission Legislation

Throughout 2021 and continuing this week, I have worked in a bipartisan way with legislative colleagues and advocates to prepare legislation based on the recommendations of the Behavioral Health Commission. Under Speaker Ralston's leadership, a major comprehensive bill will be filed next week and legislators from both parties will have press conferences in the Capitol to announce details and budget support.

I am especially involved in sections of the bill addressing parity for mental health, requiring private insurers operating in Georgia to provide mental health coverage in accordance with the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. My subcommittee addresses workforce issues, and we plan for education debt reduction for providers going to underserved areas of Georgia. There also will be provisions to enhance crisis treatment for individuals coming out of jails or emergency evaluation facilities and additional mandatory data collection tasks. I look forward to doing all I can to help pass this bipartisan and comprehensive bill.

Development Authority Legislation

As I reported in my last newsletter, the Study Committee on Annexation and Cityhood completed its work and filed an extensive report. (You will find videos of all the committee meetings and the report HERE. ) Committee members will file legislation to implement its recommendations.

I support the committee findings and recommendations, and I will file additional separate legislation to address my ongoing concerns relating to Development Authorities not covered in the report. From last year, I will again pursue passage of HB 66, and my new proposals will expand transparency and accountability for Development Authorities and participation by local governments impacted by tax incentives and tax abatements. I issued a press release today summarizing my bills.

Please note that beginning this week I will be posting regularly on the Session activities, and invite your questions and comments.


If you have been my constituent for a while, you know I am a nerd about the numbers. As we begin the budget appropriations process for 2023, I'm looking at these issues:

What has happened to the $800 million in Rescue Act money in the Governor's hands that has yet to be designated? What are the hold ups to distributing this money?

What are the Governor's plans for using the $3 billion currently in the Georgia state reserves?

Will we see rate increases for residential treatment centers serving children in foster care? On average, over 30 children in state custody are living in hotels with caseworkers because of a lack of treatment beds---a terrible daily fact of wasting money and failing to help children in extreme need.



I'm always happy to be a guest of Bill Nigut on Political Rewind. On Monday, our panel discussed the political world in Georgia and beyond in 2022. You can listen HERE. Political Rewind airs daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on GPB Radio 88.5 FM. If you want to catch me on future shows, look for announcements on my Facebook page.

Student journalist Taylor Reimann at Fresh Take Georgia did this profile of my career. Taylor was professional, thorough, and courteous. I was honored she chose to write about me, and moreso when the article was picked up by other outlets. You can read it HERE.


Michelle Salandy, graduate student in bioethics at Emory University.

I am always happy to have student interns from Emory University (which is in our district and from which I received my law degree). Let me introduce you to Michelle Salandy, who will be working with me this Session. Michelle plans to go to law school, and her interests include public health policy. We anticipate her involvement in my work on behavioral health, as well as other parts of my legislative duties. You may see Michelle with me from time to time at the Capitol. Welcome, Michelle!


I supported and endorsed new Atlanta Mayor André Dickens' run for office, and I enjoyed meeting him on several occasions. Other legislators and I had a chance to hear his plans at a luncheon after the election. He is energetic and wants to build trust. I'm hopeful and excited about his leadership and look forward to the General Assembly working with him.


After spending several days there, I cannot say enough about Sapelo Island. Sapelo is a repository of Georgia history and natural beauty, available to all. From the Guale Native Americans through French, English, and Spanish settlers, through what used to be known as plantations reliant on the work of enslaved peoples, to a retreat for business tycoons, Sapelo has survived to tell many stories. It is also a birders' paradise. Your tax dollars sustain this island, which includes the Hog Hammock community of residents descended from enslaved peoples and the cutting-edge University of Georgia Marine Institute. I encourage you to check it out online and put it on your list of places to visit.