February 24, 2023

The Real Work Begins

The Georgia Assembly has completed 23 days of our 40 day Session. The pace is increasing dramatically. Normally, by the end of the first 20 days of the session, we will have completed about 20 percent of the work product. 80 percent of the work we have to do will happen in the last 16 days. My main focus in these remaining days will be our second-year comprehensive mental health bill, our state budget, housing improvements and tenant law, and an assortment of local legislation disputes or improvements.



The Georgia Assembly has completed 23 days of our 40 day Session. The pace is increasing dramatically. Normally, by the end of the first 20 days of the session, we will have completed about 20 percent of the work product. 80 percent of the work we have to do will happen in the last 16 days. My main focus in these remaining days will be our second-year comprehensive mental health bill, our state budget, housing improvements and tenant law, and an assortment of local legislation disputes or improvements.


We introduced HB 520 on Tuesday! The bill is 51 pages long and has 18 sections. You can read the bill in its entirety here: https://legiscan.com/GA/text/HB520/2023The issues are complex and include workforce, expansion of crisis services, and licensing of trained professionals. Please view the press conference below where Speaker Burns again asked Representative Jones and myself to carry the bill. I will be reporting frequently on Facebook regarding HB 520, and I hope you'll contact me if you have any questions or special interests. I'm excited for this opportunity and for progress. Also in this section are links to multiple press outlets covering the press conference and bill summary.

Speaker Burns Press Conference 2.21.23_1.mp4

HB 520 Press Conference on Tuesday, February 21st

2/22 - Bipartisan bill aims to build on 2022 effort to boost Georgia’s mental health care - by Maya Prabhu

We know that workforce deficiencies are a part of many of the problems all our businesses and social services are facing this year and will for the immediate future,” said state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Decatur Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill. “If they’re serving people in Georgia but still have a student loan, we want them to apply (for forgiveness) and get the benefits.”

Read the full article here.

2/21 - New mental health bill takes aim at cycle of jail, homelessness - by Doug Richards - "We know people are served better in community-based settings closer to their families with more freedom," said state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), who teamed up with Jones and other lawmakers to begin what they hope will be a long-term solution. Watch the full video news clip here.

2/21 - Georgia House Speaker unveils mental health reform bill - by Claire Simms - House Bill 520 is a bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth, and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur. The same pair worked together on the Mental Health Parity Act last legislative session, which required insurance companies to cover mental health treatments just like those for physical health...Rep. Oliver said one of the issues at the heart of the mental healthcare shortage is a lack of workers. HB 520 will expand the state's loan forgiveness program to encourage more people to enter the mental health field. "We want more of the mental health service providers to be able to take advantage of the $10 million we appropriated last year," said Rep. Oliver. Watch the full video clip here.


I was very proud to join Representative Dr. Michelle Au in introducing a package of gun safety bills. Dr. Au organized a very successful press conference, and we will continue to hope that we can generate some bipartisan discussion. The 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 accessible to minors to be stored securely.

Special thanks to Ellen Gadberry and North Decatur Presbyterian Church for their relentless advocacy honoring those lives lost from gun violence. The church members read the names and showed the faces of Georgians who have died from gun violence. 64 children, youth and adults died in December 2022 alone.

Video source: Decaturish

Georgia activists call for enhanced gun safety

2/13 - Georgia legislators introduce package of bills seeking to enhance gun safety - by Zoe Seiler

“I suggest there’s a level of responsibility that we should discuss in a bipartisan way,” Oliver added. She also added that of the issues before the General Assembly this year, the most partisan issue is gun safety...Oliver [said] that stories of children being shot after finding a loaded gun are “extremely common, and we have to send a strong message through our laws that that’s an act of criminal negligence.” Read the entire article here.


Thank you to all those who attended the Coalition of Refugee Services Agencies' New Americans Celebration at the Georgia Capitol on February 14th. I was delighted to join with and speak to this exciting group of refugees, immigrants and citizens. Group members have highlighted a number of issues which have contributed significantly in our discussion of housing and licensing boards. Thanks also to the Governor and First Lady for joining in this group photograph.

GSU Intensive English Program student Husnia Jamal fled Afghanistan on a U.S. military transport plane at the end of August 2021. When she and 147 other female students from Asian University for Women (AUW) flew from Kabul on one of the last planes to leave the airport, the students did not know that they were headed to the United States. Jamal talked about her extraordinary and heartbreaking journey since that time, and asked the Georgia Assembly to grant in-state tuition to asylum seekers such as herself so that she might attend a Georgia public university.


Here are the results from our last newsletter poll:

Question #1 - Would you support a $0.20 increase

on state cigarette taxes?

Yes - 94.1% No - 5.9%

222 Total Responses

Question #2 - Would you support increasing the tobacco tax to the national average of $1.91?

Yes - 90.5% No - 9.5%

211 Total Responses


I ask subscribers of my email newsletter to vote on pending questions before the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 145 - Protecting the gas-powered leaf blower? You may have read the AJC's recent article on the Landscape Equipment and Agricultural Fairness, or LEAF Act, which would outlaw regulations that treat gas-powered leaf blowers differently than other, similar tools. This bill protects the usage of gas-powered leaf blowers at a time when over 100 cities and towns nationwide have banned them. Although they run on gas, these leaf blowers do not have emissions control technologies that cars do. USA Today stated that one hour of leaf blowing by a gas-powered leaf blower is the equivalent in emissions to driving 1,100 miles in a car. Read the entire USA Today article on gas-powered blowers here.

Should Georgia prohibit cities from prohibiting usage of gas-powered leaf blowers?






February 20, 2023 - Guests include:

  • State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver
  • Andra Gillespie, Emory professor of political science
  • Edward Lindsey, former state representative, Atlanta
  • Leroy Chapman, managing editor, AJC

Listen to the entire program here.


Join Senators Kim Jackson, Senator Elena Parent and myself on Thursday, March 2nd at the Druid Hills Middle School cafeteria at 7:30pm. We hope you will join us!


Thanks to 12-year-old Billy McAdoo, a middle school student at Druid Hills Middle School, for serving as my page on February 13th!


I am so proud of Nikita Takalar from Decatur High School for her participation in the Governor's Honors Program (GHP) last summer. Nikita attended GHP in the communicative arts, but she plans to double major in Classics and Biomedical Engineering in college!

Special thanks to advocates and members of the Georgia Council for Developmental Disabilities for meeting with me on February 16th. Pictured members of the group include: Amber Robinson, team leader at Diversified in Tifton; Michael Housel; Ratiear Shepherd; Barbara Reese, supervisor at Diversified; Tianna Faulkner of GCDD; Danny Hoover, who works for Diversified and United for Change; Sophia Turner, DeKalb County Team Lead for GCDD; and Quentin Jackson from Tifton.

Thanks to Brenda Price, Andrea Redmon and the entire group from GFWC Stone Mountain Woman's Club for asking to meet me at the ropes!

We love our wonderful Emory interns Blaine Milton and Joy Emenyonu. Here they are preparing to take notes at the Public Health Committee meeting on February 14th.


Feb 25 - GA Bar Media & Judiciary Conference panel

Feb 26 - Teaching "Jesus on the Front Page" at All Saints' Episcopal Church

Feb 26 - Purim Parade, Congregation Beth Jacob

March 2 - Town Hall at Druid Hills Middle School


March 8 - GA WIN List Panel

I will participate in the 32nd Annual Georgia Bar Media & Judiciary Conference on Friday, Feb. 24. Our panel, scheduled for 4 p.m., is titled “Movement on Mental Health." I will participate on this panel with Kevin Riley, Editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Georgia DBHDD Commissioner Kevin Tanner.

On Wednesday, March 8th, I will participate on a panel for the Georgia WIN List event on International Women's Day at at the Georgia Freight Depot in downtown Atlanta.


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.