Week 8 In Review

In week 8 of the legislative session, we got a lot done! We heard and voted on several bills in the Higher Education committee. We also voted on several pieces of important legislation. Back in Lilburn, we held the 2nd town hall of the year, as we prepared for two major upcoming events--the census and the 2020 elections.

Under The Gold Dome

Bills Bills Bills!

It’s getting to be that time of session when a lot of bills are coming to the floor all at once. Here are a few highlights:

  • HB16 - My colleague, Rep. Sandra Scott, introduced this bill early last year. This bill would allow children who have been homeless and/or in the foster care system to receive in-state tuition. As it stands, because these kids often cannot provide documentation proving that they are Georgia residents they face an added barrier to college that other GA students do not. This bill received several hearings in the Higher Education committee, and I was happy to see this bill pass out of committee. It is headed to the Rules committee and I look forward to voting for this legislation on the House floor.

  • HB736 -  This is another bill that just passed out of the Higher Education committee. The original goal of this legislation was to create a teacher loan forgiveness program in the State that would be used to recruit teachers into schools that have a need due to shortages. After several committee hearings, there was discomfort from other committee members about loan forgiveness, so the bill morphed into a $3000 tax credit for teachers willing to teach in these under-served areas. While I personally felt that the loan forgiveness program was the better route as we have data that shows that this type of program works very well, I support the bill in its current form and hope, if it passes, that we see similar results in Georgia.

  • HB888 - Have you or a family member ever gone to a hospital that’s in network, only to after the fact find out that the anesthesiologist or radiologist you saw was out-of-network, leaving you with a huge bill? I know I have, and it feels like a punch to the gut, especially when dealing with illness. HB88 seeks to remedy the practice of surprise billing. After going to doors and talking to many constituents, this is an issue that was important to many in our district. I voted yes on this bill and hope the Senate will do the same, so we can get one step closer to alleviating the pain of surprise medical bills.

  • HB946/HB947 - If you have to purchase prescription drugs, then these sets of bills may be of interest to you. Both of these bills add on to the anti-steering bills we passed in the 2019 legislative session. Essentially, these bills seek to prevent Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) from steering patients to a specific pharmacy in order to  have their prescriptions covered by their prescription plan. They are consumer-focused bills that seek to keep prescription drug prices low, no matter what pharmacy you purchase drugs from. I voted yes on both.

    HB994 - This is one of the most destructive pieces of legislation I have seen since taking office. In it's original form, this bill sought to try to incarcerate our way out of gangs instead of going after the causes of gang violence. The original bill opted to harshly punish and try children as young as 13 as adults, which would have been a major setback to criminal justice reform. Study after study has shown that this type of punishment makes children more likely to become heavily involved in gang activity, not less. Several  changes were suggested in committee, and the latest version of the bill removes most of the juvenile offender language, but this bill is still moving in the wrong direction for actually fixing the issue. I am disturbed that it appears that the new Governor is abandoning his predecessor's vision of criminal justice reform. This bill will likely come to the floor for a vote in Week 9.

  • HB995 - On its surface this bill is about the 1st Amendment and free speech on college campuses. It seeks to outlaw "free speech zones" and make the entire campus (and open areas or walkways) open to demonstrations by students. While this portion of the bill appears to be innocuous, and a representative from the University System of Georgia testified that the this is already the policy at USG institutions, there was some disturbing language embedded within the bill that gave me tremendous pause. Within the bill was a section that would allow registered student organizations license to discriminate, while tying the hands of University officials to prevent this discrimination. It would allow student organizations to require their members to “adhere to their sincerely held beliefs," thus making it easier to exclude people of color, people in the lgbtq community, religious minorities, and anybody else subject to discrimination. Since most universities in the USG and TCSG system also receive federal funds, this bill could endanger federal funding based on violation of nondiscrimination rules. There was also disturbing language that provided a very stringent definition for harassment, that could tie the University's hands in preventing harassment (according to federal standards), and keeping all students safe. The bill's author has taken the bill back to work on the language. It is likely to be heard this week before Crossover Day. 
Coronavirus and Healthcare. I spoke with WSB-TV’s Richard Belcher about how are inability to make access to healthcare a major priority is now catching up to us. In a nutshell, people without access to care will often prolong seeking medical care until they feel like they have no choice. This leaves others in the population vulnerable, whether they have insurance or not. And with limited treatment options, this allows the virus to spread faster and farther. Pandemics have a way of being a great equalizer.
The “Ground Crew”. We were visited by one of the 3 African American students to desegregate Georgia State University this week. Here I am pictured Myrna Payne Elliot (the only living member of the 3), and her daughters.
 

Crown Act. Despite being told “no” to getting a hearing, we are continuing the fight to end hair discrimination in GA. The Crown Act (HB1010) seems to end race-based hair discrimination. 

We are working hard. As a few major bills have come to the floor, it is important to have strong leadership. Here I am with House Minority Leader, Rep Bob Trammell, discussing legislation before the vote. 

In The Community

 

 

Mid-Session Town Hall

Tuesday we invited you all out to come discuss the issues. Along with myself, we also had in attendance Mr. Sebastion Barron from the Governor’s Office, Tina Nguyen from the Census Bureau, Ben Ku from the Gwinnett County Commission, Everton Blair from the Gwinnett County School Board, and Kristi Royston from the Gwinnett County Board of Elections. Attendees were able to try the new voting machines so that everyone could get a chance to see how it works and familiarize themselves with them before the upcoming elections. We are already in the process of planning the next town hall meeting, and look forward to seeing you there!
 

Satellite Voting for Presidential Preference Primary 

If you plan to vote in the Presidential Preference Primary this month, early voting has begun. Early voting began on Monday, March 2nd at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Office. Starting Monday, March 9th, early voting will be available at any of the following satellite locations:

 

Bogan Park Community Recreation Center

2723 North Bogan Road

Buford, GA 30518

Lenora Park Activity Room

4515 Lenora Church Road

Snellville, GA 30078

Dacula Park Activity Building

2735 Old Auburn Road

Dacula, GA 30019

Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center
**in district**

4651 Britt Road

Norcross, GA 30093

George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center

55 Buford Highway

Suwanee, GA 30024

Mountain Park Activity Building 
**in district**

1063 Rockbridge Road

Stone Mountain, GA 30087

Shorty Howell Park Community Recreation Center

2750 Pleasant Hill Road

Duluth, GA 30096

Gwinnett County Voter Registrations and Elections office

455 Grayson Highway, Suite 200

Lawrenceville, GA 30046

 

These locations will be open from 7AM to 7PM daily. Don’t forget to bring an ID. You can follow this link to find a list of IDs that are considered acceptable. https://www.gwinnettcounty.com/static/departments/elections/pdf/proof_of_citizenship.pdf

If you vote absentee, you may also turn in your filled-out absentee ballot at the satellite voting locations, if you prefer to not mail it.

I Qualified!

As of Monday I am officially up for re-election, as I qualified to have my name on the ballot! I would never take this position for granted, and I am so incredibly thankful that the people of this community have put their trust in me so far. Once the session concludes I look forward to meeting you at your doors, as I work to earn or keep your vote this November. I do not have a Democratic primary challenger, but I do have an opponent in the 2020 General Election.

Mid-Session Town Hall At the mid-session town hall we were joined by representatives from the Governor’s Office, the County, the Elections Board, and the US Census Bureau. 

What’s Next

Budget

Earlier this session we voted on HB 792, or the FY2020 supplemental budget. Now it is time to vote on the larger, FY2021 budget, HB793, which will take affect on July 1, 2020. Like the first budget, this budget includes steep cuts across the board. Though there are a couple of things I like in the bill, my concern is that the good simply does not outweigh the bad.  For example, the final $2000 teacher pay raise that the Governor made a part of his promises on the campaign trail, is in this bill. It is in addition to the $3000 raise teachers received last year, for  a total of $5000/yr. I support our teachers and the support staff within our schools, and want them to be fairly compensated. I, however, have concerns about the devastating ways the cuts in the Governor's proposal harms our communities. There are cuts to healthcare, mental health services, services for children with special needs, and more. Meanwhile, while budgets are being slashed in what I feel are critical areas, money is being added to the private prison budget. That is not okay.  As it stands, I cannot vote for the FY21 budget in its current form, but will look forward to hearing from my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee about what we can do to make sure that we are still taking care of our most vulnerable.

Crossover Day

Thursday is Crossover Day, and for us, it’s one of the most important days of the session. Since GA's General Assembly is bicameral (has two chambers--House and Senate), bills must pass out of one chamber, then cross over to the other chamber, to be heard and voted on. Each session a day is designated as Crossover Day. It is essentially the deadline for your bill to get a vote in your chamber and cross over to the other chamber. As you can imagine, with this deadline looming, we are going to be pretty busy this week, as legislators work their bills and try to get them to the floor for a vote. Any bills that don’t crossover are declared dead and legislators have to start the whole process over again in the next session (after the election). 

Copyright © 2020 Jasmine Clark for Georgia State House District 108, All rights reserved.


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