Heading into Crossover Day

2.25.2018

We have now completed Day 26 of the 40-day legislative session, and the pace has picked up as we approach Day 28, Crossover Day. That is the day by which a bill needs to have passed either the House or the Senate in order to be considered this session by the other chamber and potentially become a law. I would like to take this opportunity to share with my constituents what I've been working on this session, and also some of the other important issues we have been considering.

Bills I am sponsoring:

Safety for victims of domestic abuse: I am the lead sponsor of House Bill 745, which would allow victims of domestic abuse to terminate their housing leases without an early termination penalty. 28 states have taken this step to help protect victims of domestic violence. Many domestic violence victims suffer for a long time and then ultimately are killed. At least 121 people died in domestic violence incidents in Georgia in 2016. This is tragic and we need to do what we can to help. And that's why I've worked hard for the past year with input from apartment owners and victims' rights advocates to draft a bill that protects victims but also contains safeguards against abuse. I had the opportunity to speak about this bill last week on Lawmakers which you can watch here.

Sexual assault by physicians: I filed House Bill 1000 to address this critical issue. It requires the Georgia Composite Medical Board to suspend or revoke a license of a doctor who has been found to have sexually assaulted a patient. It also requires mandatory reporting. The need for this legislation was brought out in recent extensive investigative reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that recounted terrible instances of sexual assault that went uninvestigated and unpunished.

Election system modernization: Our election system is outdated and desperately needs an upgrade. We use voting machines that are computers purchased in 2002. They use Microsoft 2000 operating system—an operating system that has not even been supported by Microsoft since 2010. These computers are susceptible to hacking and do not provide a paper trail, which prevents reliable audits and recounts. To address this and to implement a paper-based system, Rep. Scot Turner and I co-authored House Bill 680. Unfortunately, this bipartisan bill has not even been given a hearing. The Senate appears to be taking action on this issue, and I will carefully review that proposal should it come to the House.

Rape kits and addressing sexual violence: To follow on the success we had in the 2016 session passing legislation to ensure that Georgia would clear the backlog of rape kits and bring justice to many rape victims, I authored House Bill 746 to establish statewide policies and procedures to help victims of sexual violence. It would require the Attorney General to post online the victims' bill of rights and it would create uniformity in how law enforcement works with victims and provide oversight to the process of analyzing rape kits.

Other issues being considered:

Medicaid Expansion: About 240,000 Georgians are stuck in the coverage gap with no affordable health insurance options. Six rural hospitals have closed since 2013 across the state, and more than half of Georgia's remaining rural hospitals are financially vulnerable to closure. House Bill 669 is legislation that would allow the state of Georgia to accept federal dollars—which Georgians are paying—to expand Medicaid, providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands more Georgians.

Transportation: I have been a strong advocate for transit for years. We cannot build enough roads to solve our traffic problem. Both the House and Senate have developed bills proposing major transportation efforts, and will now focus on collaboration on a single version that fleshes out the details. I'm glad that transit is finally receiving the attention it deserves.

Restriction of animal sales: Senate Bill 418 and House Bill 948 would strip cities and counties of their power to restrict the sale of animals. Beyond stripping localities of their right to prohibit puppy mill sales, this could prevent local regulation of other goods and products. I have heard from quite a number of constituents on this bill, all of whom are opposed to it.

Adoption: House Bill 159 updates the state's adoption laws after nearly 30 years without any change. This important legislation has passed both the House and Senate. I spoke in favor of this measure on final passage before the House.

Discrimination in adoption: As you may be aware, the Senate just passed a bill that would allow private, publicly funded, adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT individuals. I do not support discrimination in any form, and I do not think this bill will pass the House.

I discussed two other highly debated topics on Lawmakers: rural broadband and guns.

DeKalb County Government:

Potential New Cities: Referenda regarding new cities must be approved by the General Assembly. Two new proposed cities currently are under discussion. The first is Greenhaven, which would encompass roughly 300,000 people in what is now unincorporated central and South DeKalb. If the bill passes this session, the cityhood referendum would occur in November of this year. None of my constituents live within the proposed Greenhaven boundaries. The second is Vista Grove, whose current proposed boundaries would include about 60,000 people and would impact those of my constituents who live east of I-85 in unincorporated DeKalb County, as well as some constituents of Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver, Michele Henson and Coach Williams. The Vista Grove bill was filed this past week by Rep. Tom Taylor of Dunwoody, and if it passes could be eligible for a referendum in 2019, per General Assembly rules on new city referenda.

Form of Government: This past week, Rep. Meagan Hanson of Brookhaven filed House Bill 961 to eliminate the position of DeKalb CEO, replacing it with the position of Commission Chair. The bill takes less than 2 minutes to read and provides no details as to how this proposed change would be implemented. There isn't a single description of how power would be restructured, who would have what powers (county manager, chair, board of commissioners), and how this would be implemented. Despite none of these details—and the inability of the author to explain them—this measure was very quickly passed out of committee in the same week it was filed. Not one person who voted for this measure had any understanding of what it would do or how it would change DeKalb's government.

When I drafted legislation on this, I worked on it for months, spoke with experts on organizational structure, thought carefully about and explained the proposed changes to the organizational structure and what those changes would do, held town hall meetings across DeKalb (with advance notice), and invited feedback. I also shared an early draft of the legislation before filing it so that citizens would have an opportunity to comment. In addition, my proposed bill required a referendum so the citizens of DeKalb could have a discussion and decide on the best form of government going forward. It's not as simple as a name change.

I sent a letter to Rep. Hanson on February 22nd asking for answers to basic questions. I am awaiting a response and will share it when I receive it.

In closing, I want to thank you for your interest in state government. (You are a champion if you read this far.)

Please keep in touch.

Very best,

Scott



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