My Philosophy

I have actively listened to my constituents and I've voted for what I thought would be best for our community and our state. I believe that's what the voters of the district want me to do. It is how I intend to perform for as long as I am in public life.

Excessive partisanship is much better at killing good ideas than it is at solving problems. If an idea is a good one and improves our state, it should be supported no matter who proposed it. We'd all be much better off remembering that Republicans and Democrats don't need to be enemies; instead, we should be colleagues who come together to make government work.

Since being elected, I have worked hard to find consensus with colleagues from across the aisle. I have built bipartisan coalitions to address critical issues including the timely processing of rape kits in our state and government reforms that have improved ethics, transparency, and accountability. I have also co-sponsored legislation with my Republican colleagues to help veterans. In addition, legislation that I proposed concerning domestic violence was adopted unanimously. In the end, what matters is that we pass policy to help Georgians and improve our state.

In closing, I'm proud that I have close friends in both political parties—both at the Capitol and here in the district. And I believe that's how it should be.

Domestic Violence

In 2017, I started working on legislation that would allow victims of domestic violence to break their leases without an early termination penalty. For some victims, the early termination penalty is an economic barrier that keeps them in dangerous situations. I researched the problem and found that many states had enacted legislation to allow victims of domestic violence to break their leases without an early termination penalty. I thought we should do this in Georgia.

I filed the Georgia Tenant Victim Protection Act as House Bill 281. I used this to engage in a conversation with the relevant stakeholders, such as apartment owners and realtors.

We spent many hours working on the bill throughout 2017 to improve the legislation so that all parties could be supportive. I then drafted and filed House Bill 745. This legislation represented a bill that all of the stakeholders could support, and it had bipartisan sponsors. You can read news articles about it here and here.

A week after it was filed, one of the co-sponsor's opted to file an almost exact duplicate bill under her name with only Republican sponsors. That bill was House Bill 834.

Since my primary concern is the policy, I was happy to support House Bill 834. In fact, during the subcommittee hearing, my vote in favor of this measure kept it alive and was the deciding vote. Ultimately, the legislation passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, and I spoke in favor of it. You can view my remarks here. The governor signed the bill and it is now law.

This legislation will save lives.

DeKalb County Reform

Since taking office, I have been a leader on reforming government. I have taken an especially active role in reforming DeKalb County. Most of the 81st House District is located in DeKalb.

In 2013, I was the first elected official to recommend that the DeKalb County School Board be removed and replaced by the governor. This was a difficult decision because the board members had been elected by their communities. However, the threat of the school system potentially losing accreditation was too great so I knew we had to take action. Today, our school system is fully accredited and performing better.

In 2015, I was the House author of bills that improved ethics, transparency, and accountability in DeKalb. These important proposals were passed as House Bills 597, 598, and 599 and have already made a positive effect on county governance.

In 2016, I authored legislation to reform the county government by moving away from the CEO model and replacing it with an elected chair and a professional county manager. This is more than a simple name change. It is about changing the structure—which means shifting power and responsibilities—to make the county government work better and to reduce corruption.

For this effort to pass, it must be inclusive and there must be support from across the county. I have spoken about this proposal across DeKalb and will continue to be an advocate for this reform. I have studied the issue extensively and believe this structural change will help to improve governance—but in the end we will still need to elect quality leaders.

Ultimately, any change would need to be approved by the voters.

Pursuing Justice for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault

I authored sweeping legislation to address the epidemic of untested rape kits in Georgia. Thousands of kits were left on shelves even though the victims wanted their cases to be prosecuted.

To fix the problem, I worked with law enforcement, care providers, and victims' rights advocates to develop a policy that would ensure the timely processing of rape kits in our state. We then worked very hard to pass the bill and built a strong bipartisan coalition that overcame unjustified and uninformed opposition.

In the end, the legislation passed and was signed into law by Governor Deal. And it is making a difference. Thousands of kits have been discovered and forwarded to law enforcement, and serial offenders have been identified and are being prosecuted.

I am incredibly proud to have worked on this issue, and I will continue to be an ally and an advocate for survivors.

Education

A high-quality public education system is key to Georgia's economic security. It is also the best investment we can make in the long term vitality of our communities. I am committed to fighting for innovation in our classrooms and creative solutions for our funding problems. Our children deserve better than what we have been providing. We need to set high standards. We need to break the habit of teaching to standardized tests. We need to value dedicated teachers and find ways to bring more outstanding professionals to our classrooms.

In order to accomplish these goals, I will continue listening carefully to all my constituents, as well as educators in my district, to hear what they feel is needed to create and maintain excellent schools. Some of the most pressing issues are:

- recruiting and retaining outstanding teachers, and providing those teachers with the support they need to be effective (too many teachers are dissatisfied and are leaving the profession)

- reinstating compensation for National Board Certified teachers

- restoring state funding to eliminate teacher furloughs and return class sizes to previous levels (class sizes impact student performance)

- ensuring parents have a strong voice in crucial aspects of their children's education

- using evidence-based practices

- addressing poverty and its impact on student performance

Economic Development & Jobs

One of government's most important responsibilities is to set the table for private sector growth. That requires innovative use of tax revenue, strategic investment in infrastructure (such as the Port of Savannah), and prudent support for people who are hurting due to the slowdown.

Investing is key to our competitiveness now and in the future. Georgia has fantastic colleges and research universities, is a major logistics hub for people and trade, is an agricultural powerhouse and is home to Atlanta—an international business center. These are strengths we can use to carry us forward if we think long-term and strategically, and if we invest in educating our people to compete—and win—in the global economy.

Ethics

My father taught me that integrity is doing the right thing when you know no one is watching. When I served in the armed forces, ethics and integrity were the coin of the realm. Unfortunately, politicians don't all live up to the high standard the public has a right to demand. Because of Georgia's weak ethics laws, often no one is watching when our political leaders misbehave.

Georgia has no legal limit to the kind and value of gifts that politicians can take from lobbyists. When an ethics violation is adjudicated, the penalties are absurdly mild. Bad acts aren't punished and violators aren't shamed. We have to change the law so that the public can regain trust.

I have been a champion of ethics reform since coming to the General Assembly, working to improve ethics legislation and voting against efforts to weaken the poor laws we have now. We need rules that make it plain to everybody that anyone holding public office in Georgia must put the people's interests first. If a politician can't support rules like that, he or she shouldn't hold office.

Veterans

As a veteran and a Member of the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee, I am committed to helping Georgia's veterans and their families. I am a leader on veterans' issues at the General Assembly and have co-sponsored legislation to make it easier for veterans and their families to find work. I also co-sponsored and worked hard with a Republican colleague to help pass the Georgia Military Service and Integrity Act in 2016.

Outside of my official duties, I give a great deal of my personal time in service to veterans and their families in need. Since leaving active duty in 2004, I have provided pro bono legal representation to veterans and their family members. One of my cases lasted for more than four years but my client ultimately received what she deserved.

I feel a moral obligation to ensure that we take care of those who take such good care of us. As a member of the General Assembly, I will continue to fight for the dignity and welfare of Georgia's veterans.

Water

The water supply for our region and for Georgia as a whole is limited but critical to our future. The droughts we have experienced highlight the need for novel approaches to managing this vital resource, especially with our growing population. The demand for water will soon outpace our reliable supply. Along with education and transportation, the water issue is central to the economic prosperity of Georgia.

Most of the discussion from Georgia's leaders has focused on improving water supply. And while I support a measured, careful approach to increasing supply and storage of water for Georgia's use, I also keep two other priorities in mind. First, the right public policy can't be one which puts us in endless conflict and expensive lawsuits with our neighboring states. Second, the best thing we can do is change our demand curve for water. We must make the commitment to reduce water usage by consumers, industry and agriculture. Conservation measures must be a central focus as we work together to solve our water problems. Effective methods to increase conservation include:

- Public education programs promoting water conservation

- Incentivizing the purchasing of water-saving appliances by consumers and incentivizing utilities to reduce leakage from their systems

- Incentivizing the use of water-saving technologies by businesses and the installation of such technologies by builders

Georgians have proven before that conservation is possible, sustainable, and effective. We must aim to make water conservation a permanent priority

Transportation

Growing traffic congestion and a deteriorating transportation infrastructure impact our quality of life and the economic mobility of our citizens. Moreover, our inadequate transportation system poses a threat to future economic development. We need to invest in transportation—especially transit in the metro area—and develop long-term and achievable plans to improve mobility and reduce congestion.

Roads alone will not solve our traffic problem. We need multi-modal solutions.