When people ask me to describe my job as a state representative, I tell them that it is basically a fulltime job from the second Monday in January until the end of session, which is typically around April 1st (about three months). The rest of the year it is a part-time job. I typically spend about eight hours a week fulfilling my duties as your state representative during off-session time. What do these duties entail?
The process of how a bill becomes a law is both simple and complex, and it can be very political. It begins with an idea. The idea can come from a variety of sources (the legislator, a constituent, an industry representative, a lobbyist or even a relative). In my three sessions, I’ve passed four bills, all with different sources. As long as the idea is one that I believe in, I’m not concerned about its source.
I used to play a lot of golf. One of the traditions my friends and I shared on the first tee was the so-called “mulligan.” A “mulligan” is the opportunity to redo your tee shot if you’re displeased with your first effort. As children, we called it a “do over.” When I was elected Ga State Representative, I was unaware that the House of Representatives also has “mulligans,” called “reconsideration.”
When a bill fails to get at least 91 votes, the author of the bill will often make a motion for reconsideration. If the member receives at least 91 votes for his motion to reconsider, then the bill can be brought back up for a vote. It’s a time-honored tradition to vote in favor of reconsideration, even if you voted against the bill. This is done out of courtesy to your colleague in order to allow them the opportunity to persuade people to change their vote. I’m not sure that this is a wise tradition.
Compromise is a complicated word. When it comes to religious beliefs, honesty or core values, compromise has a negative connotation. It indicates that a person lacks courage, backbone or resolve. However, when it comes to building a consensus to move forward towards a solution, compromise can be very positive. Such is the case with House Bill 146 — this year’s version of the Firefighter Bill.
You may recall the Firefighter Bill of last year. It was a hard-fought bill that saw hundreds of firefighters crowd the capitol and cheer legislators on, as we passed the bill with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, only to have the bill vetoed by the governor a few weeks later.
This is where the positive side of compromise comes in to play.
Committee work is some of the most important work that gets done in the House, yet many are unfamiliar with the process and how it impacts the legislation that gets passed to become law in Georgia. Most work on legislation occurs in committee hearings, not during the debate on the House floor.
When a bill is filed, it gets assigned to a committee. If called for a hearing by the chair, the bill is presented by the author or the person who signed the bill first. This Representative must explain the bill (i.e. explain what’s wrong with the current law and/or what specifically needs to be changed).
By population, Georgia is the eighth largest state in America. Like our federal counterpart, we have three branches in our state government: the Executive Branch (our Governor), the Judicial Branch (our Supreme Court) and the Legislative Branch (our General Assembly — the House of Representatives and the Senate). Georgia has 180 representatives and 56 senators. Each representative has approximately 55,000 constituents. Each senator has approximately 180,000 constituents.I am honored to serve as your representative for House District (HD) 22. HD 22 covers east Cherokee County (parts of Woodstock, Canton, Holly Springs and all of Ball Ground, Hickory Flat, Nelson and Macedonia). The district also extends into part of Forsyth and Fulton counties. Overall, HD 22 is 80% in Cherokee, 15% in Forsyth and 5% in Fulton.
As a Georgia State Representative, one is presented with the opportunity to do many things. The bill I carried that added strangulation to the aggravated assault statute has saved many lives in Georgia. By carrying meaningful legislation, one can have a tremendous impact on the lives of fellow Georgians.
Georgia has a part-time citizen legislature, which means that all representatives and senators, if not retired, have “day jobs.” There are many different occupations within the Legislature: farmers, dentists, insurance agents, lawyers, business owners, physician assistants and teachers, just to name a few. This variety of perspectives, expertise and skill sets makes for a diverse group that brings a wealth of information to the issues coming before the Legislature.
Last year, there was a bold move at the Capitol to bring casinos and pari-mutuel betting to Georgia. Here are 5 reasons you should be opposed to this:
There’s a lot of talk right now about the ballot next month. This article is about neither Trump nor Hillary! Rather, it’s about something that might not be getting the same attention in the media — one of the four Constitutional amendments on the ballot. That’s right; there are four. Some of you may have heard about one or the other, but you likely haven’t heard about all of them. Here is a very brief introduction to one of the amendments:
There are many great community organizations that serve Cherokee County. The Cherokee County Family Violence Center (CFVC) is one such organization. Over the last twenty years, the organization has experienced much growth, allowing it to have a much bigger impact on the community.
Sadly, domestic violence is an increasing problem in Cherokee County. In 2015 alone, there were 3,496 domestic violence related calls to law enforcement. If Cherokee County, through the efforts of the CFVC, is not afforded the opportunity to break the domestic violence cycle, then those numbers will continue to increase at an alarming rate. And as those numbers increase, the number of children exposed to domestic violence will continue to rise as well.
Many constituents have contacted me about delays and problems they are experiencing with Georgia’s Department of Revenue.
When I contacted the Georgia Department of Revenue, I learned that the state’s tax filing is taking longer this year, for a number of reasons. According to Commissioner Lynne Riley, “The tax filing and processing period has been complicated for the Department of Revenue for a variety of factors,” Riley stated; “Whether it be one of the many data breaches that have been reported in the last year, or a spoofing or phishing scam, every incident requires us to modify our systems to protect the affected taxpayers.”
As a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, I vote on and consider hundreds of bills, many of which are arcane and obscure, but from time-to-time, I have the opportunity to work on something about which I feel passionate. One of my greatest passions is helping prevent and protect victims of domestic violence. I have worked with victim advocates and prosecutors on these matters throughout my tenure in the legislature. This was the reason that I agreed to carry Senate Bill 193 in the House. Senate Bill 193 closes the loophole for repeat offenders who commit acts of family violence. Under Senate Bill 193, any prior offense of family violence, or prior offense that is more serious that was committed against a family member, triggers the same repeat offender punishment and allows for these cases to be prosecuted as a felony.
I serve as the Representative for the Georgia Child Fatality Review Board. The Board reviews child deaths and develops policy initiatives to prevent those deaths. Three infants die every week in Georgia as a result of unsafe sleep practices, but we can change that statistic.
Currently, the Cherokee County CASA program is only able serve about 45% of the kids in Foster Care. Cherokee CASA currently has 80 active volunteer advocates serving approximately 180 kids on any given day. On that same day, there are just over 400 children in state custody, leaving 220 children in need of an advocate.
220 children, separated from their families, with no one to speak for them in court and no adult to guide them. When I worked with abused children, I saw firsthand the transformational impact these advocates can have in a child’s life.
Earlier this year, my colleague, John Carson, who represents part of Cherokee County, introduced the More Take Home Pay Act (MTHPA) to reduce the state income tax rates and diversify the state’s revenues towards more of a consumption tax. Rep. Carson seeks to restructure the state tax code to allow Georgia families to keep more of their own money. Although Georgia remains among the top five states in the country to do business, we must always strive to become even better, particularly since we have the 2nd highest income tax rates among our border states.
Any time such a large initiative is introduced, there will be misconceptions. Here is what the bill does and does not do.
As it is for many of you, December is a hectic month around my house, because along with getting ready for the holidays and relatives, I’m also preparing to return to the legislature. Once I’m done putting away Christmas decorations, I’ll start looking at policy briefs and pre-filed legislation. Our state has a 40 day legislative session that starts in January, during which time those fortunate enough to serve take time away from their families and businesses to debate policy, set budgets, and address local concerns. Georgia has a citizen legislature; that means that everyone serving also has a private-sector job they return to after the session. This type of legislative body helps ensure that those governing understand what their actions do to the people they govern.
Fall is upon us. That means that pumpkin spice has returned, college football is back and Thanksgiving is around the corner. I know that in my house, Thanksgiving can sometimes get overshadowed with visiting relatives, cooking a turkey and eating too much. However, the roots of our modern day holiday are much simpler. Since the founding of our nation, we have come together to share in various moments of thanksgiving. Whether it was the prosperity of the Pilgrims or Washington’s victory over the British, the tradition of sharing in our bounty was celebrated and remained a fixture throughout our early history and remains so today. Our nation’s founders, including George Washington, John Adams, John Hancock and John Jay, all took special care to ensure that the nation set aside a day to give thanks for all that we enjoyed.
Study committees are an integral part of the work of the legislature in the state of Georgia. As part of my continuing work as a legislator, I have been appointed to a study committee tasked with investigating welfare fraud.
This past spring, I was appointed by Speaker Ralston to the Child Fatality Review Panel. I would like to take this opportunity to acquaint readers to this crucial team, and the important work they do to make Georgia safe.
Many ask what I do as a member of the Legislature when we are not in session. As a member of the Legislature, I have been appointed to two very important boards — one is the Georgia Commission on Domestic Violence and the other is Georgia’s State Child Fatality Review Board. I would like to take a moment to introduce you to the Georgia Commission on Domestic Violence and let you know a little of what they do.
The Georgia Commission on Domestic Violence (GCDV) is tasked with the responding to family violence in the state of Georgia. The Commission believes that a coordinated community response is the best way to address the problem of family violence. Coordinated community response means that every segment of the community — including judges, advocates, law enforcement, medical professionals, educators, and concerned citizens — is responsible for helping to end family violence. In other words, everyone including you can be a part of the solution. GCDV works with communities and systems across the state to provide leadership in strengthening Georgia’s families by ending family violence.