Adam Newland is a husband, father, Athenian, high school teacher and coach who wants Athens to be a city known for and celebrated for its diversity and inclusivity.
2018 is an important year in Georgia politics. The highest offices in the state will be contested, and many swing districts are up for grabs. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many hot button issues are going to come up this legislative session as many of these same politicians prepare to hit the campaign trail.
HB 669– Medicaid Expansion
This bill would have the state of Georgia accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid, providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands more Georgians. We are very excited that this bill is co-sponsored by our own Deborah Gonzalez (D-117) and Jonathan Wallace (D-119), starting their first session in the Georgia Legislature off right!
SB 310– Protecting Net Neutrality
A sweeping bill by Democrat Harold Jones II (Augusta) aimed at blunting some of the effects from the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. It gives the Public Service Commission exclusive power and authority to fine internet service providers either blocking or slowing down any lawful internet content.
Democrat-sponsored bills designed to define sexual harassment or misconduct as well as provide for regular classes on the subject for Assembly members and some state employees. These bills would be a step in the right direction for in the fight against patriarchy in Georgia.
HB 650 – Local Control over Confederate Monuments
This bill would allow local governments to relocate, remove, conceal, obscure, or alter military and other monuments, including Confederate ones. Athens-Clarke County already has options at its disposal for moving the Confederate Memorial on Broad St, and they should do so immediately. However, this bill would make removals and relocations much easier throughout Georgia.
HB 651– Bump-Stock Ban
This bill would ban bump-stocks, devices that make a non-automatic weapon fully automatic. They gained national attention when they were used in the Las Vegas shooting in October, but federal attempts to ban them have stalled.
Introduced by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, these bills would increase penalties for crimes like assault when victims are targeted due to their race, color, religion, sexual identity, gender identity or expression, disability, national origin, or ethnicity. These bills also provide for training for law enforcement officials regarding hate crimes. Shamefully, Georgia is one of only five states that does not yet have a hate crimes law.
SB 320– Voter Registration at Schools
A bill to make every primary and secondary school in the state a voter registration agency. Schools would help parents register to vote when enrolling their children.
SB 309– Voter Suppression
This Republican bill has multiple measures in it, several of which are designed to help out Republicans. It makes all polling places close at 7 p.m. (those in larger cities are currently open until 8 p.m.). And it amends the requirements for filling state vacancies. If someone vacating an elected position has less than 1 year left on their term, the governor would appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term, rather than holding an election. We oppose any bill that makes it harder to vote or limits the ability of Georgians to elect their own representatives.
While bills have not yet been introduced on these topics, there’s a strong likelihood these issues will receive some attention from the legislature this year:
Though most people wouldn’t call Athens rural, parts of Athens-Clarke County still struggle with access to broadband internet. The current idea on the table is to help pay companies’ costs of expanding into more rural areas. The subsidies would come from a tax on phone, subscription TV, and internet streaming services. While one could argue that internet companies should use their substantial profits to help cover the cost, any attempt to get high-speed internet into places that don’t currently have it is probably worth it. The addition of high-speed internet would have many positive effects in rural areas, such as improved economic growth and easier access to healthcare exchanges.
The Minimum Wage
Georgia’s workers desperately need a $15/hour minimum wage, but it’s unlikely to happen with the Republicans’ large majorities in the General Assembly. In the meantime, Democrats are set to propose allowing cities to set their own minimum wage, as is allowed in most other states. Last year, A4E and our allies won a wage increase to at least $11.60/hr for all county employees, and we need to build on that momentum until all Athenians are paid a living wage.
Athens could benefit greatly from operational funding for our public transit system. Most states do chip in, but not Georgia.
As lawmakers scramble to make Georgia a more appealing option for the internet giant’s second HQ, it will be important to pay attention to what they’re willing to give away. Cutting programs, huge tax breaks, and redistributing funding will all be on the table. How do we balance the real benefits of bringing these jobs to Georgia with the potential costs of bending over backwards for a corporation with way too much power?
With election season ahead, some Republican members of the Assembly will be looking to establish their far-right bonafides. The exact form their discriminatory legislation it will take this year is unclear, but it might look a lot like SB 233, a bill that would allow Georgians to cite their faith-based beliefs in order to deny services to same-sex couples. Governor Deal has shown a willingness to veto such legislation (largely because he believes it would hurt business in the state), and we may need to pressure him to do so again in 2018.
Here Are Even More Transformative Policies Georgia Deserves
If it weren’t for the incredible human toll it takes, marijuana criminalization would be approaching a joke. Criminalization disproportionately targets Black and Latinx communities at incredible rates, even as marijuana use is further destigmatized by society and embraced by medical professionals yearly. It’s time for Georgia to join the eight states that have legalized marijuana.
Independent Redistricting Commission
Gerrymandering hurts Georgians. Legislative districts need to be drawn by an Independent Redistricting Commission, not by whichever political party is in power.
Athens for Everyone supports lawmakers who stand up and champion transformative progressive policies like these.
Adam Newland and A4E, 1/17/2018by