AP: Changes to 9 House Districts Pass After Democrats Protest

By Kathleen Foody

Republicans approved changes to nine Georgia House districts as Democrats accused the majority party of trying to protect its own.

The bill was approved on party lines, 108 to 59, and heads to the state Senate.

Friday marks a key deadline. Bills must pass at least one chamber by the end of the day to stay alive for the year.

House Speaker David Ralston defended the changes, saying "they hurt no member" of the House.

Democrats focused on changes they say benefit Rep. Rick Golick of Smyrna and Rep. Brian Strickland of McDonough, two incumbent Republicans who defeated challengers in November.

State lawmakers are responsible for drawing House and Senate districts after the U.S. Census every 10 years. But courts have determined that changes between censuses are within lawmakers' authority.


Buzzfeed: Georgia Bill Designed To Limit College Rape Investigations Advances

By Tyler Kingkade

A controversial bill in Georgia that would limit rape investigations at colleges advanced on Wednesday, putting the campuses in conflict with Obama-era guidance on how to address the issue.

The bill, HB 51, sailed through the GOP majority largely along party-lines, 115-55, advancing what many experts see as one of the more restrictive laws on how schools can respond to campus rape reports.

“I’m glad to be that far out front,” state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, the bill’s sponsor, told BuzzFeed News.

Ehrhart, a Republican from Powder Springs, Georgia, argued that the legislation was needed to protect male students who are kicked out of college over sexual assault claims under what he sees as unfair rules dictated by the US Department of Education. However, he believes those rules are experiencing their “last gasp,” suggesting that the Trump administration will rescind them.

HB 51 is designed to stop Georgia colleges from setting up special procedures to investigate sexual assault cases and to steer more cases toward authorities. Under the bill, most university employees in Georgia would have to report all offenses that they believe constitute felonies to law enforcement — though they can withhold a sexual assault victim’s name, if requested.

The bill also states schools cannot conduct a “disciplinary investigation” if it will “obstruct or prejudice” a criminal probe. Ehrhart said this is designed to get colleges not to launch full-scale investigations if a case is still being considered by law enforcement.

“This is legislation that protects Georgia children on our campuses,” Ehrhart said.

If HB 51 becomes law, it could set up an early test of how the Trump administration is going to address sexual assault in schools, and whether it will back away from Obama-era guidance on how to apply federal gender equity laws under Title IX.

Advocates like Anna Voremberg from the group End Rape on Campus worry that if bills like HB 51 become law, the Trump administration won’t go to bat when they conflict with existing federal civil rights standards.

“If HB 51 does pass, I’m expecting to see some lawsuits and we’ll see how that proceeds in the courts,” Voremberg told BuzzFeed News. “But I am not optimistic that the Department of Education and the Department of Justice will enforce federal civil rights laws, because we’re seeing they’re refusing to do so in the case of trans students.”

A new line in HB 51 says the legislation does not supersede federal laws, but it would overrule guidance documents issued by the Education Department. This guidance is usually released as “Dear Colleague letters” that detail what the government expects schools to do to comply with federal laws like Title IX.

During the Obama administration, the Education Department said in guidance documents that colleges should not wait until a criminal investigation ends to begin looking into a sexual assault report. But Georgia state Rep. Regina Quick, a bill co-sponsor, said Wednesday that guidance is “just the opinion of another unelected bureaucrat.”

Ehrhart told BuzzFeed News that Georgia universities promised to reroute the “millions of dollars” spent adjudicating campus sexual assault cases to counseling and other resources for victims and rape prevention programs.

The Georgia bill no longer blocks colleges from doing any campus rape investigation unless the accused student was found guilty in criminal court, like it did when it was first introduced in January. But the bill remains widely opposed by rape survivors and victims’ advocates, and hundreds of students who say they’ve been sexually assaulted swarmed the Georgia capitol in recent weeks, including Wednesday, lobbying against the legislation.

One concern is that while HB 51 says university officials must report felonies to law enforcement, the bill does not say who determines whether something rises to the level of a felony. Some forms of sexual assault under Georgia law can be classified as misdemeanor sexual battery.

“It would require the school to have some training in determining whether it could be a felony,” Lisa Anderson, executive director of Atlanta Women for Equality, told BuzzFeed News. “They would have to basically have a criminal attorney to evaluate a case, and it’s a risk.”

Ehrhart said schools should use a “reasonable person standard” to determine what constitutes a felony.

“I would hope that they err on the side of caution, that most things like that are felonies,” he said.

Read more here.


Columbus ledger-enquirer: 2016 election was elephant in room at Columbus Democratic town hall meeting

By Chuck Williams

An overflow crowd of more than 100 people showed up late Monday afternoon for a Democratic town hall meeting in the Mildred Terry Library community room.

Democratic state Reps. Calvin Smyre, Carolyn Hugley and Debbie Bucker and Sen. Ed Harbison addressed a number of General Assembly legislative issues from casino gambling to medical marijuana.

But the elephant in the room was the result of the 2016 election and specifically Republican President Donald Trump’s triumph.

“Usually we can hold these meetings in a small room and all sit in a circle and share our ideas,” Hugley said after the meeting. “I think people are now clearly more engaged because of the 2016 national election. I think they are looking at what they can do to get more involved.”

Mike Edmondson, a retired Muscogee County public school teacher, agreed.

“Right now, I wish there were more of these,” Edmondson said as people filed out of the library located on Veterans Parkway. “I wish there were Republicans here and when they hold their meeting, I plan to attend it. I am not sure if both sides are more engaged, but I feel like the Democratic side is.”

Smyre, who is in his 43rd year in the Georgia House, was encouraged by the turnout and the questions, of which the lawmakers fielded more than a dozen.

“There is no doubt that the people are paying attention right now, and that is a good thing,” Smyre said.

While some wanted to discuss national politics, many wanted to talk about what is in front of the General Assembly as it will reach the midpoint of the 2017 session this week.

Hugley, the minority whip, said the Democrats are pushing voting legislation in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Specifically, she discussed legislation that would allow Election Day voting at any precinct, not just the one that is your home precinct.

“We need to make voting easier,” Hugley said. “On Election Day, you should be able to vote at any precinct because we have the technology to do that.”

Some in the room asked what they could do to oppose the Trump administration and some of its policies. Toward the end of the meeting, the legislators talked about Georgia Resists, an online political organizing tool launched by the Georgia House Democratic Caucus in response to the 2016 election.

“If the 2016 election did nothing else,” Hugley said. “It made people aware of what is happening. Georgia Resists has three goals — show up, stand up and speak up.”

See more coverage of this town hall from WTVM and WRBL


Savannah nowBills would make voting easier in Georgia

By Georgia Resister Joanne Sliva

Leaders in the state House will soon consider the Absentee Ballot Access Act and the Any Precinct Act. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and we should be improving access to the polls whenever we can. The reasons for reform are clear.

Students, people in the armed services and Georgians who travel for business usually need to vote absentee, and it makes no sense to require that they request a ballot for each election. The Absentee Ballot Access Act would remove that barrier. The Any Precinct Act ensures that if a voter can’t make it to their own polling location, they could vote elsewhere in their county.

Simplified voting procedures are crucial. We need to help streamline the process by passing the Absentee Ballot Access Act and the Any Precinct Act.


AJC: Georgia Democrats try not to ‘waste’ Trump moment

By Greg Bluestein 

DeAndre Jones looked out to an auditorium so crowded that people stood four-deep against the walls, sat on dusty floors and crammed into just about every other crevice they could.

Then he asked a question that sent about every hand in the room skyward: Did you complain to your local lawmakers about Donald Trump?

“This is what our time calls for: true civic engagement,” said Jones, an organizer with the Georgia House Democratic Caucus that set up the town hall. “So let’s not waste this unique opportunity.”

Trump’s first two weeks in office sparked a level of political activism not seen in Georgia since the early days of the conservative tea party. Opponents of Trump’s policies have marched in the streets of the state’s biggest cities, channeled an avalanche of phone calls to GOP lawmakers and held a spate of town halls to try to channel that anger into activity.

The size and scope of the movement has stunned even longtime Democratic activists who have seen the ebb and flow of movements such as the Moral Monday protests. State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, who has been in elected office for 25 years, has “never in my long political career seen this kind of energy.”

“People keep saying that Trump is a new form of president,” said Oliver, whose inbox is full of messages from voters who want to get involved. “Well, people are responding in a new form now, too.”

It’s impossible to tell now whether this burgeoning movement will have a lasting impact, like the tea party response to Barack Obama’s election that triggered a wave of Republican wins, or fizzle out like the “Occupy” protests earlier this decade.

But what is clear is the protests are already making waves in Republican-dominated Georgia — and left-leaning groups across the state are trying to make the most of it.

The Georgia chapter of Planned Parenthood, for example, usually gets 2,000 new donors each year. It tallied that many in the month of December alone. The Democratic Party of Cobb County — which turned blue in November for the first time since Jimmy Carter’s election — has logged more than 400 new members since the election.

Thousands of Georgians trekked to Washington two weeks ago to protest against Trump; tens of thousands rallied in Atlanta. Weekly demonstrations have drawn crowds outside the offices of U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, and their jammed phone lines have inspired graffiti artists. The Krog Street Tunnel was emblazoned with their phone numbers this week.

At Thursday’s town hall at a union headquarters, even organizers seemed taken aback by the turnout. Their event last year hardly attracted 75 people. This time, nearly 600 people showed up — and many huddled around crowded tables with sign-up sheets after the meeting. At least 30 signaled interest in running for public office.

“I got bit by the bug, and I’m almost at the point now where I have to detox,” said a sighing Triana Arnold-James, a new Democratic volunteer from Marietta. “We Democrats got comfortable, and now there’s an opportunity to rebuild the party. We can’t waste it.”

And they expect Trump’s bombastic tone, which has hardly tempered since his election, to continue to feed their enthusiasm.

“What happened in November put the fire under me,” said Camille Vincent, a 25-year-old from Atlanta who signed up to volunteer with two groups after Thursday’s meet. “I’m an introvert, and this forced me to step outside my comfort zone. I know Trump’s trying to distract us, but this is going to continue.”

Read more here


The Georgia House Democratic Caucus Announces Its 2017 Legislative Agenda

Atlanta, GA – Today, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus announces its 2017 legislative agenda – a continuation of its efforts to promote educational opportunity, economic security, and shared responsibility for all families in the state.

The package of 35 bills will address pressing issues affecting Georgians by tackling barriers to equality and fairness in the workplace, healthcare disparities, and provide mechanisms to make it easier for people to civically engage.

Among the legislation offered is a reintroduction of the “Expand Medicaid Now Act,” which would bring healthcare to nearly 500,000 and create 56,000 new jobs in Georgia. The Caucus will expand “A Promise Kept,” its successful 2016 package in support of military families, and build upon previous efforts to protect women from violence. The agenda will also include the “Georgia Voters’ Bill of Rights,” which will, among other provisions, implement automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license or registering for classes at a public college.

“Rather than grow discouraged in the wake of potentially catastrophic decision-making already underway in Washington, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus will continue to introduce concrete proposals that will improve the lives of all Georgians and work to fight back against efforts to dismantle the progress we have achieved,” said Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. “Most importantly, we hope to foster the understanding that the Georgia Capitol belongs to everyone in our state, and that the best way for people to make their voices heard is to engage with us directly about the issues that matter to them. I look forward to leading the House Caucus and forging partnerships with allies, advocates, and legislators across the aisle to find commonsense solutions to our state’s challenges.”  

THE 2017 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA:

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY

Anti-Discrimination Act: Sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Burnough and co-sponsored by Rep. Spencer Frye and Rep. Park Cannon, this legislation would ensure that schools receiving funding from Student Scholarship Organizations do not discriminate based on race, gender, national origin, religion, sexuality or disability.

Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act: Sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott and co-sponsored by Rep. Dexter Sharper, this bill would provide in-state tuition at the University System of Georgia and TCS Georgia for youth who are from foster care or homeless situations. This bill also excludes foster care assistance from being considered income when calculating financial aid.  

Too Young to Suspend Act: Sponsored by Rep. Wayne Howard and co-sponsored by Rep. “Coach” Williams and Rep. Pam Dickerson, this bill would prohibit the use of suspension or expulsion as punishment for children enrolled from pre-K through 3rd grade except in instances of physical violence. 

Child Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act: Sponsored by Rep. Debra Bazemore and co-sponsored by Rep. Michael Smith and Rep. Kim Alexander, this legislation provides for required and revised safety plans in early care and education programs to demonstrate preparedness for fires, floods, tornadoes, snow, ice storms, earthquakes, chemical spills, and acts of violence. Under this bill, plans would be prepared in consultation with parents, legal guardians and faculty of programs, and plans would be submitted to the local emergency management agency. The safety plans will be subject to regulation and inspection.

Dropout Deterrent Act: Sponsored by Rep. Mickey Stephens and co-sponsored by Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas, the Dropout Deterrent Act: will revise the age of mandatory education from between ages 6 and 16 to between ages 5 and 17.  

Student Online Personal Information Protection Act: Sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jones and co-sponsored by Rep. Sheila Clark Nelson, this legislation would prohibit on-line website operators from targeting advertising to students or their guardians.  It would also prohibit them from using personal information to create an online profile of a K-12 student.  Most importantly, it would make it a criminal act for companies to sell a child’s personal information.

College Completion Access Act: Sponsored by Rep. Brenda Lopez and co-sponsored by Rep. Keisha Waites and Rep. Marie Metze, this legislation would eliminate the current bar on eligibility for the HOPE Scholarship facing individuals who are more than seven years removed from high school, thus broadening access to the University System of Georgia for non-traditional students.'

 

ECONOMIC SECURITY  

Expand Medicaid NOW Act: Sponsored by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and co-sponsored by Democratic Caucus Vice-Chair Bob Trammell, Secretary Pat Gardner, and Rep. Bill McGowan, this legislation would compel Georgia's Department of Community Health to expand state Medicaid eligibility up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and provide health insurance coverage for nearly half a million Georgians.

Georgia Paid Sick Leave Act: Sponsored by Rep. Kim Alexander and co-sponsored by Rep. Marie Metze and Rep. Derrick Jackson, this legislation would mandate full-time employees will accrue, or bank, one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours he or she works up to 56 hours per year. Employers will remain free to provide additional paid leave beyond the minimum amount required by law. 

Fair Chance at Employment Act: Sponsored by Rep. Winfred Dukes and co-sponsored by Rep. Michele Henson and Rep. Debra Bazemore, this bill would protect employees and job applicants from unfair practices in the workplace by prohibiting the use of consumer credit checks for the purpose of making employment decisions. Failure by employers to abide by this law could result in a misdemeanor conviction, punishable by a fine.

Angel Investor Act: Sponsored by Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick and co-sponsored by Rep. J. Craig Gordon, this legislation would open the door for a wider range of investment by creating a new investor class eligible for tax credits. To qualify for the tax credit, the investment must be made in a small, Georgia-grown business engaged in an emerging technology-based industry.

Georgia Jobs Matter Act: Sponsored by Rep. Debbie Buckner and co-sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Douglas, Rep. Bill McGowan, and Rep. Karla Drenner, this legislation would amend the purchasing guidelines for state and local governments to include a provision requiring preference be given to products manufactured in, and to service providers based in, Georgia. 

Georgia Fair Pay Act: Sponsored by Rep. Miriam Paris and co-sponsored by Rep. Wayne Howard, this legislation would require state accounting offices to pay state money due to vendors within 15 (electronic invoices) or 30 (printed invoices) days of receipt of undisputed invoices. In the event that invoices are not paid as required, the state shall pay interest on the amount of such invoices equal to 12 percent per year.

Federal Minimum Wage Equalization Act: Sponsored by Rep. Erica Thomas and co-sponsored by Rep. Dewey McClain, this legislation would increase the Georgia state minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  In the event of an increase in the federal minimum wage, this legislation would require that Georgia’s minimum wage automatically increase to match the federal wage six months after the date upon which the federal wage is raised. This legislation would take effect on the beginning of the calendar year immediately following its enactment.

Child Care Affordability Act: Sponsored by Rep. Renitta Shannon and co-sponsored by Rep. Pam Stephenson and Rep. Sheila Clark Nelson, this legislation would provide for a state child care tax credit. 

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Sponsored by Rep. William Boddie and co-sponsored by Rep. Park Cannon and Rep. Erica Thomas, this legislation would provide a state cause of action in employment related matters in which a pregnant or recently pregnant employee has suffered an adverse employment action as a result of their pregnancy.  The legislation mirrors existing federal employment discrimination law, but provides for state level jurisdiction and remedies.

Georgia Pay Equity Act: Sponsored by Rep. Park Cannon and co-sponsored by Rep. Karla Drenner and Rep. Debra Bazemore, this legislation would seek to promote pay equity in Georgia.  The bill would prohibit employers from requiring past salary history to be provided before issuing a formal job offer.  The bill would also prohibit employers for taking adverse employment action against employees who discuss their salary or wages.

 

SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

Taxpayers First Act: Sponsored by Rep. Carl Gilliard and co-sponsored by Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague, this legislation would require all state departments and agencies, before entering into a private contract, to publicly demonstrate the cost savings of privatization. The state would be prohibited from entering into any private contract unless there is a 10 percent or more overall cost savings, compared to hiring the public employees for the job. Private contractors would be required to include all direct and indirect costs of the project, when the side-by-side comparison was completed.

Open Records Act: Sponsored by Rep. Derrick Jackson and co-sponsored by Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague and Rep. Dewey McClain, this legislation would require that any contract entered into by the state and valued at $50,000 or more be subject to Georgia’s Open Records and Meeting Laws. This bill also would require any company being paid with tax dollars to open its books and meetings to the public, just as the government does.

Any Precinct Act: Sponsored by Rep. Roger Bruce and co-sponsored by Rep. Pat Gardner and Rep. David Dreyer, this legislation would allow voters to cast their ballot at any precinct in their home county in a primary, runoff and general election.

Permanent Portable Registration Act: Sponsored by Rep. Sam Park and co-sponsored by Rep. Gloria Frazier and Rep. Erica Thomas, this legislation would allow eligible voters to remain registered within the state without re-registering, even if those voters move between counties or change their names. Voters who have changed their names or addresses within the state would be able to cast their vote by simply updating their information at their polling location, rather than re-registering far in advance of Election Day.  

Social Media Privacy Protection Act: Sponsored by Rep. Doreen Carter and co-sponsored by Rep. Pam Stephenson and Rep. Sheila Jones, this legislation would enhance privacy protection in the digital age by prohibiting employers from asking for passwords on social media sites, which employers often do as a requirement for employment. This bill would make it illegal for employers to demand access to applicants’ or employees’ private information and profiles online, as well as to deny employment to or discipline individuals who refuse to volunteer such information.

Contract Cancellation Act: Sponsored by Rep. Sheila Clark Nelson and co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Prince, this legislation would ensure that every state-authorized contract includes language that permits the state to cancel the contract if the company the state has contracted with fails to meet its obligations of quality and cost savings.

Tax Accountability Act: Sponsored by Rep. Bill McGowan and co-sponsored by Rep. Howard Mosby, this legislation would impose strict rules on the House Committee on Ways and Means when creating or renewing tax subsidies, tax credits, and tax abatements.  Under this bill, proposed tax exemptions must be fully vetted over a two-year period and undergo thorough actuarial analysis to determine the approximate dollar amount of revenue generated due to the proposed exemption, thus demonstrating its value to Georgia’s taxpayers rather than to its recipients.

Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act: Sponsored by Rep. Pedro Marin and co-sponsored by Rep. Sam Park and Rep. Brenda Lopez, this legislation would require all state agencies that provide direct public services to offer free interpretation and translation services to members of the public, for vital forms and instructions. This bill would mandate that state and local agencies employ a sufficient number of qualified bilingual persons in public contact positions to provide information and services to the public in the language of the non-English speaking person.

Timely Process Act: Sponsored by Rep. Patty Bentley and co-sponsored by Rep. William Boddie, this legislation would require the Secretary of State or any county receiving an application for voter registration to process the application within 45 days of receipt.  This bill would provide for a legal remedy in the event that election officials do not comply.

Absentee Ballot Access Act: Sponsored by Rep. J. Craig Gordon and co-sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Burnough and Rep. Marie Metze, this legislation would enable an individual making a request for an absentee ballot to opt-in to receive an absentee ballot request form prior to every election in which they are eligible to vote without making additional, subsequent requests.

Domestic Violence Helping Hands Act: Sponsored by Rep. James Beverly and co-sponsored by Rep. Doreen Carter and Rep. Stacey Evans, this legislation would require that the Georgia Secretary of State provide free training and resources on recognizing domestic violence and abuse to barbers, cosmetologists, and nail technicians upon each license renewal.  Licensees would have to verify that they have reviewed such materials in order to renew their license, but shall not incur any additional cost or legal obligation.

Georgia Voters’ Bill of Rights: Sponsored by Rep. David Dreyer and co-sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott and Rep. Carl Gilliard, this legislation would:

  1. Allow for automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license or during other interactions with a state agency, such as DFCS, Aging Services, DCA, or registering for any classes at a public college or vocational and technical school.
  2. Permit registered voters to change their address and also vote on Election Day.
  3. Require that precincts cannot be moved or closed within 90 days of an election barring impossibility.
  4. Require that counties make voting precincts available within 25 miles of every voter.
  5. Require that early voting locations must be geographically distributed throughout the county.

 

A PROMISE KEPT

Educating Children of Military Families Act: Sponsored by Rep. Mike Glanton and co-sponsored by Rep. Darrel Ealum and Rep. Mickey Stephens, this bill would authorize the Georgia Department of Education to establish a unique identifier for children of military personnel for the purposes of disaggregating and sharing data related to the educational achievement and progress of such students. 

Protecting Military Children Act: Sponsored by Rep. Brian Prince and co-sponsored by Rep. Bill McGowan and Rep. Derrick Jackson, this legislation would provide for the free exchange of information between the Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Defense to ensure that allegations and issues of child abuse and/or neglect are promptly and appropriately investigated and resolved.

Military Spouses Employment Act: Sponsored by Rep. Al Williams and co-sponsored by Rep. Scott Holcomb and House Minority Whip Carolyn Hugley, this legislation would require that the Georgia Department of Education adopt and implement a process by which military spouses may qualify for temporary teaching licenses, teaching licenses by endorsement, or expedited teaching licenses.

“Georgia Veterans Work Opportunity Tax Credit” Sponsored by Rep. Karen Bennett and co-sponsored by Rep. Calvin Smyre and Rep. Scott Holcomb, this bill mirrors the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit Act:, which is meant to encourage employers to hire qualifying veterans. The Georgia Work Opportunity Tax Credit Act: creates a one-year tax credit for each new employee hired from one of the mentioned categories (after approval by the Georgia Department of Labor). The tax credit for employers can equal up to 40% of $4,500 ($4,800 for veterans), once the employee has worked more than 400 hours. A similar 25% credit is available for employees who worked between 120-400 hours in a taxable year.

“Credit for Service” Resolution Sponsored by Rep. Darrel Ealum and co-sponsored by Rep. Gloria Frazier and Rep. Dexter Sharper, this resolution would urge the University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia to devise standards by which separating service members may translate their military training and experience into academic credit.

“Increasing Interstate Access to Veteran Employment” Resolution Sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott and co-sponsored by Rep. Sheila Clark Nelson, this resolution will urge Georgia professional boards to consider adopting interstate occupational licensing compacts that ease the ability of separating service members and military spouses licensed in other states to transfer their license to Georgia.


Georgia Budget and Policy Institute: GEORGIA’S ECONOMY AT RISK IF AFFORDABLE CARE ACT REPEALED

By Laura Harker

Earlier this month the U.S. Congress passed a budget resolution in the first steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the coming weeks congressional leaders plan to move forward in repealing key parts of the ACA and appear poised to delay passing a replacement plan. A repeal and delay sequence could cause 1 million Georgians to lose insurance in 2019 if the ACA goes away then.

Georgia is also projected to lose 71,000 jobs if federal subsidies lapse that help pay for marketplace insurance. With the loss of this federal money and fewer insured patients, health care providers would face higher uncompensated care costs. Georgia is expected to have uncompensated care costs of $2.3 billion in 2019 under the ACA, but if the federal health law is repealed, uncompensated care costs amount to $4.8 billion in 2019. Georgia health care providers would need to cut 21,400 jobs in 2019. Read More.


PRESS RELEASE:  ON INAUGURATION DAY, GEORGIA HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS LAUNCHES “GEORGIA RESISTS,” WEBSITE

ATLANTA, GA – On Inauguration Day, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus launches “Georgia Resists,” an online political action and organizing tool aimed at mobilizing Georgians across the state to engage directly with elected officials at the state, local, and federal levels, and to organize their communities around commonsense progressive issues. The website will be shared widely by members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus and Democratic Party of Georgia to constituents, allied organizations and individuals, and county parties.

VISIT THE SITE: https://www.georgiaresists.com/

“In the coming year, we will face debates about who we want to be as a state: one that embraces our diversity, celebrates our progress and protects the vulnerable among us, or one that will shy away from our values and reverse course out of fear or spite,” said Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. “Today, Democrats are better positioned than ever to fight for economic security and educational opportunity at the local and state levels, but only if we work together to share Democratic values and ideas with every community in every corner of our state. Forty-two percent of Americans stayed home because they did not see themselves as affected by the 2016 election. It is time to ensure that potential voters see a better future if they engage with their leaders and hold them accountable.”

The website will:

  •  Inform Georgians about how, why, and when to respond to key state and national issues like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion and President Trump’s cabinet confirmation
  • Share action alerts informing constituents of opportunities to engage in dialogue with Republican and Democratic leadership at town halls or other events
  • Share open forums, community canvasses, social media events, and phone banks hosted by members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus and other Georgia Democrats
  • Provide downloadable toolkits on issues like Medicaid expansion, engagement tactics like how to lobby your representative, and printable content for communities lacking internet access
  • Recruit community volunteers and digital ambassadors for progressive issues
  • Announce grassroots trainings 

NY Magazine: GOP Congressman Overwhelmed by ACA-Supporting Constituents

By Chas Danner

A Republican congressman from Colorado has gotten a taste of what the backlash to repealing the Affordable Care Act may be like. Representative Mike Coffman, who co-wrote an op-ed in the Denver Post championing the full repeal of Obamacare on Friday, was overwhelmed by constituents at his own constituent-event in the town of Aurora on Saturday, so much so that he ultimately opted to sneak out of the event early rather than face the as many as 100 disgruntled people still waiting to speak with him. Many of the constituents had come to the meeting to voice their concerns to Coffman over the likely repeal of the ACA. Because the congressman and his staff opted to meet with people in small groups, rather than all at once, scores were stuck waiting in the lobby of the Aurora Public Library, where Coffman’s office had reserved a room for the meeting.

According to local media reports, Coffman met constituents in groups of only four people, instead of everyone all at once using a town-hall-style meeting. His chief of staff later insisted that was by design, as the congressman has typically used the regularly scheduled meetings to meet individually with constituents. But whatever number of constituents Coffman was expecting, a lot more — as many as 200 people — showed up to meet with him in the community room his staff had reserved. Read More. 


Gainesville Times: Legislature 2017: Issues To Watch

Times Staff Reports

Health care

President-elect Donald Trump’s election shook up expectations that lawmakers would consider expanding health coverage for Georgia’s uninsured residents.

The state didn’t accept Medicaid expansion under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but there were signs that majority Republicans would consider some form of it this session with backing from influential business groups and other players.

That all changed with Trump’s win and the opportunity to repeal the federal health care law. Georgia Republicans say they need to see what Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress do next.

Rep. Stacey Abrams, who leads House Democrats, said members will continue pushing for expanded coverage for uninsured residents. She worries that a “wait and see” approach will hurt some of the state’s hospitals continuing to see large numbers of uninsured patients.

Aside from Medicaid, lawmakers are expected to again consider ending Georgia’s certificate of need program, used to regulate expansions or openings of medical facilities. But the influential Georgia Hospital Association and other groups oppose the change. Read More. 


KAIser Health news: Even In Trump Country, Rural Hospitals Brace For Damage From Health Law’s Repeal

By Shefali Luthra

 Judy Keller, 69, has always relied on Highlands Hospital for medical care, just as her parents did before her. When she walks through the halls, she recognizes faces from the community and even from her days working as a school teacher. The 64-bed facility, she says, is a mainstay of this rural Southwest Pennsylvania town.

“This hospital all my life has been here,” said Keller, now retired. “[It] helps a lot of people who don’t have adequate health care coverage — and I don’t know what they would do without it.” Aside from providing health care to a largely poor population, it provides hundreds of jobs in a town that locals say never recovered after industries such as coal mining and glass manufacturing disappeared.

But in the wake of this fall’s presidential election, Highlands — like many other rural hospitals — will likely face new financial challenges that will intensify longstanding struggles, experts say. The Affordable Care Act, which President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal, threw a number of life-savers to these vital but financially troubled centers.  And its full repeal, without a comparable and viable replacement, could signal their death knell. Read more


Creative Loafing: Sam Park: The Gold Dome rookie

By Camille Pendley

On Nov. 8, when progressives across metro Atlanta were bemoaning the loss of Hillary Clinton, they saw some reasons to cheer in parts of the region. Not only did voters in traditionally red Cobb and Gwinnett counties favor Hillary Clinton, they also elected a young Democratic lawyer named Sam Park in House District 101, an L-shaped swath of land that includes Lawrenceville. In the process, they ushered in Georgia’s first openly gay male lawmaker.

Park, a son of Korean immigrants, calls the shift “encouraging” because it was more about personal values than it was about party lines.

“The fact that I was able to win, as a Democrat despite the Trump wave that occurred, for me tells me that people want something to unite behind,” says the 31-year-old representative-elect. “I think that’s an indication that there are both conservatives and progressives who reject the politics of fear … I hope that it’s a sign that even though we are in this very partisan political climate, the people — they aren’t as divided as I think maybe our politics indicate.”

Park says he saw as much on the campaign trail, where he spoke to a diverse group of people who all wanted the same things. “Everyone shared the same goals and desires. Everybody wanted to see their communities thrive — safe communities, good schools — regardless of these differences, the folks that I spoke with, they had much more in common.” Read More.