Home / News

Georgia House Democrats announce ambitious agenda

Source: Macon Telegraph

Maggie Lee, Macon Telegraph

Democrats in the Georgia House have announced an agenda of 35 bills that they say will tear down barriers to education, health care and fair treatment.

But in a GOP-dominated state Legislature where the Democrats’ ideas have been a difficult sell, some are also looking to tap the public energy that brought millions of protesters to the country’s streets a few days ago.

House Democrats are repeating their call for the state to allow more Georgians to join Medicaid — publicly financed health insurance for low-income people. They say that if Medicaid were open to people who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, nearly 500,000 Georgians could join the program.

However, Medicaid expansion is not an idea that’s gotten much traction with Georgia Republicans. Right now, Georgia Republicans are watching what happens in Washington, D.C., where the new administration is working to unwind the Affordable Care Act, which is known as Obamacare. Until it is clear what will happen in Washington and what it means for Georgia, big health care changes will be unlikely under the Gold Dome in Atlanta.

Among other measures, House Democrats also want to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour, raise the legal dropout age to 17 and allow automatic voter registration whenever folks interact with any of several state agencies. House Democrats also returned to a list of bills related to military families. One bill would speed the transfer of military spouses’ teaching credentials to Georgia so that they can get to work quickly.

“We encourage Georgia citizens to do what was done last week. March, call, show up and speak up to make certain that every person who stands for election and asks for the job of serving you does their job,” said state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, as she and dozens of other House Democrats introduced the agenda Wednesday.

They held the conference in a Capitol office building, just across the street from the endpoint of Saturday’s Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women. Also on Saturday, House Democrats launched “Georgia Resists,” an online guide to advocacy.

State Rep. Miriam Paris, D-Macon, said she wants everyone to stay engaged and speak up.

“If you see something going on and it’s wrong, and you know it, then just speak up. We have to fight for what is right regardless of sex, gender, color, all of those things. It’s up to us to protect each other and make sure that Georgia stays the kind of state that is a great place to … work, play … and live,” she said.

She’ll sponsor a bill that requires the state to pay vendors within 15 to 30 days, or else pay interest. Long waits for payment can strain the finances of small businesses.

State Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, will file a bill aimed at enlisting state-licensed cosmetologists, barbers and nail technicians as lookouts for abuse and domestic violence. His bill would require the agency that oversees licensing also offer free training about recognizing the signs of abuse.