Abrams for Georgia
Opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by zip code, background or power. By tackling the issues that matter the most to Georgians, we can help everyone thrive and work together to create a stronger Georgia – one that works for all. That’s what I’ve prioritized my entire life, and it’s how I will govern. Here is the beginning of my policy platform for One Georgia.
I have a vision for Georgia where prosperity is measured by more than how well business is doing. We need to judge our economy by how many of our families can thrive. Can they afford to start a small business, send a child to camp, take a vacation and not worry about a blown tire or a new prescription? For too many Georgians, the answer is no.
As Governor, I will steer Georgia to becoming a state where everyone can move up and move forward, to succeed—not just survive.
Georgia families deserve a leader who will invest in every person and who has the economic vision and the experience to increase prosperity, lift families from poverty, invest in small businesses and rural development, reduce income inequality and ensure a fair and inclusive economy for all Georgians.
I am an entrepreneur who has helped small businesses in Georgia access capital to create and retain thousands of jobs. As a nonprofit leader, I have employed hundreds of Georgians across the state. During my tenure as Georgia House Minority Leader, I developed and promoted policy solutions to serve our families, and I defeated a Republican tax hike that would have been the single largest tax increase in Georgia history.
I have the experience to build a fair, thriving economy where every hardworking family has the chance to succeed and thrive. My Georgia Economic Mobility Plan will grow the economy for Georgians and focus on jobs and wages, rural revitalization, small business investment and economic justice.
Our state’s economy has left too many people behind, and the next governor must ensure that all working Georgians enjoy a decent standard of living. Doing so is both a moral necessity and a fundamental building block of a strong economy. To guarantee that more Georgians can take care of themselves and their families, we must stop waiting for change and create it ourselves.
- Georgia Earned Income Tax Credit: Create a refundable tax credit that will let more than 1 million working families keep an average of $280 more of their hard-earned wages, with the greatest impact in rural counties.
- Cradle to Career Savings Program: Invest in every child born in Georgia with a savings account they can use for higher education, housing, or starting a business, which invests money locally and builds opportunity for Georgia families.
- Increase Disability Protections: Advance economic security for disabled Georgians by ending the practice of subminimum wages and defend disabled Georgians by enforcing fair wage payments.
- Close the Skills Gap: Partner with educators, employers and nonprofit organizations to identify and promote successful adult literacy initiatives and to develop employability skills programs at every level of our educational system.
Jobs and Wages
The foundation of a thriving economy is the ability of every Georgian to find a good job and earn a decent living, take care of their families and survive a catastrophic event knowing that their government is a partner in – not an obstacle to – recovery.
- End Wage Theft and Misclassification: Protect Georgia workers from employers who refuse to meet their obligations, costing Georgia families $300 million. We will hold employers accountable for exploiting and underpaying their workers. We will also crack down on employers who wrongly classify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying employer taxes and a fair wage.
- Fairly Invest in Infrastructure: Georgia will receive billions in federal funds for infrastructure, but right now, the powerful will be first in line for contracts, jobs and projects in their communities. My administration will create a transparent, equitable distribution of infrastructure funds across the state, in which citizens can track how and where funds are spent – and who is making the decisions about where progress is made.
- Increase Apprenticeships: Work with technical colleges, small businesses and unions to generate more than 20,000 additional apprenticeships in fields ranging from building trades and construction to coding and healthcare.
- Protect Workers: Secure legislative and regulatory changes such as paid sick leave, expansion of unemployment insurance and the repeal of preemption laws that prevent local communities from taking actions to support workers.
- Buy Georgia Products: Encourage state agencies, projects and contractors to buy more Georgia products and employ more Georgia workers in order to support our local economy.
Georgians in all 159 counties—not just metropolitan areas— deserve access to high wage job opportunities, excellent schools and world-class health care.
- Invest Equitably in Broadband and Affordable Access: The federal government is deploying millions in broadband infrastructure for Georgia’s rural areas, but every county should have a chance to participate. My administration will monitor how funds are targeted to make sure all rural counties have a fair shot at receiving investment. We will also work with the private sector and local communities to guarantee high-speed Internet access is affordable to many of the hundreds of thousands of households that are currently unserved.
- Comprehensive Rural Education Funding Formula: Expand educational opportunities for children in rural counties by applying a funding formula that recognizes the challenges faced by rural communities, attracting talented teachers with competitive pay, creating STEAM after-school programs, funding transportation and resources and working with local agencies and nonprofits to provide more quality childcare options in underserved areas.
- Save Rural Hospitals and Create Thousands of Jobs: Expand Medicaid to support rural hospitals, attract medical professionals to underserved communities and increase the number of medical apprenticeships in rural areas. Medicaid expansion will create more than 60,000 new jobs in rural Georgia, including construction, retail, healthcare and services while offering access to coverage for more than 500,000 additional Georgians. Local counties will also save millions on uncompensated care – the cost of Georgians who can’t pay their bills – money that can go into vital community needs.
Small Business Investment
Small businesses are the heart of our state’s economy and a crucial driver of economic mobility both for business owners and for workers. Georgia has more than 1.1 million small businesses, which account for 99.6% of all Georgia businesses. Approximately 1.7 million Georgians are employed by small businesses, and that is nearly 43% of Georgia’s employees. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, we need a governor who understands the barriers to small business success and is willing to invest in scaling our economy starting here.
- Small Business Capital Growth Fund: Invest $10 million in small business financing programs that do not duplicate existing, hard-to-use programs and help grow customers and commerce. Develop partnerships with private lenders and CDFIs to multiply investments, and support technical assistance and training programs to help business owners start, grow and scale their companies. Incentivize greater private sector financial support by directing the Department of Banking and Finance to evaluate banks’ activities in terms of outreach, financial investment, and participation in technical assistance programs.
- Entrepreneurship Learner’s Permit: Establish incubation program through the Georgia Department of Economic Development to assist individuals seeking to form new businesses in the state. This program would support first-time entrepreneurs by providing waivers for filing, permitting or licensing fees associated with the formation of new businesses and provide education and training for prospective permit holders and current permit holders.
- Georgia Commercial Investment Program: Use Georgia’s purchasing power to support small businesses, including those owned by women, people of color, veterans, the disabled and those in rural areas, by directing the Department of Administrative Services to establish and monitor targets for purchasing by all state agencies.
- Georgia Supplier Diversity Initiative: Direct all state agencies, when procuring goods and services, to actively seek out and support new suppliers owned by groups that are underrepresented in business ownership, including women, people of color, veterans, and the disabled. Require major state contractors to implement their own programs to encourage supplier diversity.
- Georgia Commercial Investment Program: Use Georgia’s purchasing power to support small businesses by directing the Department of Administrative Services to establish and monitor targets for purchasing by all state agencies. Provide technical assistance to small businesses to help them secure and fulfill state purchasing contracts.
Georgia must continue to invest in a range of transportation services across the state. Improving transportation is a critical component to strengthen our state’s economy. It is a key driver of social and economic mobility for business owners, workers and families.
- Enhance Capacity for Growth in Transportation: Invest in transit through bonding capacity; grant general fund incentives where appropriate; and include transit as a permitted use of motor fuel taxes, without sacrificing our current efforts on roads, bridges and economic development projects.
- Expand transportation options: Promote economic development and connect more people to job opportunities by investing in long-distance passenger rail lines. Partner with local communities to expand and coordinate commuter rail and bus networks, particularly in rural transit deserts.
- Build Infrastructure: Invest in transportation infrastructure that workers and businesses need to succeed throughout Georgia, especially in areas that are currently underserved.
- Increase Accessible Transportation Options: Champion more reliable, efficient non-emergency transportation to ensure seniors, disabled people and others can get to medical appointments, school and work. Promote local efforts to launch volunteer driver programs.
As Georgia’s next governor, I will prioritize access to childcare and education for all children – no matter who they are or where they live. A strong early start and fully funded public education are fundamental to building a state where every family has the freedom and opportunity to thrive.
Children in Georgia currently lag behind on a variety of metrics, including access to services and graduation rates. Our children deserve support from cradle to career, which begins with a high-quality education that gives them opportunities to reach their dreams. Georgia has the resources to expand access to childcare and pre-k, fully fund education and expand HOPE grants, but those currently in power refuse to do the right thing.
We are ready to imagine more for our children than simply an adequate education and we are ready to elect leaders committed to making excellence a reality.
Birth to 4 – Childcare and Pre-K
Our commitment to education should begin with a focus on birth to three, the early stages of childcare and pre-kindergarten. Providing high-quality, affordable child care to all families is one of the most important investments we can make to enable parents to fulfill their potential and to prepare all children to be skilled, well-rounded and civic-minded citizens in the future. According to the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, the average annual cost of infant care in Georgia is $7,644, an amount that leaves many parents feeling as if affordable child care is out of reach. Without affordable child care, many parents will not be able to enter or remain in the workforce. Likewise, universal pre-k aids children with the skills and tools they need to begin school ready to learn, acclimate and succeed.
- Bold Start Scholarship Program: Invest in statewide access to childcare, especially in low-income communities to ensure that all families can access quality and affordable child care. A Bold Start Scholarship Program will pay all child care costs that exceed 10 percent of a family’s income.
- Increase Supply of High-quality Child Care: Decrease staff shortages by expanding tax credits for child care workers, partnering with financial institutions and technical assistance organizations to support new child care businesses and targeting underserved rural areas and nontraditional hours by working with community-based agencies and local nonprofits. Address childcare deserts by pulling down all available federal funds to fully fund child care.
- Support Families with Increased Paid Parental Leave: Strengthening families starts with early investment. Currently, Georgia’s state employees are eligible for only up to three weeks (120 hours) of paid parental leave per year after the birth or adoption of a child. Increased paid time off will help improve healthy development and maternal health, while enhancing economic security.
- Universal Georgia Pre-K: Fully fund Georgia Pre-K, a highly sought after and effective program, to make it truly universal and accessible to all families that want to participate.
K-12 Public Education
Education is one of the strongest predictors of economic success – both for individuals and for the state’s economy. Georgia ranks 30th in the nation for preschool and K-12 education. Yet, the current governor has failed to lead on education before and during the pandemic. He gutted education funding early in his tenure and cut nearly one billion dollars from education last year. This year, his current proposal restored little more than half of what he cut and was funded by federal investment. This one-time infusion of federal funds leaves a massive hole in the state’s education funding promise to its children. Georgia must reverse the impact of this negligence by investing in the needs of the whole child from cradle to career – and our investment must extend beyond the walls of a classroom to meet the needs of the whole child.
- Update and Fully Fund Georgia’s Quality Basic Education Formula: The QBE formula has not been revised to meet the changing needs of students, families and communities. Georgia must adopt a comprehensive education funding formula that not only pays our teachers well but must address new realities: directly addresses the correlation between poverty and poor educational outcomes, invests in student transportation to ensure safety, provides resources for crucial positions like nurses and substitute teachers and invests in technology to enable our children to compete in the 21st Century.
- Establish Permanent Teacher Pay Increases: While our current governor issues incremental and inadequate raises to teachers at public events, he has failed to put in place a sustainable funding structure to attract talented educators to Georgia. 1 in 4 teachers are considering leaving their profession because of new and longtime challenges. Our teachers, paraprofessionals and staff deserve competitive wages and investment, not further threats to resources in an effort to divide Georgians for political gain. Schools must have enough funding to promote excellent working conditions for teachers and faculty while paying teachers for the essential work they do to educate Georgia’s children.
- Establish the Georgia Educator Pipeline Project: Invest in leadership development for our schools’ administrators and facilitate the creation of a robust pipeline of teachers who are ready to work in every part of the state. We will build these pipelines in partnership with our state’s colleges offering degrees in education and provide incentives like student loan repayment programs for those willing to educate children in underserved areas. I will expand resources for the Governor’s School Leadership Academy to enhance its ability to provide a comprehensive and equitable system of support and build capacity for Georgia educators.
- End Public School Dollar Diversion Programs: Public dollars should go to public schools. I will oppose private school tax credits and vouchers.
- Increase Presence of Mental Health Professionals: Provide student and educator mental health funding to add school counselors for all students as well as access to telemedicine and other innovative programming for mental health supports. The American School Counselor Association recommends a minimum of one counselor per 250 students. Georgia’s ratio is currently 1 counselor per 432 students, a ratio far too high.
- Defend Complete and Honest Education: Reject attempts to teach children misinformation in the public school system. Our children deserve a complete and honest education without threats to school funding. Some topics like slavery, segregation or the Trail of Tears are difficult, but our children must be given age-appropriate lessons and context. Parents and teachers should take part in these conversations; however, no school should face sanctions for teaching an accurate history of this nation or for preparing our children for the diverse world in which they live. As governor, I will oppose policies that drive a wedge between educators and families, and I will support programs that build trust and increase collaboration between those who are most engaged in our children’s success.
- Eliminate Harmful Waivers: As of 2015, school systems can be granted “waivers” from state education laws, rules and guidelines, effectively giving local school districts veto power over the Georgia General Assembly’s policies on public education. These waivers allow districts to disregard state laws pertaining to class size maximums, health and P.E., teacher certification requirements and more, which negatively impacts the quality of public education in Georgia. As governor, I will re-examine the waiver policy to eliminate harmful waivers and ensure that any permitted waivers provide local flexibility without compromising the quality public education Georgia’s children deserve.
- Support Our Children: Oppose any legislation that will have the effect of harming or increasing the likelihood of harm to students. For example, according to the CDC, 35% of transgender students attempt suicide by the time they reach high school. Transgender and nonbinary youth who have access to a gender-affirming space at school – like a supportive sports team – are 25% less likely to attempt suicide over the course of a year.
- Increase Funding and Supports for Disadvantaged and Marginalized Students: Provide solutions that meet individual needs, including supports for ESL learners, students of color, disabled children and low-income students.
Post-Secondary and Higher Education
In Georgia, higher education investment must expand to create pathways to every level of post-secondary education, and we must provide access to aid for all students. Georgia must do more to increase educational opportunities beyond high school and help students graduate from any public program of their choice without debt.
- Fully Fund the College Need-Based Aid Program: Georgia is one of two states with no funding for need-based aid, despite having an existing mechanism that the current governor has refused to fund. This funding will ensure that our students – regardless of the educational path they choose or the financial challenges they face – will have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and graduate without debt.
- Restore Tuition-Free Technical College: Georgia’s technical colleges play a vital role for many students by emphasizing career-focused, hands-on training in trades and technical skills. As governor, I will work to make technical college accessible to more Georgians, by restoring tuition-free technical certificates and diplomas for students with a 2.0 GPA. Additionally, I will work with the Technical College System of Georgia to ensure funding aligns with strategic priorities for the years ahead and is available for technical colleges to attract students.
- Restore Academic Tenure: Recent actions by the Georgia Board of Regents to eliminate academic tenure have severely undermined our public universities. As governor, I will restore protections for the talented and dedicated faculty of Georgia’s colleges and universities by restoring tenure. Academic tenure builds a system of strong job protections that is essential to Georgia’s ability to compete for talent and produce innovation.
- Eliminate Barriers to Higher Education: I will support programs that increase higher education opportunities for Georgians experiencing barriers to access, including foster youth, students of color, disadvantaged youth, first-generation college students, disabled students, DREAMers, adult learners, veterans and military families.
- Invest in Georgia’s HBCUs and HSIs: My administration will invest in our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, both public and independent, in support of their service to Georgia students. Through our reforms to HOPE, more students at our public HBCUs will have the economic ability to complete their education. Likewise, as our Latino population grows, we will support our Hispanic Serving Institutions. We will explore how to partner with independent colleges and universities for summer bridge programs that aid students, particularly first-generation college students, in transitioning from high school to college.
- Protect Our Students: I will promote campus environments that are safe, secure and responsive. We will repeal campus carry, provide greater training for campus police and encourage productive dialogue between law enforcement and our students to address their safety concerns. We will support survivors of sexual assault by working to identify gaps in protections, reporting processes and services. We will defend the rights of DREAMers as they pursue their educational goals.
All Georgians deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare services to support their physical and mental well-being and to have financial security. During the pandemic, more than 30,000 Georgians have died from Covid complications, and thousands more have been temporarily or permanently disabled. The mental health impact of Covid and the stress of the pandemic continue to affect nearly every community. The share of Georgia adults who reported increased anxiety or depression spiked by 30% in 2021, yet we have 143 mental health care providers for every 100,000 people in Georgia. Our rural health care delivery system, already fragile due to Georgia’s failure to expand Medicaid, has been stretched even further by the Covid pandemic, and our rural communities are reeling. In Hancock County, one out of every 100 people has died from Covid complications.
While Covid has ravaged our state, other health care issues have continued. Georgia leads much of the nation in the number of uninsured, a terrible ranking with real consequences. Our state’s children are also in jeopardy: About four-in-ten of our counties have NO general pediatricians. Additionally, about half of our counties have no Ob/Gyns and about half have no psychiatrists. The geographic, racial and ethnic disparities that Georgians experience every day in our state are stark, documented and unacceptable. Georgia has been called the most dangerous state for pregnant women because of our high maternal mortality rates, particularly for Black mothers.
The burden of chronic disease falls unevenly in our state: Black people are dying from complications from diabetes at more than twice the rate of white people. These disparities stem from inequities in health coverage and access to care, but also from poverty and lack of access to nutritious foods, safe and stable housing and reliable transportation. Georgia’s continued inaction on Medicaid expansion is a catastrophe for our families, our communities, our under-resourced public health and our overworked hospital systems.
As governor, I will work every day to directly address our state’s health outcomes, strengthen our state’s health care delivery system and increase access to meaningful health coverage for all Georgians.
Georgia is one of only 12 states that has refused to expand Medicaid. More than 1.5 million Georgians lack health insurance coverage and our uninsured rate is the second-highest in the nation. When we expand Medicaid, more than 500,000 additional Georgians will have access and be able to see a health care provider without fear of medical debt, more than 60,000 new jobs will be generated in our local economies and more rural hospitals will be able to keep their doors open.
Establish Georgia’s Health Equity Action Team
Georgians face a maze of state agencies, private providers and insurance regulations when they simply want to get well. Our action team will cut through the red tape to improve the health and well-being of all Georgians. I will also require the health plans doing business with the state to identify and address health care disparities in access and outcomes within the populations they serve.
Increase Health Care Worker Development and Retention
Health care workers are experiencing burnout, depression and anxiety. Since February 2020, the health care industry is down 306,000 jobs nationwide. More than half of acute and critical care nurses are thinking about leaving the profession, exacerbating existing nursing shortages. We must address chronic and new health care worker staffing shortages as well as burnout in the health care profession and recruit and retain health care providers in our rural communities. I will also re-invest in our state’s public health infrastructure and grow our network of community health workers, doulas, home-visiting service providers and peer support specialists to help Georgians get connected to and use the health care, behavioral health and social services they need to be healthy and productive.
Create Covid Outreach Protocol
Ensure that treatment is accessible and affordable for the thousands of families with loved ones in nursing homes or otherwise in treatment for Long Covid. Also work with the state’s attorney general to ensure federal anti-discrimination laws are enforced in cases when Long Covid becomes a disability.
Create Covid Long-term Recovery Plan
Produce and regularly update a science-based, real-world-informed, transparent plan for how we address the long-term transition from pandemic to endemic Covid in our schools, businesses and public entities. The pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives: we have experienced profound loss, trauma and disruptions to our health care system, workplaces, financial circumstances, schools and communities. These effects will not disappear by declaring Covid over. We must monitor and respond to the known and unforeseen consequences of a once-a-century health crisis.
Defend Reproductive Rights
Defend the rights of women and families to make healthcare decisions, and the rights of doctors to provide care. Ensure that all Georgians have access to the health care they need, including reproductive health care. Expand Medicaid to address Georgia’s maternal and infant mortality crises.
Military Families and Veterans Support
Georgia is home to thirteen military installments, nearly two million military family members, and one of America’s most robust veteran populations. Georgia must keep our nation’s promises to them, and we must ensure that their skills and experiences are properly valued as a vital part of our state and our economy.
Improve Transitions from Service to School and Career
Many service members finish their service and need added resources to transition to civilian life; the “A Promise Kept” initiative was an important first step, but more must be done to support these transitions.
Georgia Veterans Work Opportunity Tax Credit
Incentivize employers to hire veterans and count experience gained while in the military towards pay scale and position.
Georgia Veterans Higher Ed Initiative
Continue to decrease barriers for veterans to pursue higher education by providing dedicated veteran support staff at every college and university, more credit transfer opportunities and additional financial support.
End Veteran Homelessness
End veteran homelessness in Georgia through a federal, state and nonprofit joint venture to quickly identify veterans without homes, veterans on housing waiting lists and at-risk veterans to connect them to permanent, affordable housing and supportive services.
Protect Our Defenders Act
Secure comprehensive legislation to support our veterans on issues ranging from predatory lending, suicide prevention, inadequate healthcare, and post-deployment poverty.
Create the Office of Military Inclusion
Tackle challenges facing veterans of color, women veterans and LGBTQ+ veterans by coordinating specialized outreach efforts and addressing the health, housing, education, employment and legal challenges of these communities.
We must build and preserve an environment in our state that recognizes how vital clean air and water are to our lives and our economy, that anticipates the increase in extreme weather events and its effect on Georgia families, and that leads in the transition to renewable energy while creating jobs and new industries. My environmental action plan will generate significant job growth through advanced energy generation, innovative technologies and energy efficiency efforts. We will train and retrain workers for good-paying jobs in advanced energy sectors, and we will coordinate state and local action and develop public-private partnerships for greater impact across the state to implement advanced energy solutions.
Create New Jobs from Manufacturing to Coding
Advanced energy creates career pathways from the entry-level to high-skilled across fields and sectors, including initial estimates of 25,000-40,000 jobs. Georgia will expand access to well-paying careers in manufacturing, system design, project development, construction, installation and operations – all critical to an advanced energy economy. The manufacturing-intensive advanced energy industry promotes work for engineers, machinists, coders and installers, but also administrators, accountants, truck drivers, sales force and a range of other occupations.
Develop a Environmental Tech Workforce
Workforce training, apprenticeships and partnerships with labor and educational institutions will ensure opportunities exist for all workers, and Georgia will follow best practices to ensure women and under-represented groups participate.
Ensure Equitable Regional Investment
Advanced energy jobs can be developed across the state of Georgia. Already, places like Mitchell County and Tybee Island have leveraged advanced energy to create new jobs and opportunities through solar, and Georgia’s successful timber industry has created a sustainable market for biomass. Hydro, wind, solar and biomass energy have economic impact across the state, and with collaboration and focus, these energy sources can become engines of prosperity for more Georgians.
Eliminate Fees and Lower Utility Costs
Georgia will increase ease of adoption of solar and clean energy sources, which can lower the cost of utilities for the average user. By state law, Georgia allows financing for property owners who may use loans for energy efficiency improvements and make payments on the loan through property tax assessments, but implementation has lagged. Georgia will work with local governments to increase the energy efficiency opportunities for Georgians.
Green Savings Plan for Taxpayers
Georgia will adopt green government initiatives that foster energy efficiency and reduce waste, which will not only create jobs but also save taxpayer dollars. Simple actions like updating building codes, examining power grids and shifting to purchasing clean energy vehicles can amount to savings for taxpayers. We will also increase energy efficiency throughout Georgia by offering financial incentives for meeting high public construction energy standards.
Conduct Georgia Green-Mapping Project for Investors
From wind and hydro opportunities in North Georgia, to biomass in South Georgia and solar capacity across the state, advanced energy innovation uses natural resources in a sustainable manner. Farmers and timberland owners have already begun to use existing landholdings for access to solar farms, and with the right partnerships, Georgia can more effectively utilize our varied topography.
Establish the Georgia Green Development Bank
Seed private investment, set attainable renewable energy targets for our electric utilities, target tax credits towards advanced energy generation and work with all interested local communities to streamline the adoption of solar and advanced energy power projects to create 25,000 jobs.
Expand Georgia’s Carbon Sequestration Registry
Systematically enroll all appropriate state properties in concert with private market investors. The public share of its financial proceeds will be applied to meeting green development goals statewide.
Activate Georgia’s Youth Conservation Corps
Invest in and leverage this program for training and employment in residential energy efficiency implementation and working with our state’s utilities to explore opportunities to modernize our electric power grid.
Protect Our Water Supply
Pursue legislative and regulatory solutions to toxic coal ash waste by requiring safe storage of coal ash, engage in continuous monitoring of all such toxic storage sites for leaks, and immediately provide alternative water supplies and groundwater remediation when leaks occur.
Protect Our People Initiative
Direct Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division to take action to protect Georgians from dangerous toxins in our environment, to define a protocol to address “forever chemicals” dumped in North Georgia and in the Ogeechee River and set a firm timetable for final remediation of the state’s inventory of hazardous sites. Also budget for state agencies to address commercial, industrial and agricultural waste.
Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform
Under Governor Nathan Deal’s administration, Georgia made important strides to reform our justice system and protect public safety. The reforms were propelled by the acknowledgement that (1) we were paying an enormous price tag for a system that was not giving us the results we needed and (2) we can and must do better to achieve real justice. The reforms resulted in not only an overall decline in our prison population, but also a 30% decrease in the number of Black people incarcerated over the 8-year period. Additionally, the number of youth in secure confinement and secure detention fell by more than a third and 11%, respectively.
However, the work was far from complete when Governor Deal left office. And regrettably, over the last four years, the neglect of the system has resulted in serious consequences. Georgia’s incarceration rate– 968 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities) – is one of the highest in the nation, and higher than any country in the world. We lead the nation with our probation rate, more than triple the national average and nearly double the number of the second-ranked state.
Tragically, these numbers corresponded to increased violence for Georgians under the current administration. Gun violence and homicides have increased dramatically between 2019-2020 in urban, suburban and rural areas. Georgia’s prisons have deteriorated to the point that a comprehensive investigation has been launched by the US Department of Justice. The dangerous working conditions inside Georgia prisons are resulting in our state’s corrections officers leaving the system in droves.
Brian Kemp is proposing $600M to “improve” old prisons currently. We cannot build or buy our way out of this predicament. Now is the time to hold those who have committed crimes accountable and prioritize public safety, but we must also make strategic interventions to reduce our prison population to avoid creating cycles of recidivism.
Our reforms will be data-driven and evidence-based, but also experience-based— we need to learn from the lived experience of families across this state to ensure more of our fellow Georgians can be part of our economy rather than part of our justice system.
Mandate Standard Minimum Salary for Law Enforcement
Establish and fund a standard minimum salary for all law enforcement, not a $1,000 one-time bonus. Trust between communities and law enforcement is essential and has suffered.. Law enforcement must know that they are valued and they should be able to live in the areas they serve. To change our future, we must acknowledge the disproportionate impact of the criminal legal system on communities of color throughout Georgia’s past.
Renew the Criminal Justice Reform Council
Reignite our commitment to doing better for all Georgians by building upon the bipartisan work of Governor Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Council. Convene stakeholders from across the criminal justice spectrum to enact evidence-based solutions and rebuild a system that works effectively for all, is more just and builds safer communities.
Update POST Training and Increase Transparency
Collaborate with the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council to develop law enforcement training standards that help de-escalate violence, improve engagement with vulnerable populations and reduce the need for use of force. Transparent law enforcement policies foster trust and build the relationships that make our communities safer.
Decrease Barriers to Successful Reentry
A key component of successful reentry is supporting people who remain crime-free after returning to their community in moving on to a better lives. 4.2 million Georgians (over 1/3 of the state’s population) have a criminal record. People with criminal records can find themselves blocked from housing, employment, education and other opportunities for the rest of their lives. This can be done through restricting access or clearing old criminal records, a process that Georgia has started in recent years but has further to go. Enacting “clean slate” legislation would offer automatic criminal record clearing once someone remains crime-free for a set period of time. Five states have already implemented these policies, including Virginia in 2021.
Poverty should not be a condition of justice, and we can change these outcomes by eliminating private probation, improving pre-trial services and supervision, increasing diversion programs and accountability courts (like veterans’ courts and drug courts) and providing for civil penalties rather than criminal penalties for certain traffic and low-level drug offenses.
Restore Slashed Funding to Diversion Programs
Diverting at-risk youth at an early age can prevent their entrance into the juvenile justice system. A strong investment in prevention and early intervention programs, particularly for at-risk youth in undeserved communities, makes kids and communities safer.
As founder of multiple organizations promoting and protecting the right to vote, I have demonstrated a commitment to a strong democracy in Georgia and beyond. Every eligible Georgian should have the ability to register to vote, to cast a ballot and to have that ballot properly recorded – without systematic barriers. As governor, I will prioritize voting rights as essential to democracy and effective government. I will leverage both administrative authority and advocate for legislation to accomplish the following:
Improved Voter Registration Practices and Proper Safeguards
Georgians who are eligible to vote but who did not have an opportunity to register should be able to register and vote on Election Day with proper safeguards. We will ensure conventional paper voter registration applications are processed within 20 days of receipt. We will prioritize top-level security investment for all voting infrastructure, including voter registration systems
Support Counties and Ensure Voting is Convenient
We will make sure counties have the training, resources and flexibility needed to serve their voters and work with the Secretary of State to provide consistency for voters across 159 counties. Voting in Georgia must be made more accessible by mandating fair allocation of polling places and polling place resources during early voting and on Election Day. Polling locations must be stable, convenient and equitable to voters. We will invest in mobile voting precincts to assist seniors, disabled Georgians and Georgians voting in areas with long wait times. Postage for mail ballots should be free.
End Arbitrary Rejection of Ballots
Votes must count if they are cast in a voter’s county – just as is the practice during early voting periods. Mail ballots must count if they are postmarked up to and including Election Day.
Stop Gerrymandering at State and Local Level
I will veto maps with gerrymandered districts, whether state legislative or Congressional. Moreover, we must end the practice of state interference and restore local control in local elections.