During this long and historic legislative session, Georgia House Democrats dealt with issues that affect Georgians most.
Criminal Justice Reform
Since the last recession, the Republicans have introduced fiscal policies that have only exacerbated our economic woes. A decade later, we are faced with the consequences of those shortsighted policies. Instead of attempting to find new sources of revenue, Republicans have resorted to continuing their poor policies of cutting their way to the bottom.
Georgia Republicans have not attempted to find any source of revenue knowing back in the fall of 2019 that there would be a shortfall. The global pandemic further stressed Georgia’s budgetary issues.
The Georgia House Democratic Caucus has pointed out several options that would generate revenue. Without working to find sources of revenue, Republicans have shown that they believe cutting resources that serve our most vulnerable citizens is how our state should move forward. Republicans can enact revenue enhancements to generate $2.2 billion to help plug the hole in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget:
$700 million by tapping unused lottery funds;
$600 million by lifting Georgia's tobacco tax to the national average;
$500 million by trimming back $9.8 billion in annual, corporate tax giveaways;
$175 million by eliminating Georgia's "double deduction" for high-income earners;
$133 million by cutting state funding of private school "voucher" programs;
$60 million by eliminating an ineffective rural hospital tax credit in favor of Medicaid expansion;
$35 million by either cancelling the Delta jet-fuel tax credit or allowing it to expire;
Up to $75 million by cutting a rural - Georgia boondoogle for national financial firms;
$1.3 million by reversing a sales - tax exemption for yachts.
We should not try to make up for a decade of poor Republican fiscal policy on the backs of Georgia's most vulnerable. The budget is a moral document that outlines what our state's priorities are. Republicans trying to make cuts without attempting to find sources of revenue is unacceptable.
This year, we witnessed the unbearable tragedies of Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. The underlying causes of these murders have always existed in our society. But with tensions and frustrations at a high, our nation has no choice but to address why these injustices keep happening and to act to ensure they do not happen again.
Georgia was once the frontier of criminal justice reform. But that has changed recently. We have seen signature bonds eliminated, the budget for the Georgia Public Defender Council gutted, and crimes duplicated in the Georgia Code by Republicans.
Enough is enough. Georgians deserve a government that will fight to protect their inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
This past session, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus introduced a package of substantive criminal justice reform bills called “Justice For All.” The bills address issues such as accountability for District Attorneys, accountability for law enforcement agencies, and other issues that will work to ensure the public is being protected.
This package is only the start. But an important one. These measures speak to the core of combating the disparities that exist in the administration of criminal justice in Georgia. We cannot accept a system that only works for some. It only works when we have justice for all.
In 2010, President Obama’s signature piece of legislation became law. The Affordable Care Act helped thousands of Americans get healthcare coverage. However, Republicans strongly opposed this law and did everything to stop it. In a landmark Supreme Court case (National Federation of Independent Business et al v. Sebelius), the Court struck down the mandatory Medicaid eligibility expansion as unconstitutional. States were then left up to decide on their own if they would expand Medicaid.
Georgia is one of thirteen states that has not yet expanded Medicaid. In 2014, then Governor Deal gave the power to expand Medicaid to an overwhelmingly Republican Georgia General Assembly. They refused to do it citing that the state could not afford to expand Medicaid. A few years later, it became obvious that Georgia could not afford to not expand Medicaid.
Hospitals started to struggle; especially in rural Georgia where seven hospitals have closed over the past seven (7) years. For ever dollar the state spends on closing the coverage gap, Georgia would receive up to $9 in federal funding. Additionally, expanding Medicaid could create 56,000 jobs in Georgia and boost our economic output by $6.5 billion annually.
Republicans have constantly ignored the facts and have worked tirelessly to create new initiatives do not address the actual issue. With rural healthcare tax initiatives and Medicaid waivers, Republicans continue to kick the can down the road and offer solutions that do not address the core problem.
The Georgia House Democratic Caucus has always stood firmly in support of fully expanding Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid would cost the state less and cover Georgians in every corner of the state. We need stop putting politics over people and expand Medicaid today.
As we saw in the June primaries, Georgia is capable of expanding access to the ballot box for voters across the state. Over the past decade Republicans have enacted policies that serve to silence voters. Republicans enacted stricter ID laws, which made it difficult for people to get the ID that was required to vote. They also worked to restrict access to the polls by closing precincts or limiting the early vote period. Republicans also worked hard to kick people off the voter rolls if they were deemed “inactive” or if they “looked like duplicate names.”
During the 2018 election year, we learned that our outdated voting systems were vulnerable to hacking. This shook the core of election integrity and made the state reevaluate our elections systems.
Republicans decided that the best way to restore election integrity and security is to buy new voting machines that had a scannable QR code. We saw these new election systems in action in the June primary. The new machines crashed and lost power, resulting in voters spending hours to vote in person. Instead of taking responsibility and finding creative solutions, the Republican Secretary of State immediately placed the blame for the complete debacle of the June election squarely on local election officials. Georgia voters deserve leadership that will do better to preserve the integrity of the elections; not somebody who plays politics with the sacred and constitutional right to vote.
The Georgia House Democratic Caucus has always stood for expanding access to the ballot box. We have spent the past decade fighting bad legislation and proposing legislation that would allow voters to stay on the voter rolls even if they are deemed “inactive” and getting rid of the exact match laws.
Democracy only works when there is trust in the system and that there is access to that system. Republicans have spent the last decade weakening that democracy by making it harder for people to participate in the electoral process.