End of Session is Drawing Near!

Senator Elena Parent
The Parent Press

We're in the home stretch of the legislative session! Tuesday is the 39th day of the session, and Thursday is Sine Die. Stay tuned one week for an update on what bills will be moving forward to the Governor's desk!

Want to know more about what's been going on the last couple weeks? Read on...

Georgia Tech's 2018 Women's Leadership Conference

I was excited and honored to speak at Georgia Tech's 2018 Women's Leadership Conference earlier this month. During my presentation, "Run Like A Girl," I spoke about what inspired me to run for public office and what steps we, as a community, can take to inspire and support other women to run for office as well. I was pleased to see so many determined and passionate young women at the conference!

Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill May Still Pose a Threat...

SB 475 is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, but we might still see that language pop up in another bill. House Judiciary Chairman, Wendell Willard has stated that he will not bring SB 452 up for a hearing in committee. However, the language of that bill could easily be attached to another bill as we move toward Sine Die. I will keep a watchful eye on the legislation that moves forward this week to ensure that I flag and vote against any effort to include this harmful and discriminatory language.

Hidden Predator Act Passes Out of Committee After Extensive Debate

HB 605 passed out of Committee last week and is likely headed toward the Senate Floor. This bill, if passed, would expand the rights of victims of sexual abuse to sue for civil damages. This bill passed unanimously in the House but has faced considerable pushback in the Senate over the course of the past week. I expected to hear testimony and debate on this bill during last Wednesday's Judiciary Committee meeting, as did many individuals who came down to the Capitol to speak in favor of the bill. After waiting for over 90 minutes, we learned the meeting would not take place. At least not in the way it was planned. Read more about that here.

Though the bill ultimately passed during the rescheduled Judiciary meeting last Thursday, it did so with multiple amendments, creating a weaker version than what initially passed through the House. I expect to see a lot of debate on this bill when it comes to the floor. For more information on the bill, check out this article.

Distracted Driving Bill:

HB 673, which has been endorsed by Nathan Deal, also passed out of the Judiciary Committee meeting that took place yesterday. This bill aims to make Georgia's roads and highways safer by prohibiting motorists from using cell phones or any electronic device while driving. This bill has generated a lot of discussion on both sides. Those in favor argue that this measure will be instrumental in lowering fatalities, accidents and traffic problems on our state's roadways, while those against this law contend that it is an intrusion on freedom and will be hard to enforce. Read more about this bill here.

I support moving to hands-free communication while driving. The number of traffic problems, accidents and deaths due to drivers distracted by cellphones and other media devices has skyrocketed and needs to be curbed.

Senate Bill 423 and Annexation

As some of you are aware, the recent annexation of DeKalb into City of Atlanta have raised concerns about the effect of annexation on local school systems. This became more heated after Emory annexed into the City of Atlanta, taking with it between 5 and 9 students and $2.5 million dollars of tax revenue a year. Atlanta does not want the boundaries of the city and school systems to differ and DeKalb, which has less money available to spend per student than Atlanta does, worries about losing resources and instability for its system.

As a representative of both Atlantic Public Schools and DeKalb County Schools (as well as City Schools of Decatur), I have worked to ensure that we can find a compromise that will satisfy both systems. I've participated in conversations with both parties. SB 423 aims to create that compromise by separating municipal annexation from school annexation unless such annexation is supported by a popular vote and ratified by the state, or agreed upon by the school districts affected. Read more about SB 423 here.

I presented SB 423 to the Senate State & Local Government Operations committee, but no vote was taken, so that legislation will not advance this year. In its stead, a resolution has been introduced by all of the Senators representing DeKalb and all of the Senators representing Atlanta to continue the discussion over the interim. It is our hope that the systems will come to an amicable agreement among themselves, but if they do not, we will help them resolve the dispute. Read the Senate study committee resolution here.

Senate Releases Proposed $26 Billion Budget for Upcoming Fiscal Year

The Senate has released the proposed budget which provides money for Georgia's teacher pension system, for improving rural parts of the state, and $3 million in grants for cities and counties to use toward boosting local police pay. The Senate rejected the House's proposal to give retirees from state government employees a one-time bonus of up to $900, which I am hopeful can be restored because they have not had a cost-of-living increase in many years. The House and Senate must come to an agreement on the spending plan by March 29th. The agreement will lay out the budget for the 2019 Fiscal Year which begins on July 1st. I am still disappointed that we passed a deep tax cut earlier this year that threatens future budget items.

As always, I am thankful for the opportunity to represent you at the State Capitol. Stay tuned for a save-the-date for my end of session Town Hall!

Sincerely, Elena