Week 10 of the 2021 Georgia Legislative Session is officially in the books, and we are moving quickly towards Sine Die, our final session day of the year.
The Senate has had lots of legislation to consider over the past two weeks, especially last Monday, which was Crossover Day. Crossover Day was the deadline for the Senate to hear and vote on Senate-originated bills, and we will spend the remainder of the session deciding which pieces of House legislation we will send to the governor’s desk. The work can be difficult, but as I walk through the Capitol each day, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have the opportunity to represent my constituents and be a voice for progression and inclusion.
With this in mind, I am proud to continue my dedication to Black Georgians by co-sponsoring Senate Bill 90, which passed in the Senate last week. SB 90 would create the Georgia Commission on African American History and Culture. The new commission will be in charge of collecting and preserving pieces of Georgia’s Black History with the purpose of educating the public. It will also take the lead on breaking ground on a statewide Museum of Georgia African American History and Culture. Georgia has been an epicenter of African American history in the United States, and I believe it is our duty to have the state come together to honor the legacy of the many great Black figures from Georgia.
Further, I was glad to have the opportunity to support Senate Bills 225 and 237 on the Senate floor this week. Both bills would create new license plates to honor veterans for their service. Senate Bill 225, which I co-sponsored, focuses on honoring veterans who served in the military for an ally of the United States during a war. The plates recognize those who fought in different wars, such as the Korean War or the Vietnam War. Senate Bill 237 creates a specialty license plate to support members of the United States Army Rangers. Sales will be dispersed by the National Ranger Memorial Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization supporting our Rangers. Though these bills may seem like simple pieces of legislation, I have no doubt that they will hold great meaning for our state’s veterans.
In my last column, I mentioned that the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, of which I am chairwoman, gathered to speak out against the multitude of restrictive election-related bills that have been introduced into our chamber this year. As you may already be aware, many of these bills have passed through the Senate, including Senate Bill 241. This bill will change nearly every aspect of the way we currently run elections in Georgia. Some of the alterations include ending no-excuse absentee voting and permitting removal of local elections officials at the will of the State Election Board.
This bill, along with the others that passed, will only make voting more difficult in our state — including for the very constituents who voted for the senators supporting these pieces of legislation. However, it is not lost on me that low-income communities, minority communities and essential workers will feel the harshest consequences of this bill. In a disguised attempt to “fix” our voting system, we have only created new paths of disenfranchisement for voters whose voices already often go unheard. I hear these voices: those of people who can’t afford to take time off of work to vote and those who lack transportation to a polling place. I will amplify your voices and continue the fight for equality for all Georgians, regardless of class, gender or color.
We also had the honor to receive Chief Justice Harold Melton’s final State of the Judiciary address on Tuesday in a joint session with the House. Having served on the Supreme Court as chief justice for the past three years, he discussed the special challenges that COVID-19 has posed for the court system over the past year. He made sure to emphasize that now is the time for all citizens to come together under law, listen to one another and find ways to support each other through the remainder of the pandemic.
The Senate will convene for three legislative days this week, and I have no doubt that we will remain busier than ever as we approach Sine Die. As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you, please reach out to my office. Thank you for allowing me to serve District 43.