2020 Legislative Update: Budget, DeKalb Ethics, Red-Flag Support

I hope you and your loved ones are staying warm and dry! The General Assembly is not in session this week, giving me a chance to send you an update on what we’ve seen so far after legislative days 1–4.

Gov. Kemp’s Proposed Budget

Last week, we received Gov. Kemp’s 400-page proposed budget, and the Appropriations Committee has been holding hearings throughout this week to hear from state agency heads on the impacts. As we learn more about the various cuts Gov. Kemp has proposed, one thing has already caused me great concern: a fundamental shift in Georgia’s criminal justice policy.

You can read more about this in today’s AJC, but here’s the gist: although countless studies over the past several decades have shown that a thoughtless, tough-on-crime approach never works, Gov. Kemp intends to rollback many of the bipartisan criminal-justice reforms made under the last administration. Kemp’s budget would cut funding for treatment programs for nonviolent offenders, cut funding for public defenders, and call for increased incarceration, which will require significant increases of tax dollars for prisons. To put it mildly, this shift in policy makes no sense and is wrong, and I intend to fight it.

Vast Majority of Georgians Support my Red-Flag Bill

Did you see the AJC’s recent poll? It contained some great news78% of Georgians support a red-flag law like the one I filed last sessionHB 435. I am continuing to advocate for a committee hearing this session so that legislators can see how much consensus exists among the general public for this commonsense solution.

Despite this overwhelming support among Georgians, Republicans continue to live in a state of denial, refusing to acknowledge the epidemic of gun violence in our communities and blocking attempts at commonsense reforms. Just last week, several Republicans actually introduced an “anti-red flag law” proposal that would––get this––prosecute law enforcement officers who attempt to carry out a lawful court order. Their proposal is not only disgraceful, it is dangerous. Georgians have demanded that we do something and HB 435 is a commonsense solution, so I won’t stop forcing the issue with my Republican colleagues until we pass the bill.

DeKalb Ethics Update

Next Wednesday, the DeKalb House Delegation will meet for the first time this session and will take up my bill that provides a “clean-fix” to get the Board of Ethics back up and running. I have been working hard since November’s election to gather support among my colleagues to tackle this issue early during the session, showing DeKalb voters that we heard them loud and clear when they voted down Senate Bill 7 by a whopping 61 percent in November. I look forward to providing you a positive update after next Wednesday’s initial hearing.  

Progress on Banning Conversion Therapy

Over the past week, we have seen great progress in other states on banning conversion therapy. On Tuesday, Utah became one of the most conservative states in the country to ban the practice, the 19th state to do so. Also this week, a similar bill passed out of the Virginia Senate and is expected to soon pass out of the friendly House of Delegates, with Virginia likely to become the 20th state to ban the harmful practice.

We are making great progress here in Georgia with my bill, HB 580. We had a very successful committee hearing last year that set the stage for us to move the bill this session. I have requested another committee hearing in the coming weeks so that we can get a vote on my bill and hopefully move it to the House floor. I look forward to keeping you updated on this bill.

Come Visit the Capitol

I hope you will come visit us at the Capitol sometime during session. I have included my Capitol contact information below. Please let me know if you plan to be there at some point—I’d love to see you while you are there.

Thank you for reading and remaining engaged!

Yours in service,
Matthew