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Mary Margaret Oliver - State House 56
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October Email Legislative newsletter
10/7/2014
 

 
MMO interviewed on WABE on work of Welch Committee studying licensing and of child welfare agencies
8
 

 
MMo interviewed on WAGA on Boyer resignation
8/26/14
 

 
MMO interviewed on News 106.7 on Boyer resignation
8/26/14
 

 
MMO speaks at rally in favor of EPA proposal on carbon emmissions
July 30, 2014
 

 
MMO's Summer Legislative newsletter
July 9, 2014
 
HAPPY SUMMERTIME!!

PLEASE VOTE JULY 22ND! EARLY VOTING OPTIONS TOO!

Both the Democratic and Republican primaries from the May 20th election have important runoff elections on July 22, and you are free to vote early at the Memorial Drive Elections office up through July 18--PLEASE VOTE.

For those of you choosing a Democratic ballot, please consider supporting my endorsed candidates:

STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT -- VALARIE WILSON
Valerie is past Chair of the Decatur School Board and the statewide Georgia School Boards Association. She is an excellent education leader for Georgia.

DEKALB SHERIFF -- JEFF MANN
Jeff is the interim sheriff following the resignation of Thomas Brown who ran for Congress, and has done an excellent job running the jail and sheriff's office personnel.
He is a lawyer and former member of the county's legal counsel office.

FULTON SUPERIOR COURT -- JANE BARWICK
For Fulton County residents, there is a runoff for Superior Court, and Jane Barwick has
been voted most qualified by the Atlanta Bar members by a whopping majority.

If you have questions about any race on the July 22 ballot or my endorsed candidates, please email me anytime. mmo@mmolaw.com.

CITYHOOD UPDATE -- As you probably know, Briarcliff and Lakeside leaders are in active conversations and drawing new proposals for a combined new city in DeKalb County from the two previous proposals developed during the 2014 General Assembly Session. In part based on the decision of Emory University not to be a part of any new city, and the resulting obstacles for the Druid Hills and Fernbank neighborhoods to be included in Briarcliff, there is a recognition that a possible new city must be moved north of the Emory campus. There are many neighborhood discussions ongoing about these options and you are encouraged to participate.

SUMMER STUDY COMMITTEE -- I have been appointed by Speaker David Ralston to a study committee on child welfare residential service providers, and scheduled and public meetings will begin in August. You are welcome to attend, and all study committee calendars are listed on the Georgia General Assembly web site.

PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER!

THANK YOU!

MARY MARGARET OLIVER
HOUSE DISTRICT 82
ROOM 605 CLOB
mmo@mmolaw.com
404 377 0485 Law office in Decatur

 
MMO WABE interview on new DFCS leadership
June 18, 2014
 

 
MMO comments in AJC article about frequent leadership changes at DFCS
June 13, 2014
 
Governor ousts DFCS leader, changes agency’s approach

Updated: 9:19 p.m. Thursday, June 12, 2014 | Posted: 9:10 p.m. Thursday, June 12, 2014
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By Greg Bluestein, Alan Judd and Craig Schneider - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Gov. Nathan Deal ousted the head of Georgia’s child protection agency Thursday and instructed her successor to embark on a more aggressive approach to protecting children, which could send more children into foster care.

In a significant strategy change for the state Division of Family and Children Services, Deal said he has issued marching orders to reverse the “indoctrination” of caseworkers, who he said have been trained to focus more on keeping families together than protecting children.

Deaths Under Scrutiny

Boy’s death shines light on agency’s secrecy

DFCS ignored abuse history, closed case with no investigation

Several warning signs predated 10-year-old girl’s gruesome death

“There is a culture within DFCS that probably has not produced the best results,” Deal said of the focus on keeping families together. “While that is a laudable goal, I believe the more appropriate goal is the welfare of the child.”

The distinction speaks to the toughest decision a caseworker can make — whether to remove a child in danger of abuse or neglect into foster care, or to keep the child in a troubled household as the agency works to improve care.

Throughout the years, DFCS has swung its emphasis back and forth between these starkly different approaches, rarely finding the right balance.

Recent deaths again bring scrutiny to Georgia’s child welfare system

A dangerous life, mysterious death highlight child protection failures

Deal made clear the pendulum was on the move again.

His announcement drew mixed reactions from child welfare advocates. Some saw it as the correct action following the highly publicized deaths of two children and reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that agency mistakes contributed to at least 25 deaths in 2012.

“I applaud Gov. Nathan Deal for being proactive and recognizing the need for major changes in this agency,” said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.

Others expressed concerns that the shift was an election-year tactic that could introduce new troubles at the Division of Family and Children Services, such as an overwhelming spate of new cases and children drawn into foster care.

“Anybody can score points by saying, ‘I’m going to get tough and protect children,’” said Normer Adams, a child advocate for 30 years. He worried that the new policy fails to recognize the emotional trauma on children removed from their homes. “My fear is that families will be destroyed in the name of child safety.”

Deal said Bobby Cagle, who currently leads the state’s early care department, will replace DFCS Director Sharon Hill, who will take a job in the state budget agency.

The governor also said he would support legislation next year that would make it a criminal offense for parents who know they are facing a DFCS investigation to move without telling state authorities. Child welfare advocates said that this is a common tactic by parents trying to evade the agency, and that investigations frequently stall when a family leaves town without telling anyone.

A similar scenario played out in the recent death of 5-year-old Heaven Woods, said Pat Willis, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children. When DFCS intervened in the family’s life, the girl’s mother moved to another county without informing the agency, she said. The child died May 20 of blunt force trauma, and murder charges have been leveled against her mother, Amanda Hendrickson, and the mother’s boyfriend, Roderick Buckner.

DFCS has yet to release the case file on the family.

While some child advocates praised the prospect of tougher penalties, Willis questioned whether such a law would have much impact on parents desperate to escape the agency’s eyes.

The appointment of Cagle as interim DFCS director drew praise from advocates, even as many complimented his predecessor. Hill had the support of many in the child welfare community, and some saw her departure as merely part of the sweep of change.

At the same time, Hill has overseen an agency long in the spotlight of public criticism for its problems with child protection as well as a crisis in the management of the food stamp system that resulted in thousands of Georgians wrongfully losing benefits.

Cagle was tapped in January 2011 to lead the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, where he oversaw the state’s pre-kindergarten programs and rolled out new day care licensing rules. While his status at DFCS is interim, officials are eyeing him to assume the post permanently.

Deal said he instructed Cagle to be “more aggressive” in handling early signs of abuse. He said under past administrations, case workers have been sanctioned for not meeting a certain family reunification ratio.

“Governor Deal has charged me with assuring Georgia’s child welfare system is first and foremost laser-focused on the safety of our children,” Cagle said.

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, a longtime child advocate, praised Cagle’s work with young children and said he understands the need to balance the goal of protecting a child with that of keeping a family together.

However, Oliver worried about the “repetitive leadership changes” occurring at the helm of DFCS — an agency that regularly sees one leader replaced by another — saying it “creates a level of chaos when there’s a shuffling at the top.”

Deal’s ideas represent a shift of policies adopted during the administration of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, himself a former foster parent. Perdue had hired a get-tough DFCS director after the deaths of two 2-year-old boys, but that strategy resulted in a tremendous increase in caseloads and children taken into foster care.

In response, Perdue appointed B.J. Walker as social services commissioner, and she ordered DFCS caseworkers to leave as many children as possible in their homes.

From a statistical standpoint, Walker’s policies succeeded. From 2004 to 2010, the number of children in Georgia’s foster care system dropped from more than 14,000 to about 7,000. The shift away from foster care made a fiscal impact, as well. The state saved at least $120 million a year by halving the number of children in its care.

But an AJC investigation last year found that children suffered under the policies, known widely as “diversion.” The newspaper examined the cases of 86 children who died in 2012 despite DFCS intervention in their families. In 50 of those cases, the agency had provided family “preservation” or “support” or similar services that kept children at home and out of foster care.

Deal said Cagle will report directly to the governor’s office rather than to the commissioner of the Department of Human Services. Deal said further changes may come. He previously backed a plan to spend $27 million over the next three years to hire more than 500 caseworkers and supervisors for the agency.

Deal ruled out a special legislative session this year to create an autonomous child protection agency, but said he would back a proposal to make DFCS more independent if these changes succeed over the next six months. DFCS currently is part of the Human Services department.

“I think it’s a very distinct possibility,” he said. “We just want to see in the short-term whether it works better this way, and I think we’ll see that.”

 
MMO in AJC on expanding mandated reporters of child abuse to all
June 9, 2014
 
PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN
Deciding who reports abuse
Some are wary of push for all adults to become mandated informants.
By Craig Schneider cschneider@ajc.com
Let’s say your child’s friend repeatedly shows up at your door with bruises on his back and face. One day, you see his mother grab him hard and slap his face.
In about 18 states, the law would require you report your suspicion that the child was being abused. Georgia is not among them, but the idea surfaces periodically — especially after a child dies at the hands of an adult.
Time and again, a neighbor or relative acknowledges they saw danger signs but didn’t make the call. Take the case of 5-year-old Heaven Woods, who died last month of blunt force trauma to the abdomen: Family members recounted a string of mysterious injuries that the mother — now charged with murder — tried to explain away. A knot on the girl’s head, supposedly the result of a clumsy fall. Marks around her throat, supposedly self-inflicted.
Would Heaven and children like her be safer if every adult had a legal duty to report suspected neglect and abuse?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution probed the issue with law makers and child protection advocates and by reaching out to states that have adopted such laws. Overall, there was great enthusiasm for the concept but serious doubt that it works in practice.
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur isn’t afflicted with those doubts. “I believe children would be safer if everyone had the legal obligation to report child abuse,” she said.
But even Oliver, among the state’s leading child advocates, hesitated when asked if she planned to submit a bill. She still remembers the defeat she faced years ago when she pressed for such a law. It’s government going too far, opponents said. Parents have the right to discipline their kids, said others. The punishment my father doled out made me a better person, still others argued.
Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, another child advocate, said that while she is sympathetic to universal mandated reporting, she sees difficulties in crafting a law that would hold up in court. How would you prove a person’s negligence? Who would be witness to it? What would be the evidence?
“It sounds good, it’s just not practical,” Unterman said. In addition, she said, any measure of the sort would strike some lawmakers as government overstepping its role in people’s lives. “I don’t see it being passed in Georgia.”
Certain cases of child abuse and neglect are clear to see: the father who repeatedly hauls off and beats his child in public. But some instances can be subtle, with the damage inflicted out of public view. When you see a child with injuries, how do you know the cause? And if you err on the wrong side and don’t report it, should you end up in handcuffs?
Georgia’s existing mandated reporter law goes back decades. It has long covered doctors, teachers and many other professionals who work with children.
In 2012, after the Penn State scandal focused attention on adults who fail to report, lawmakers expanded the law to include sports coaches, clergy and volunteers for groups that work with children. Mandated reporters who fail to report suspected abuse within 24 hours face a misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Advocates point to the 14,000-plus reports filed in each recent year by school employees, guidance counselors and day care workers as evidence that a legal mandate works. But there have been few prosecutions of mandated reporters who failed in their legal duty — evidence, in the eyes of one Georgia child protection expert, that expanding the mandate to all adults would have scant impact.
“Educating and training the entire adult population about how to detect and report child abuse may not be feasible,” said Melissa Carter, executive director of Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Poverty Center.
A 2012 analysis by the State Policy Advocacy & Reform Center found that states with universal mandated reporting had no higher rates of abuse reports than those without the mandate. In addition, administrators from several states with universal reporting acknowledged that many people simply don’t know the law exists.
States that require all adults to report include Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, New Jersey and Wyoming.
Nationally, a federal universal mandated reporting law was proposed in 2011 but was put on hold while lawmakers reviewed the impact of such laws in states that had them. When the proposal resurfaced this May, the Speak Up for Every Abused Kid Act limited mandated reporters to medical professionals, school employees, law enforcement and social service workers.
Proponents of broader reporting laws said they generate useful information for child protection workers and make family members more comfortable speaking up because they know it is the law.
“It puts a priority on the safety of children,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant of Rhode Island Kids Count. “It helps to create an atmosphere where people feel we are responsible for the safety of children.”
In 2012, Florida went so far as to upgrade failure to report from a misdemeanor to a felony.
But Andrea Moore, a longtime child advocate in Florida, said a universal reporting law matters little compared to having a well-resourced child welfare system that diligently investigates child abuse reports. Despite the law, Florida’s system continues to struggle to adequately protect children, she said.
Georgia, too, is struggling to improve a system with many documented gaps and weaknesses. The AJC has repeatedly exposed systemic failures that leave children vulnerable and shield agency errors from public view.
In April, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a Child Welfare Reform Council, which is headed by longtime advocate Stephanie Blank. Among the issues the panel will explore is overcoming people’s reluctance to report their suspicions of abuse or neglect, Blank said.
Some people are concerned their own safety if the person they report learns of it. (There is no need to fear: People can make reports anonymously in Georgia.) Some hesitate to intrude on the private goings-on inside another household. And some people just have trouble believing that a parent they know would actually go so far as to hurt their child.
“Sometimes the people most likely to know are the least likely to report,” Blank said.
The council, she added, could also discuss a universal mandated reporting law. Do you know the warning signs for child abuse and neglect in children? Find a helpful guide at www.MyAJC.com  .
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
This quiz is drawn mainly from the school district websites for Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb counties.
1. A mandated reporter is someone who is required by law to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the authorities. Who are mandated reporters in Georgia?
a. Medical professionals
b. Most school employees and day care workers
c. People who process or produce visual or printed matter
d. All the above
Correct answer: d. Anyone may report suspicions of child abuse, but these groups are required to do so, as are law enforcement officers and workers at child welfare agencies.
2. When you suspect child abuse, the correct course of action is:
a. Wait to see whether your suspicions are correct
b. Tell your supervisor and ask him or her to report to the authorities
c. Report your suspicions to the Department of Family and Children Services within 24 hours
d. Call the child’s parents and demand that they stop the abuse
Correct answer: c. In the school system, employees typically are expected to tell their supervisor or the principal AND call DFCS within 24 hours. If there is no DFCS office, reporters must call police.
3. What if I suspect child abuse or neglect and make a report in good faith, but my suspicions turn out to be baseless?
a. You can be sued by the parents or by other injured parties
b. If you’re acting in good faith, the state grants immunity from civil or criminal liability
c. You can be arrested and charged with making a false report
d. You can be ordered to move out of your county of residence.
Correct answer: b. The“in good faith”part is important. If you’re acting in good faith when you report your suspicions, you can’t be held liable for making the report. Your call is a request for an investigation by DFCS, not an allegation.
4. Any mandated reporter in Georgia who knowingly and willfully fails to report suspicions of child:
a. Could be charged with a felony and sent to prison
b. Could be charged with a misdemeanor
c. Faces the revocation of his or her driver’s license
d. Will be suspended and investigated by his or her employer
Correct answer: b. The failure to report is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
MANDATED REPORTERS
The following people are required by Georgia law to report to the proper authorities whenever they have“reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused”:
› Physicians licensed to practice medicine, physician assistants, interns or residents › Hospital or medical personnel › Dentists › Licensed psychologists and persons participating in internships to obtain licensing pursuant to Chapter 39 of Title 43 › Podiatrists › Registered professional nurses or licensed practical nurses licensed pursuant to Chapter 26 of Title 43 or nurse’s aides › Professional counselors, social workers, or marriage and family therapists licensed pursuant to Chapter 10A of Title 43 › Schoolteachers › School administrators › School guidance counselors, visiting teachers, school social workers, or school psychologists certified pursuant to Chapter 2 of Title 20 › Child welfare agency personnel, as that agency is defined pursuant to Code Section 49-5-12 › Child-counseling personnel › Child service organization personnel › Law enforcement personnel › Reproductive health care facility or pregnancy resource center personnel and volunteers
Failure to report is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Source: Official Code of Georgia Annotated 19-7-5(c)(1)

 
MMO interviewed in LinkTV special on coal ash
May 16, 2014
 
MMO segment at 18:20

 
HB 1136 to increase Brookhaven's development efforts
April 11, 2014
 

 
MMO interviewed on WXIA re: Child Welfare Reform Council
March 14, 2014
 

 
MMO Op-Ed in AJC concerning Child Fatality Review overhaul
March 6, 2014
 
Prevent cruel deaths of children


By Mary Margaret Oliver

Why does Georgia require autopsies and fatality reviews of children who die in a manner that is “suspicious or unusual” from SIDS, from unintentional or intentional injures, or when unattended by a physician?

What has Georgia’s Child Fatality Review Commission accomplished in its review of suspicious child deaths since 1990? House Bill 923, introduced as part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2014 legislative package, attempts to answer these questions.




In 1990, when the General Assembly created the Child Fatality Review Commission, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation employed no doctor pathologists in its medical examiner’s office. Two PhDs in microbiology performed autopsies at the request of local coroners, elected to a county office with no qualifications other than being at least 21 years old..

Although coroners are still elected in approximately 154 counties, the GBI today employs 14 medical pathologists, one a dual board-certified pediatrician and forensics pathologist; they performed about 490 autopsies on children in 2013. We clearly have made progress in the professionalization of the state’s medical examiner’s office. We can assume such progress assists local law enforcement to prosecute and make accountable those who abuse and murder children.

The child death review process, however, has not accomplished the legitimate goal of preventing children’s deaths, nor has it improved data sharing among state agencies that touch the lives of vulnerable children. HB 923, along with new federal legislation passed in late 2012, will enhance Georgia’s child death review in the following ways:
Latest from Opinion




• The Child Fatality Review Commission will be moved from the Office of Child Advocate to the GBI, which will provide greater coordination among law enforcement agencies.

• Multiple conflicting confidentiality statutes and regulations will be amended to remove barriers to data sharing; 2009 legislation that gave additional authority to the Department of Family and Children Services to redact certain facts from child abuse records will be repealed.

• The Department of Public Health will have an enhanced role, with epidemiology professionals to identify with greater precision children who are most susceptible to neglect and abuse. At a minimum, the protection of medically fragile children should be improved.

The Child Fatality Review Commission has an important state function, but it needs to be updated and refocused on prevention and data sharing in a more precise and scientific manner. Gov. Deal’s legislation should pass. Together, we can redouble our efforts to prevent the unnecessary and cruel deaths of children.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, represents District 82.


 
MMO rated by Polifact on gun bill statement
February 26, 2014
 
MMO thinks that given the sources cited in the article, something higher than 50% true was warranted - but at least not "Pants on Fire".


PolitiFact: Majority opposes gun law, but strength is overstated

Posted: 3:18 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014
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By Eric Stirgus - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would increase the types of places where guns could be allowed, but one lawmaker said most Georgians don’t support the changes.

“You are aware of the polling data that dictates the views of people in relation to this gun debate,” Georgia state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said during a floor debate concerning House Bill 875. “You are aware 80 percent-plus people don’t support these bills and these measures.”

One House member who supported the legislation questioned Oliver’s numbers. PolitiFact Georgia wondered whether Oliver had accurately portrayed the people’s sentiments about the bill, or was she stretching the truth to win lawmakers to her side to vote against the bill.

HB 875, written and co-sponsored by several Republican lawmakers, would lift restrictions on guns in houses of worship and bars, and allow school board members to arm themselves. It would no longer be a crime for licensed gun owners carrying a firearm on a college campus, where they are banned, under the legislation. Instead, the penalty would be a $100 fine.

The bill does include some restrictions, such as the mentally ill cannot get a gun license.

Despite Oliver’s protestations, the House overwhelmingly passed the bill by a 119-56 margin. Like many contentious bills, the vote went along party lines, with nearly all Republicans voting in favor of the legislation and virtually all Democrats against it. The legislation is now in the hands of the Georgia Senate.

Oliver said in her speech before fellow lawmakers that she asked people in her district how they felt about legislation that would expand gun rights in such fashion. Only 10 said they supported it while 156 said they opposed it. That, however, was not a scientific survey.

Since Oliver’s district covers only a portion of DeKalb County, we wanted to know what information she had to support her claim concerning how voters statewide felt about legislation like HB 875. Oliver sent us a January poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that found 72 percent of registered voters statewide oppose allowing firearms in houses of worship, while 26 percent said they favored the idea. The remaining 2 percent either did not answer or were not sure how they felt about the idea.

The question offered some interesting findings. Sixty-three percent of Republicans opposed the idea, while more than 90 percent of Democrats opposed it. A higher percentage of voters older than 65 were against the idea than those between the ages of 18 and 39. More than four out of five women said they were against allowing firearms in churches, while about 60 percent of men opposed the idea.

The poll also asked how did people feel about allowing people to carry firearms on college campuses and in dorms. Seventy-eight percent said they oppose the idea. Again, it showed a higher percentage of women were against the idea than men. Again, it showed a larger percentage of older voters were against the idea than younger voters. Seventy-one percent of Republicans polled said they were against allowing firearms on college campuses. More than 90 percent of Democrats opposed the idea.

The AJC poll surveyed 802 adults statewide between Jan. 6 and Jan. 9 on what issues Georgians want their Legislature to tackle in 2014. The margin of error for each response is plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was conducted by Abt SRBI of New York by live operators and included respondents via cellphone and land line.

Oliver also sent us data from a poll conducted by Georgians for Gun Safety in 2010. It showed 76 percent of the respondents felt the state “definitely should not” allow anyone with a gun permit to carry a firearm into a house of worship. An additional 10 percent said Georgia “probably should not” allow gun permit holder to carry in a house of worship.

The Georgians for Gun Safety poll also asked for the public’s opinion about allowing people to carry firearms onto a college campus. Sixty-four percent responded “definitely should not” while an additional 12 percent answered “probably should not.”

In 2013, Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, 11 Alive, polled Georgians on the topic. It found 64 percent thought it should “remain unlawful” for firearms to be carried into churches. Twenty-six percent supported the idea. Sixty-five percent of those who responded to the poll said it should be illegal to carry firearms on college campuses.

To sum up, Oliver said more than 80 percent of Georgians do not support measures like those proposed in House Bill 875.

Most of the polling data we reviewed shows a majority of Georgians oppose firearms in houses of worship or on college campuses. But there’s not much data that we saw that surpasses the 80 percent mark.

Oliver’s overall point that most Georgians oppose firearms in bars, on campus or in houses of worship is on the mark. But her specific percentage is too high, and she used the number to pursue a specific political point.

We rate Oliver’s claim Half True.

 
New Briarcliff map unveiled
February 26, 2014
 

 
MMO quoted in Albany Herald article on drug testing food stamp applicants
February 28, 2014
 

 
MMO quoted in AJC article about last minute crush of bills
March 2, 2014
 
Last-minute lawmaking: don’t read, just vote

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, March 1, 2014


By James Salzer - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two hours remained in the 2012 legislative session when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill shielding the identities of people applying for hunting or fishing licenses.

What the Senate sponsor didn’t mention was that legislative leaders had also reshaped the bill to seal the records of some ethics cases against politicians. On a raucous Senate floor crowded with lawmakers, family members, friends and staffers, few were even listening to the senator describing the measure.

Georgia politics and government

Georgia Legislative Navigator: Track updates on bills at the Capitol

Advocates push for independent ethics funding in Georgia

Ethics and the Legislature: Money, secrets, power rule dome

Within minutes of the Senate vote, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter found out about the changes and posted what happened on Twitter and Facebook; good-government lobbyists and political bloggers picked up on it, and the House killed the measure.

Still, it was a classic example of the frantic last-minute deal-making that has long prevailed in the General Assembly, a system in which procrastination and negotiation turn cobbled-together phrases into legislation in the final hours. The practice means that only a select few know what’s in some of the most important bills of the session, while the vast majority of legislators have little time to read or understand what they are voting on.

On the final day of the 2013 session, senators voted on more than 100 bills totaling more than 1,000 pages. In the final two hours, they considered 40 bills, or one every three minutes.

As Crossover Day approaches, the status of bills in state House, Senate

House blocks ethics switch

Some legislative leaders have made it clear they plan to keep it that way this session, which is scheduled to end March 20.

The Senate Rules Committee shot down a proposal last month to give lawmakers a day to read conference committee reports — final versions of bills negotiated by three House and three Senate members before they vote on them.

‘Difficult to justify the current system’

Senate Judiciary Chairman Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, also wants the public to get greater access to changed bills; recorded votes on all bills; and a requirement that the Legislature pass a state budget first each session.

But nothing hits at the untidy customs of the final few days of each session like his resolution to give lawmakers 24 hours to review conference committee reports before voting. More than a dozen states require at least 24 hours, McKoon said. In Georgia, lawmakers get an hour, and even then it’s often when their desks are covered with other last-minute bills.

“For policymakers, if we are going to be enacting the laws of the state, we ought to have a pretty good idea of what we are voting to approve,” said McKoon, a senator who enjoys little support among statehouse traditionalists. “Right now, I don’t think anybody can look you in the eye and tell you, on the last day, that they have read and understood everything they have been voting on. … It is just difficult to justify the current system.”

Senate leaders respond to McKoon’s proposal by saying that they can’t unilaterally pass such a rule if the House doesn’t go along with the idea.

And Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, a member of the committee that rejected McKoon’s proposal, argued that approving a 24-hour rule could doom legislation — including the budget — if a bill contains typographical errors or has other flaws that need last-minute fixes. In the case of the budget — which the Georgia Constitution mandates lawmakers pass — it could force lawmakers to come back for a a costly special session.

“If I as a legislator am interested in a certain bill, I am going to make sure I go through the conference committee report and read it,” Chance said. “The concern that a bill is going to be hijacked and put into a conference committee report …. that’s pretty easy to spot.”

And lobbyist Jerry Keen, a former House leader, said the problem may be overblown.

“I know there are times there where you think, ‘Wow, how did that get in there?’ But that has been the exception,” Keen said.

‘Best advice I give out is caveat emptor’

Still, those instances have happened frequently enough over the years to raise questions about the last few days, a time when weeks of calculated stalling lead to legislative all-nighters and last-minute frenetic activity amid the increasingly loud, crowded chaos of the Capitol’s third floor.

In the final hours of the 1991 session, the Legislature passed a measure effectively outlawing the sale of low-cost replacement contact lenses through drug stores and discount pharmacies that get them from mail-order firms. The law said that only licensed eye specialist could sell replacement lenses. After a storm of consumer protests, the 1992 Legislature reversed it and allowed consumers to buy the lenses through pharmacies.

The next year, the General Assembly approved a bill at the last minute that included an amendment pushed by the doctors lobby that was written so broadly that it made it a felony for nurses to give injections or for diabetics to give themselves shots. A judge threw out that section of the law a few months later.

Legislation that quietly passed in the final hours of the second-to-last day of the 2005 session — a measure that helped Gov. Sonny Perdue defer state taxes on land he sold — became a campaign issue in the governor’s re-election campaign the next year.

In 2009, as the Great Recession was hitting the state, lawmakers tacked a huge capital-gains tax cut onto a jobs bill on the final day and easily passed the measure. Capital gains are profits from the sale of stocks, bonds and other investments. Perdue vetoed the bill, saying the state couldn’t afford to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Chuck Clay, a former senator turned lobbyist, said some of the last minute changes “are accidental, some of it is intentional.”

“The best advice I give out is caveat emptor — buyer beware. And be very careful when you are scrutinizing these conference committee reports and somebody is presenting them that you have some sense of whether there is another agenda here,” Clay said.

‘Human nature doesn’t change’

Steve Anthony, a former top House aide who now teaches politics at Georgia State University, said some lawmakers have to take part of the blame because they simply don’t read the bills.”They don’t read what’s filed on the fifth day of the session, let alone the 40th. They didn’t read them then, they don’t read them now, they won’t read them tomorrow,” he said.

Those members, he added, look to how their friends in the General Assembly or their party’s leadership come down on a bill to figure out how to vote.

But Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, who first joined the General Assembly in 1987, said it’s not just a question of lawmakers refusing to read the bills on Day 40, the final day of the session.

“It is not practical or realistic to think that members of the General Assembly, even those following bills closely, can absorb the number of conference committee reports placed on the desks on Day 40,” she said. “With the volume of reports, the density and the timing, it is not physically possible to read and absorb laws we are finalizing.”

Part of the problem is the planned procrastination of each legislative session. When lawmakers want to pass something quickly, they can do it in a few days. Or, in the case of last-minute legislation tacked on to someone else’s bill, within a few hours.

But in most cases, lawmakers deliberate for weeks or months on bills, holding some “hostage” for trades or collecting support to assure passage.

“Human nature doesn’t change, from term papers to legislation,” Clay said. “You give me another week to turn it in, I’ll take it.”

‘Never introduced, never discussed’

Bills that stall for two months are amended onto other, more innocuous bills, known in legislative parlance as “vehicles.” One innocent-sounding tax bill is frequently decorated with several other special-interest tax cuts and becomes what lawmakers and lobbyists call a “Christmas tree.”

Sometimes proposals that were barely mentioned during the session suddenly pop up on the final day and zoom through the chambers. Some lobbyists are considered specialists at such last-minute deals.

Oliver said in some cases, legislation that has “never been introduced, never been in a committee and never been discussed publicly” gets tacked onto bills and becomes law, sometimes added by lawmakers in secret.

“There are many instances where laws could be offered only in secret when reasonable people know they could never be passed in public,” she said. “There are a few people who will try to do that. It doesn’t have to be many to create a bad result.”

Oliver said in some cases, legislation that has “never been introduced, never been in a committee and never been discussed publicly” get tacked onto bills and become law, sometimes added by lawmakers in secret.

“There are many instances where laws could be offered only in secret when reasonable people know they could never be passed in public,” she said. “There are a few people who will try to do that. It doesn’t have to be many to create a bad result.”

To McKoon, the problem with last-minute legislation came to a head last year when, on the final day of the session, legislative leaders stitched together an ethics package in overnight meetings. McKoon was unhappy about the way the bill was put together. As the AJC reported, the bill — designed to limit lobbyist spending on lawmakers — contained numerous loopholes.

“It hit our desks at 9:07 p.m. and we voted at 10:15 p.m.,” he said. “To have 68 minutes to try and read and understand all of the changes was absurd. The idea that a bill having to do with open and transparent government was cobbled together in the middle of the night in a secret meeting, and then we have an hour to understand it and vote on it, is the perfect illustration of what is wrong with our system.”

 
MMO Eloquently speaks against House gun bill in AJC article
February 24, 2014
 
House adopts sweeping gun bill



By Aaron Gould Sheinin - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
House adopts sweeping gun bill Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com
Licensed gun owners would be allowed to carry guns into churches, bars and nonsecure government buildings under legislation approved in the state House on Tuesday. House Bill 875, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, passed 119-56, largely along party lines. It now goes to the Senate.

Georgia’s House of Representatives voted Tuesday to let licensed gun owners carry their weapons in more places, sending the bill to the Senate where changes are likely.

House Bill 875, which passed 119-56, would lift restrictions on guns in churches and bars and allow school boards to arm employees. It would also no longer be a crime, under the bill, for licensed owners to carry guns on college campuses, where they are banned. Instead, those caught would face a civil penalty, a $100 fine.

Rep. Jimmy Pruett compares changes made to House Bill 875, Tuesday, February 18, 2014. The bill, which passed the Georgia House, ... read more

It also creates a system to make sure those deemed mentally ill don’t qualify for a license.


The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, now goes to the Senate, where members have balked at allowing more guns into public colleges and universities. Senators are already bracing for debate. They say it is not clear how big their changes to the bill will be.


The Senate’s queasiness about the ability to carry guns on college campuses derailed a similar bill last year. Some members also have concerns about forcing churches to take formal action if they don’t want guns allowed, which lawmakers call an “opt out” clause. A number of senators would rather it be “opt in,” meaning churches wouldn’t have to act unless they specifically wanted to allow guns on their property.

Still, several senators supported Tuesday’s passage as a legislative milestone.”The House has done a good job,” said Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, who carried the gun bill last year. “I met with Georgia Carry. I met with the National Rifle Association. And we all agree there are some things, but let’s fix those issues. Supporting the 2nd Amendment doesn’t mean you lose all your common sense.”

The House’s approval is significant as just weeks ago it appeared supporters’ hopes for any gun bill this year had been dashed when the Legislature’s own lawyers gave an opinion that a compromise on the “campus carry” provision was probably unconstitutional. That proposed compromise would have given public college and university presidents a say on whether guns would be allowed on campus.


But the bill’s authors regrouped and have developed sweeping firearms legislation.

During more than two hours of debate Tuesday, supporters and opponents expressed fundamental differences regarding the culture of guns. For the bill’s backers, guns in the hands of those licensed to carry them are a deterrent to crime and a means of self-defense. To its critics, more guns increases the chance of gun violence.

“It will serve to protect private property rights against government intrusion and improve the umbrella of safety provided to Georgia families,” Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, said. “It will make Georgia a safer place.”



Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said nearly the opposite was true: “You feel safer when you’re carrying a gun,” Oliver said to the chamber’s GOP majority. “I feel less safe when you’re carrying a gun.”

Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, called the bill “a skunk wrapped in silk and dipped in Chanel No. 5,” while Rep. Dusty Hightower, R-Carrollton, said it helps facilitate “a natural right of self defense.”

Perhaps the only moment of true drama in the debate came when Rep. Chuck Sims, R-Ambrose, a funeral home operator, became the only member to break ranks with his party.

Sims asked for a show of hands of those who have seen a person killed with a firearm. A few hands went up.

“It’s a bad situation,” Sims said. “I deal with it unfortunately in my job.

“Guns don’t belong in church and a gun doesn’t belong in a bar. It just doesn’t.”

Opponents of the bill touted polling that showed Georgians didn’t want more guns in public places. A poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in January found that 78 percent of Georgia registered voters opposed allowing guns on college campuses; 72 percent opposed allowing guns in churches; and 82 percent would require any gun owner who wanted to carry a weapon in public to first take a safety course.

Outside the chamber, advocates on both sides of the issue also spoke out.

“We’re happy with it. We’re ready to move forward,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of the 7,300-member Georgia Carry advocacy group. “I think we will get a good gun bill out of the Senate.”

A coalition of clergy known as Outcry: Faith Voices Against Gun Violence, meanwhile, lamented the House action.

“As citizens of Georgia and as leaders of faith communities we oppose House Bill 875 and any legislation that would allow more guns in more places in our state,” the group said in a statement signed by 60 pastors and rabbis. “Through our faith, we have a vision for human community that is built on solidarity and trust, not fear and terror.”


 
MMO takes AJC Georgia Legislative Navigator to school
February 17, 2014
 
What are the odds?
New AJC app calculates chances Georgia bills will become law
Posted: 12:00 a.m. Monday, Feb. 17, 2014
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BY CHRIS JOYNER - THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Few outside the room knew much about it, but the crowd packed in to see a Senate committee debate SB 270 was passionate about the proposal.
It would create a new city in north DeKalb County called Lakeside, and supporters and opponents sought desperately to sway members of the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee to their side. What they did not know was that much of what makes a bill pass or fail may have little to do with their passion and much more to do with the information encoded in its legislative DNA.

Using a sophisticated probability model, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has developed a prototype app that puts odds on whether bills currently before the Georgia General Assembly are destined to become law or more likely to become trashcan fodder.

The app does not assess whether the bill would make a good law. For example, it does not weigh whether there needs to be a new city called Lakeside or whether the Lakeside bill is preferable to competing bills creating other cities in the same area. Instead, it looks at the characteristics of bills that passed or failed in past sessions, and uses those to predict odds.

Some factors are common sense, such as whether the bill has the backing of the majority party or whether its sponsor is in leadership. But the new tool is the first of its kind in Georgia to estimate the odds on bills.

“What you’re doing is innovative,” Charles Bullock, chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Georgia, who reviewed the AJC’s results, said of the app. “For the interested reader, it would make what happens [in the Legislature] more understandable. For a lobbyist, it might make life much more predictable.”

The app is part of the AJC’s Georgia Legislative Navigator on myajc.com, where readers can track bills, contact lawmakers and keep up with the latest news from the state Capitol.

The app gives SB 270 an 89 percent chance of passage, in large part because it is sponsored by Republican Sen. Fran Millar, a leadership figure in the majority party, and it deals with a local issue. Local bills tend to pass at a higher rate than bills that affect the entire state.

It ranks higher than competing cityhood bills in DeKalb because those bills are all sponsored by Democrats and have no Republican co-sponsors.

The bill passed the Senate committee, with Chairman William Ligon, R-Brunswick, casting the tie-breaking vote.

Moments after he helped pass the bill out of committee, Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, said he found the AJC app’s prediction interesting.

Then he asked what all lawmakers want to know: “What does it say about anything with my name on it?”

The AJC app uses a technique developed by statisticians in the medical field to predict patients’ risk of developing certain diseases. In developing it, the AJC borrowed heavily from the work of Frank Harrell, chair of the Biostatistics Department at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who also reviewed the AJC’s results.

“This is my first exposure to data from politics,” said Harrell, who has spent nearly 35 years working these kinds of statistical models. “It turned out to be even more useful than I thought you were going to find it to be.”

The app gives odds of passage, rather than up-or-down predictions, meaning some bills with low odds will pass. For instance, in a good model, a subset of 100 bills each with a 10 percent chance of passage would likely produce around 10 bills that pass. It’s the law of averages.

“Virtually no model in the social sciences always predicts accurately,” Bullock noted. “The exceptions don’t necessarily disprove the overall model.”

House Bill 21 is one bill that overcame long mathematical odds. It had one sponsor – a Democrat – and affected Georgia law statewide, both strikes against it. As such, the AJC model gave it a 3 percent chance of passage.

But the bill, which makes post-adoption contracts for child visitation or contact with birth relatives legally binding, passed both chambers last year and became law July 1.

“You model probably doesn’t measure the fact that I’m experienced and have a lot of expertise in maneuvering,” said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, the bill’s sponsor.

Oliver said adoption is a very personal topic and she did not go looking for co-sponsors. Instead, she held lots of personal conversations with lawmakers, educating them about the issue.

“Personal relationships will trump your formula any day of the week,” she said. “Work like crazy is generally a good formula for me.”

Jet Toney, a longtime Capitol lobbyist, said the passion of the lawmaker whose name comes first on the bill is a key component in getting a bill to move. If the primary sponsor desperately wants the bill to pass, it can give a bill legs, he said.

The AJC app is a prototype that will continue to evolve, incorporating new factors that affect a bill’s chances as well as insight the paper receives from experts on the process and the statistics community. But statistical models may never be able to embrace intangibles, like passion.


 
MMO discusses "40 day surprises" on WXIA interview
February 7, 2014
 

 
MMO interviewed on WABE about new DeKalb School Board Districts
January 24, 2014
 

 
AJC article on privatizing foster care
January 11, 2014
 
As DFCS failures mount, Deal considers private-sector approach to foster care
Updated: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 | Posted: 5:51 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, 2014
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By Greg Bluestein and Alan Judd - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On any day, about 7,000 Georgia children reside in foster homes, removed from their abusive families by state social workers. Under a plan unveiled Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal would put private organizations in charge of those children and the care they receive.
Deal’s proposal, on the eve of the General Assembly’s 2014 session, is part of his response to revelations of widespread failings by Georgia’s child-protection agency, the Division of Family and Children’s Services.
+ Bob Andres
Nathan Deal during an interview with WSB and AJC reporters in the Governor’s office at the Capitol. Georgia’s top Republican leaders ... read more
“We should all be open to anything to improve the opportunity of children removed from their parents’ homes,” Deal said in an interview. “Privatization is one option that we should explore and we will be exploring very soon.”
The move toward privatization follows Deal’s earlier proposal to spend $27 million over the next three years to hire more than 500 DFCS caseworkers and supervisors — an increase of 26 percent. That proposal came shortly after the highly publicized deaths of two metro Atlanta children and reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that DFCS workers’ mistakes contributed to at least 25 deaths in 2012.
Deal’s aides are still working on the plan, so details remain sketchy. It also is unclear how privatizing foster care would address the problems identified in recent death cases. In 2012, 152 children died despite DFCS intervention in their families. But just 13 of those, or about 9 percent, died while in foster care. The rest either had been returned to their families from foster care or had never been removed despite allegations of abuse or neglect.
•    Neglected in life, unnoticed in death: Few children’s deaths spark public outrage
•    Ralston says Legislature likely to act on child welfare crisis
•    Ziyon Green DFCS
•    Boy’s death shines light on agency’s secrecy
Privatization has become the reform of choice for governors, especially Republicans like Deal, who want to fix broken child-protection systems. Deal said he wants to follow the example set by Florida, which began privatizing child-welfare services in the 1990s. Already, Deal has consulted with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who oversaw a transfer of authority to private agencies.
As in Florida, Georgia would retain authority over many aspects of the child-protection system, including investigations. State workers still would decide whether to remove children from family custody, and judges still would have to ratify those decisions. But private agencies — probably nonprofits — would take over once a child goes into foster care and would be involved in deciding when, or if, to send a child home.
Privatizing child welfare has taken hold in numerous states over the past two decades. Besides Florida, leaders in the movement include Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
•    DFCS review of Jeremiah Tucker's death
In most states, the efforts have received mixed reviews.
Nebraska, for instance, backed off the concept in 2012 when costs greatly exceeded projections. The advocacy group Children’s Rights says states should not expect privatization to save money; private agencies, the group said, are not inherently more efficient than the government.
More important, privately run foster care has not been shown to make children safer (or more vulnerable, for that matter).
+ Bob Andres
Nathan Deal (left) speaks with Teresa MacCartney, budget director, and Chris Riley, Chief of staff, prior to an interview with WSB ... read more
“Private agencies are about as capable or not capable as public agencies,” said Crystal Collins-Camargo of the University of Louisville, who has researched child-welfare privatization nationwide. “It can be done well and it can produce good outcomes for kids. Or it can go very badly.”
Privatization advocates say reworking a child-welfare system sharpens its focus.
“It gives an opportunity to really evaluate what the outcomes for kids in child welfare should be,” said Lisa Snell, director of education for the Reason Foundation, a libertarian research organization that promotes privatization. “It helps with a rethinking of outcomes. … It’s more of an opportunity to improve quality.”
•    In drive to reduce foster rolls, troubled girl had ‘nowhere to go’
•    DFCS ignored abuse history, closed case with no investigation
•    DFCS case history summary on Emani Moss
•    Several warning signs predated 10-year-old girl’s gruesome death
Deal has been quietly working with House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on an overhaul for DFCS. Cagle organized a working group last year to examine foster care, and Ralston said this week he was “open” to privatization.
In an interview with the Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV, Deal said he remains committed to hiring more DFCS workers. Privatization, he said, may be a longer-term solution.
“Any time we can involve the private community to assist the state, that’s a good thing,” Deal said.
•    Recent deaths again bring scrutiny to Georgia’s child welfare system
Lawmakers are expected to consider other child-welfare bills, including one to open more DFCS records to public scrutiny. That bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said she is open to shifting some functions to the private sector, but “I need more specifics and more details.”
Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, who chairs the lieutenant governor’s foster care group, said Deal’s comments reflect broad agreement that the system needs work. But he said major changes are unlikely this year.
“This isn’t an election year issue,” Millar said. “If you’re going to do this, then for God’s sake, let’s do it right.”


 
AJC article suggesting a pause in cityhood efforts
December 26, 2013
 
Calls growing for pause in cityhood movement
Posted: 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013
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BY APRIL HUNT - THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
A growing chorus is calling for the state to tap the brakes on metro Atlanta’s fast-cruising cityhood movement, saying the slowdown will help everyone better see the road ahead.
The lobbying group that represents the interest of counties has long asked for a moratorium to examine the harm that creating new municipalities does to the revenue collected by the counties they are carved from.
But now supporters of a slowdown point to new cities that are struggling with the very old-government strife they planned to shed: ethics questions, frayed political relations and outsized spending.
The would-be cities, too, would benefit from a bit more time to plan, said Lee May, the interim CEO of DeKalb County, where seven proposals for new cities will be reviewed by the Legislature in the coming session.
“There has been very little actual discussion so far beyond whether you are for or against new cities,” said May, who is expected to garner County Commission support on his request for a three-year moratorium on new cities statewide. “If there is an orientation toward cities, let’s learn from others’ mistakes and make sure we talk and are able to plan for our future together.”
The national trend for less and smaller government began taking shape here when Sandy Springs became Georgia’s seventh-largest city overnight in 2005.
Six new cities have since followed: Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills, Dunwoody, Peachtree Corners and finally Brookhaven, the state’s newest city when it formed out of north-central DeKalb last year.
While the path to incorporation for Sandy Springs took three decades, the others became cities under a state law that requires a two-year review before voters decide whether to incorporate. The seven proposals in DeKalb are now in the second year of that state-mandated review.
Now, residents in some of those new cities are dealing with the same struggles advocates said greater local control would calm:
•    Brookhaven’s 2014 budget nearly doubles the city’s legal fees, to $415,000, from costs projected in its feasibility study. The jump follows a high-profile and ongoing case against the longtime strip club Pink Pony and a headline-grabbing legal fight with neighboring Chamblee.
•    Peachtree Corners launched in 2012 amid gripes about a $2.7 million budget, almost four times higher than projected, and a 90-day halt on business licenses that paused development.
•    An in-house investigation cited Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker on allegations of conflicts of interest and other ethical questions that were similar to the sorts of complaints about Fulton County leaders that prompted the city’s creation. Voters returned Bodker to office, though tension in City Hall remains.

“”The crux of it is, you’re still going to have problems, so maybe a moratorium isn’t such a bad idea to be more deliberative about how to handle them,” said Katherine Willoughby, a public policy professor at Georgia State University who has lauded the incorporation movement for allowing greater public input in government.
Not surprisingly, talk of stalling incorporation angers supporters of carving new cities into the landscape.
If nothing else, the move would change the rules midway through the game, said Mary Kay Woodworth, the chairwoman of the Lakeside City Alliance.
That isn’t fair for those who donated or raised the money for Lakeside and backers of Briarcliff, Stonecrest and Tucker to pay for a state feasibility study to examine services and taxes, she said.
“There will be an enormous backlash if they do indeed impose a moratorium,” Woodworth said. “At this point, I think a lot of people have come to the conclusion that the only way to make the county better is to allow these new cities to form and give the county time to get its house in order.”
Marshall Guest, a spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge — who will help set the agenda for upcoming legislative session — said that in the coming weeks Ralston “plans to discuss the merits of the various DeKalb County cityhood proposals with members who have an interest in them.”
A moratorium could be the default action if state lawmakers decide they want to sidestep the deadlock over three new cities’ boundaries.
Tucker began pursuing cityhood only after early maps showed Lakeside taking many of its retail and industrial areas. The two would-be cities are still fighting over which will get Northlake Mall and nearby offices, with the proposed city of Briarcliff now also in the mix.
The key will be whether a moratorium includes a specific plan on how to map all of DeKalb — so far the only county facing so many pending cities at once.
State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, spearheaded that cityhood movement yet said he is open to a temporary stop — while also issuing a caveat for that plan.
“Ultimately, we have to let the citizens decide what they want,” Jacobs said. “If a moratorium isn’t geared to that end, getting that input, it’s simply a top-heavy attempt at stalling.”
________________________________________
New cities a few years later
Some of the new cities that have popped up in metro Atlanta have begun to see the same infighting and struggles that their creation was designed to fight against:
Sandy Springs — The grandfather of the cityhood movement, the city has been led since its creation in 2005 by Mayor Eva Galambos. The economist was also behind the three-decade battle for incorporation, providing a stability that ends with her December retirement from office.
Milton — In Milton, political disputes forced the city to hire an organizational psychologist to work with the City Council. Less than 2 percent of the city is zoned for commercial use, compared with 17 percent in neighboring Alpharetta,which has created some struggles over the budget and development.
Dunwoody — Public anger beat back a proposal to raise the city’s millage cap, a tax increase to pay for fire services, earlier this year. But that and other disagreements created a “Clean Sweep” slate of candidates in the November election that led to one’s election to the City Council.


 
MMO interviewed on WABE re: HB 705
December 14, 2013
 

 
MMO on upcoming municipalization debate for 2014 Session
December 7, 2013
 

 
MMO interviewed on WXIA re: pre-filing legislation to address child fatalities
December 6, 2013
 

 
MMO quoted in article on defeat of Druid Hills Charter Cluster
November 13, 2013
 
Rejection of charter school proposal reflects DeKalb divisions
Posted: 6:37 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013
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By Ty Tagami - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
If any clarity emerged from this week’s messy debate about charter schools in DeKalb County, it was that the regional divisions that delivered the school system to the brink of accreditation loss still persist.
Across Georgia, parents have expressed frustration with public schools, with many demanding alternatives to the old bureaucracies and teaching methods. In DeKalb, that yearning manifested in a petition to separate a group of public schools from the central office and put them under private charter management.
•    Druid Hills Charter Cluster supporters: Board denial shows 'tyrannical insistence on mediocrity'
On Monday, though, after a protracted and sometimes angry discussion, the school board split largely along geographic and racial lines in rejecting the request. The next day, the spurned parents and teachers accused the district of a “lack of transparency and fair dealing,” and hearkened to the district’s troubled past with accreditation.
Last year, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed DeKalb on probation, accusing board members of prioritizing the interests of “their” election districts above those of the system as a whole. That in turn prompted Gov. Nathan Deal to replace most of the board.
The pique on display Monday probably did not reach the level of “abhorrent behavior” and “yelling” that SACS cited in its assessment of the old board, and the new board hasn’t been accused of micromanagement and deficit spending, which were among SACS’ other big criticisms last year.
But the petitioners included this angry slap in a statement Tuesday about the school administration’s handling of their Druid Hills Charter Cluster proposal and the school board’s 5-4 vote against it: The district’s reaction, they wrote, “will demonstrate plainly a continued challenge with basic governance at the DeKalb board level that is counter to the accrediting guidelines from SACS.”
They also predicted that the outcome would encourage separation movements. Some in DeKalb advocate a constitutional amendment that would allow new cities to create their own school systems. There is also talk of annexing Druid Hills into neighboring Atlanta.
SACS will be issuing an update in December on DeKalb’s accreditation status. Asked if Monday’s meeting might affect the agency’s thinking, the organization’s leader, Mark Elgart, responded that the decision would be based on the board’s work “over a period of time, not just one meeting or one issue.” He said SACS recognized “the emotional nature of the debate” and added, perhaps ominously, that the agency “will continue to monitor this issue.”
All five votes against the petition were cast by black school board members, most of whom represent the southern part of the county. All but one of the four votes in favor were cast by white board members who represent the northernmost districts.
Marney Mayo, a parent and charter school advocate who has endured countless hours watching school board meetings, witnessed the proceedings Monday night. This school board and administration performed “better” than the leaders in place a year ago, she said. “But they’re still a group that reflects a system of widely divergent viewpoints.”
DeKalb is Georgia’s third-largest school district, with 99,000 students. Whites are a distinct minority and are more numerous in schools to the north. The district, a destination for international refugees, is also home to immigrants from across the globe who speak scores of languages.
Though Druid Hills, near Emory University, is known for its stately old mansions, the schools in the proposed cluster contain a lot of diversity. The cluster comprised Druid Hills High and Middle schools, and their five feeder elementary schools, Avondale Estates, Briar Vista, Fernbank, Laurel Ridge and McLendon. The leaders of the petition noted that their charter mandated the success of all the schools, so parents from successful schools would have a motivation to help out those that are struggling.
Cheryl Crawford has three children at Druid Hills High and was among the scores of “devastated” petition supporters who left after the four-hour meeting ended around 11 p.m.
The school serves her daughters well with its International Baccalaureate and advanced placement programs, she said, but it could do better for students in general education courses. “I want more being done for them,” she said.
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat who represents the Druid Hills area, characterized the petition as a “legitimate, positive chance for parents to engage, and the school system is not interested in their engagement.”
But Eugene Walker, the former school board chairman who was removed by Gov. Deal, said the petitioners displayed “arrogance and presumptuousness” with their assertion that they could do things better for their “section” of DeKalb. “They need to help us make the whole system better, not one section,” he said.
________________________________________

 
MMO interviewed on Fox5 news re: recent child deaths
November 6, 2013
 

 
MMO interviewed on WABE re: closing of Paulding County Regional Youth Detention Center
October 29, 2013
 

 
MMO quoted in AJC article on change from CEO DeKalb form of government
August 23, 2013
 

 
Article on May Town hall in July issue of Georgia Trend
7/17/13
 

 
MMO interviewed in Atlanta Magazine on cityhood issues
June 25, 2013
 

 
MMO interviewed in article about Justice Deartments bad report on sexual abuse in GA YDC's
June 9, 2013
 

 
Patch article on results of Town Hall survey
May 29, 2013
 

 
MMO Legislative Newsletter with survey results from May 6 Town Hall Meeting
May 22. 2013
 
May 6 Town Hall on DeKalb Cityhood Report and Survey Results
Thank you to all who attended the May 6 Town hall on DeKalb Cityhood issues at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, and for participating in a positive community discussion. Below is a summary of the meeting, and results of the survey that so many of you answered before you left. Thank you again to Clairmont Hills Baptist Church for begin such a good host for us!
Report and Survey Results
On Monday, May 6, a meeting was held by members of the DeKalb legislative delegation who had sponsored bills pertaining to new cities. The meeting was chaired by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, and besides the legislators, participants include DeKalb County Commissioners, leaders of neighborhood associations and representatives of community groups involved in cityhood efforts. Over 250 people attended the meeting and 107 attendees returned surveys. There was a broad representation from throughout the county as shown on the attached map. The largest concentration of attendees was from an area bounded by Chamblee-Tucker Rd., I-85, Clairmont Rd. and Lawrenceville Highway.
Virtually all attendees said the meeting was helpful. Asked if they wanted to be part of a new city, roughly 1/3 responded positively, 1/3 negatively and 1/3 undecided. When asked if interested in being a part of a new city, 67said definitely or possibly yes, and the following are the results:
Briarcliff 59%
Tucker 16%
Lakeside 16%
Stonecrest 3%
Anything but Lakeside 3%
South DeKalb County 1%

When asked the open-ended question of the main reasons for wanting to be part of a new city the top five responses were as follows:
Local control of zoning 20%
Local control 16%
Improved police attention 11%
New school district 8%
DeKalb Commission/government 8%

When asked the open-ended question as to why they did not want to be a part of a new city, the top five responses were as follows:
More taxes 22%
Leave as is and hold county
Officials accountable 12%
Add inefficiency 11%
Current services adequate 11%
Less revenue means
Less county services 8%

WHAT DO YOU THINK? IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS PLEASE RESPOND BY HITTING "REPLY" OR SENDING ME AN EMAIL AT mmo@mmolaw.com. THANK YOU, AS ALWAYS, FOR YOUR INTEREST!

MARY MARGARET OLIVER
HOUSE DISTRICT 82
150 East Ponce de Leon, Suite 230
Decatur, Georgia 30030
404 377 0485
mmo@mmolaw.com



 
Creative Loafing article on cityhood Town Hall
May 9, 2013
 

 
Atlanta Progressive News article on cityhood Town Hall
May 9, 2013
 

 
Good Patch article on Town hall meeting
May 7, 2013
 

 
Article in cityhood town hall
May 7, 2013
 

 
Governor signs Juvenile Justice reform Bill
May 3, 2013
 

 
MMO and Rep. John Lewis at Colbert fundraiser
April 21, 2013
 

 
MMO was a guest on Friday for lunch with congressman John Lewis and S.C. Congressional candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

 
Final Newsletter of 2013 session
April 19, 2013
 
April 18, 2013 – 2013 GENERAL ASSEMBLY FINAL WRAP-UP -- SINE DIE!


This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s FINAL WRAP-UP email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and adjourned at midnight March 28. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and learn about opportunities to participate please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!

MEETING ON CITYHOOD BILLS – On May 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, members of the DeKalb delegation who have introduced new cityhood or annexation bills will hold a Town hall Meeting at the Clairmont Hills Baptist Church at the corner of Clairmont and North Druid Hills to discuss all the bills introduced, including provisions for Druid Hills, Lavista Hills, Tucker, Lakeside, and the City of DeKalb. Please come, learn about your options and how you may participate in a broad discussion about DeKalb governance. More details about this meeting will be forth coming in future notices, but please put this date on your calendar. Thank you for your interest! .

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

GOOD DEEDS OF THE 2013 SESSION

HB 242 and HB 349 Passage —Final passage of the Juvenile Court Code re-write combined with the positive proposals from the Governor’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform are substantial good acts from the 2013 General Assembly. As with all legislation, time and energy must now turn to implementation strategies. I will be encouraging DeKalb County Juvenile Court leaders to apply for pilot project money from the approximate 6 Million dollars the Governor and General Assembly budget will commit to fund local programs for lower risk juvenile offenders in lieu of secure detention in state youth jails. Savings from a reduced population in the state’s YDCs can be redirected in the future to more effective programing, with lower recidivism rates. A major focus in the newly funded pilot programs will be the mandate that projects be effective in an provable, evidence based review. Proving effectiveness of appropriated money is a valuable provision and will set standards for future work.

HB 21 Passage – MMO’s bill introduced on behalf of Judge Michael Key and others to authorize Post Adoption Contact Agreements passed both Chambers and is on the Governor’s desk for signature and final passage. I will be working with private DFCS leaders, adoption agencies, private attorneys, and Adoptees on how best to implement this new policy, particularly focusing on foster care children. We know from other states' experiences with PACA and from research that voluntarily agreed upon exchanges of information between Adoptees and members of birth families can support adoptions from the beginning and ongoing. Thank you to all the folks who helped with the huge amount of work to pass this important legislation, with special thanks to Kirsten Widner and the excellent law student help from the Barton Child Law and Advocacy Center at Emory University School of Law.

HB 142 Passage – Passage of HB 142 placing a cap of $75.00 on gifts to legislators and implementing other ethics reform proposals is more good than bad. There are many additional provisions of gift limitations that I would have supported, but passage of HB 142 is an important step, and represents progress. There is clearly more work to do, and I am ready for new efforts, but after 10 years of proposing limitations on gifts to legislators, I am pleased with at least a cap. Restoring to the Ethics commission the authority to issue rules and regulations, and limiting reimbursement of travel expenses are also helpful steps.

BAD DEEDS OF THE 2013 LEGISLATION SESSION

HB 122 – As an add-on to a good bill about the sex offender panel bill, the Department of Corrections successfully led effort to make a state secret of the way in which death penalty offenders are executed. The pharmacy “cocktail” of drugs used in executions has been subject to litigation, and the participation of the large pharmaceutical companies in authorizing and sale of drugs, is now a “state secret” which I believe is a violation of Georgia’s Open Records Act. This amendment was added on the House floor without any earlier debate in committee, and was never introduced as a separate bill. It represents a poor process and the reality that its implementation will cause more litigation for all concerned---including the victim's families.

THE UGLY

Although efforts were unsuccessful, to the credit of the many, strong attempts were made to eliminate medical coverage for abortion services for 650,000 beneficiaries of the state health benefit package–hugely controversial, which the Governor says he now supports. Finally, the gun legislation debates as set forth in HB 512 and SB 101 were very depressing and ugly. Toward the end of the debates, however, the private colleges (Emory and Agnes Scott as examples) were exempt from “guns on campus” provisions and allowed to make decisions on their own private property. Nothing passed in 2013 on guns on campuses, in churches, or in more bars, but the debate will return next year without doubt.

One more question and you decide the category of good, bad or ugly–Did the 2013 General Assembly do anything positive for public education, or only continue to support private education scholarships and options?

My opinions, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Also, for any question you may have, hit reply, or feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.


MMO Legislative Activities:

Since the Session, MMO has spoken to the Family Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association on the Session’s family law legislation, the Judicial Council (invited by Chief Justice Carol Hunstein), and the Dresden Neighborhood Association. On behalf of the Governor’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform, MMO accepted an award from the Georgia Justice Project, and attended the Georgia Holocaust Annual Days of Remembrance Ceremony at the Capitol. MMO’s Facebook documents many of her daily visits and activities. This weekend, MMO is supporting and attending the Druid Hills Tour of Homes–please come and enjoy the tour, which includes lectures and an antique car show!

MMO introduced HB 619 and passed through both Chambers, to allow two precincts north of I 85 decide by a voter referendum if they wish to be annexed into the City of Chamblee. She is arguing with the Governor’s legal counsel about whether this bill violated Senate rules in passage and whether the Governor will veto or sign the bill. Stay tuned. And, she is making plans for an assortment of Session follow-up work and will report on these activities more in the future.

PLEASE LOOK FOR MORE DETAILS ON THE CITYHOOD TOWN HALL ON MAY 6! MORE TO COME!




Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com

 
MMO quoted in article on options for DeKalb residents on cityhood and annexation
April 4, 2013
 

 
Saporta Report article on HB 665
March 28, 2013
 

 
MMO files HB 669 to allow Druid Hills and Briarcliff residents to discuss and study cityhood.
March 26, 2013
 

 
MMO files cityhood (HB 665) and education (HB 669) for post Session discussion
March 26, 2013
 

 
MMO 7th Legislative newsletter
March 23, 2013
 

 
ry Margaret Oliver ---- GIRL SCOUTS AT THE CAPITOL!!!!

Law office: 404.377.0485
Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building

March 23, 2013 – MMO LEGISLATIVE NEWSLETTER
2013 GENERAL DOWN TO FINAL THREE DAYS!



This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s SIXTH email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed 37 of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!
In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!

SIXTH newsletter question:

Would you support funding a Venture Capital fund from Tobacco settlement payments for investors to come to Georgia to start high tech companies?


For over two decades Georgia has funded the Research Alliance to support research projects
in six public and private universities in Georgia. Emory and Georgia Tech have been recipients of these funds, and in addition Georgia Department of Economic Development in many ways provides financial incentives for new businesses to come here. Also, for many years, the national tobacco settlement funds have come to Georgia and are distributed throughout the budget including major contributions to One Georgia, a special economic development fund, originally designed to assist south Georgia tobacco counties.

The proposal for a high tech venture capitalist budget item, to be funded by One Georgia, is part of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Discussion. Is this a good use of tobacco settlement funds? Can we lure venture capitalists to Georgia effectively, and convince them to invest here, hopefully through our university research offerings?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about a Venture Capitalist Fund please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/


MMO Legislative Activities:

MMO’s HB 21 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and initially received positive support in Senate Rules. In the last 24 hours, we have learned, however, that a former Governor has personally intervened to stop final passage on the Senate floor. This opposition comes totally out of the blue and reflects the mystery of the democratic process. MMO has not given up and will keep fighting for good adoption legislation in HB 21. Stay tuned!

MMO introduced HB 619, which has passed the House to allow two precincts north of I
85 decide by a voter referendum if they wish to be annexed into the City of Chamblee.

Also, introduced this week, to be studied over the summer, is HB 632 offered by the State Bar of Georgia relating to testamentary guardian procedures. MMO was asked by the State Bar Family Law and Fiduciary Law sections of the Bar to file this legislation.

On Monday March 25, MMO will file a “place holder” bill to allow residents of Druid Hills and other neighborhoods the opportunity to decide whether they wish to be consider a new DeKalb County City in the 2014 Session. We anticipate other groups in the Lakeside and Tucker areas will also file similar bills in order to have ongoing discussion over the summer. To create new cities, legislation must be filed in one year in order to be voted on in the next year. In future newsletters MMO will discuss the procedures more fully in hopes that there will be a robust discussion on how citizens wish to be governed. This is important question for the voters, not elected politicians.

Best news of the week --- Criminal Justice Reform legislation unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday! HB 242 contain excellent reforms for juvenile justice and sets forth a new comprehensive Juvenile Court Code, and represents many years of work

Worst news of the week – Gun legislation allowing guns on campuses, in churches, on in bars passed the House again on Friday, and will be in conference with the Senate for passage of something allowing more guns, more places by the end of Day 40. The Georgia Board of Regents opposes guns on campus.

MMO presented to a Conference this week at Emory on Critical Health decisions with Ken Thorp and Art Kellerman. Thank you, Kathy Kinlaw, and the Emory Ethics Center, for this excellent conference.

And, thank you Girl Scouts from Immaculate Heart of Mary for visiting your Capitol this week!



Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

MMO continues to host pages from District 82, and children twelve years and older are eligible. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com

 
MMO quoted in article about Wendell Willard's legacy
March 23, 2013
 

 
MMO 5th e-mail newsletter of 2013 Legislative session
March 7, 2013
 
March 3, 2013 – MMO LEGISLATIVE NEWSLETTER
2013 GENERAL HAS ASSEMBLY CONVENED AND MET TWENTY-SEVEN DAYS!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s fifth email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed 27 of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.
Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!
In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!
Fifth newsletter question:
Would you vote for HB 474 which amends the Georgia Historic Preservation
Legislation to prohibit the 133 Historic Preservation Commissions in Georgia from
protecting landscape or neighborhood property designs? If HB 474 passes, the Commissions would be allowed to focus only on structures and not land designs.
Proponents state that only buildings should be subject to Historic Preservation Commission review, and not the landscape designs. Further, the Commissions limit
the rights of private property owners.

Opponents assert that, consistent with federal historic preservation guidelines, that Georgia Historic Preservation Commissions must be authorized to protect neighborhood land designs as well as buildings. HB 474 is sought by one developer in DeKalb County, Druid Hills, who has been stopped from sub-dividing an historic property into a cul-de-sac, contrary to the neighborhood design developed by Frederick Law Olmsted for Druid Hills. This developer is in active litigation, and wants the legislation to help his case.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about Historic Presservation Commission authority, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.

YOUR RESPONSES TO THE LAST NEWSLETTER QUESTION:

Newsletter 4 Question: Do you support Georgia participating in the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare)
and expand Medicaid to more uninsured citizens. 85% of you said YES.

Current status: Governor Deal is maintaining his position that the future of Obamacare is too uncertain for Georgia
to participate, and it will cost too much.
Stay tuned!

MMO Legislative Activities:

MMO’s HB 21 passed the HOUSE on Friday March 1 in a vote of 157 to 3!
She will now move to the Senate for passage in the 2013 Session, and thank you for all your support for this important bill on adoption rights. HB 21, and any other bill may be reviewed in detail on the General Assembly web site. Also, this week, the Criminal Justice Reform suggested legislation passed and goes to the Senate. HB 242 and HB 349 contain excellent reforms for juvenile justice and sets forth a new comprehensive Juvenile Court Code, and represents many years of work. More good news--HB 142 setting forth good new ethics proposals also passed the House this week.

MMO attended both the Briarcliff North Neighborhood discussion on cityhood, and the Lakeside City workgroup discussion. She is also in conversation with Dresden East constituents interested in annexation into Chamblee. Everyone is trying in a coordinated manner to understand their options, and not only be driven by fear or threats of a another new big city in DeKalb, i.e. Lakeside..

MMO stood with Governor Deal as he announced his decision to accept the State Board of Education’s recommendation to remove six of the nine DeKalb Board of Education members. Federal Judge Storey will now rule on the constitutionality of the removal statute. Big week for DeKalb School children!


Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

MMO continues to host pages from District 82, and children twelve years and older are eligible. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

 
MMO 4th E-mail newsletter of 2013 Legislative session
February 25, 2013
 
Mary Margaret Oliver
Law office: 404.377.0485
Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building






February 18, 2013 – HAPPY PRESIDENTS’ DAY!
2013 GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENED AND MET EIGHTEEN DAYS!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s fourth email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed 18 of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.orgto unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!

In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!
Fourth newsletter question:

SHOULD GEORGIA PARTICIPATE IN THE AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE ACT AND EXPAND MEDICAID COVERAGE FOR UNINSURED CITIZENS?

Governor Deal has stated consistently that Georgia will not participate in the Affordable Health Care Act , also known as ObamaCare, to expand Medicaid coverage for Georgia’s uninsured “under the current law”. Governor Deal has also stated that he is waiting on what changes will be made by Congress to amend ObamaCare, perhaps to provide block grant coverage, before final decisions can be made. He states the costs to Georgia for participation may be too high, perhaps as much as 4 billion dollars over 10 years, even though the benefits to Georgia will be almost 38 billion dollars.
Proponents of participation in ObamaCare state since Georgia citizens are being taxed for ObamaCare, our money should not be sent to other participating states, and Georgia cannot afford not to accept 38 billion in new health care dollars. Further, proponents say that as other states have changed its positions and now choosing to participate after initially saying “NO”, like Florida and Arizona, that the costs estimates are going down. Finally, Georgia has too many citizens without insurance coverage and the current financing of health care is unsustainable.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about ObamaCare, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/

YOUR RESPONSES TO PAST NEWSLETTER QUESTIONS:

Newsletter 1 Question: Do you support building new stadium with Hotel-Motel Tax revenues? 80% of those responding said NO.
Current status: At present, there is no movement to ask the General Assembly to vote for a new stadium, and negotiations with the Falcons have moved to the city of Atlanta for help.

Newsletter 2 Question: Should the State Board of Education remove the DeKalb School Board based on the SACS report? 90% of you responding said YES.
Current status: The State Board of Education meets this Thursday, February 21, at 8:00 am to hear the DeKalb School District case, and the proceeding will be available through the State Board’s web site via live stream. You are also welcome to attend in person, the meeting is open to the public in the Twin Towers.

Newsletter 3 Question:Should citizens seeking new cities have additional financial responsibilities and planning requirements as set forth in HB 22? 57% answered YES.
Current Status: Discussions about new DeKalb cities are on-going, particularly
for a proposed City of Lakeside. No bills have yet been introduced. This week, I
am meeting with North Briarcliff Civic Association, February 19, 7 pm to 9 pm, at Shallowford Presbyterian Church to listen to a discussion on the issue. Most people seem to be asking questions, trying to understand the options.
MMO Legislative Activities: MMO attended the gathering on Valentines Day with President Obama at
the Decatur Rec Center! It was a beautiful day for Decatur–the Renfroe Music Teacher sang the National Anthem, the Teacher of the Year introduced the President, and all focus was on Decatur’s good teachers working for four year olds! Pictures from the event are on MMO’s Facebook page.

MMO’s HB 21 is moving through the Juvenile Justice Committee, with goodhearing discussions. Appropriations Sub-Committees are also working hard to prepare the Fiscal Year ‘14 budget for a House vote.

Thank you all for attending our Town Hall meeting on February 13! We had a good crowd and discussions on transportation, schools, and Archives.

MMO and the Criminal Justice Reform Commission members were recognized with the Governor by Voices this week, and HB 242 is moving through the Judiciary Committee towards passage. Good work!

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

MMO continues to host pages from District 82, and children twelve years and older are eligible. Please let her know if your child would like to page onthe House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com





 
MMO interviewed about new DeKalb School Board members
March 14, 2013
 

 
6th Legislative Newsletter
March 10, 2013
 

 
Mary Margaret Oliver -- HOUND DOG BOBO SLEEPS THROUGH CROSSOVER DAY! UNCONCERNED?
Law office: 404.377.0485
Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building

March 9, 2013 – MMO LEGISLATIVE NEWSLETTER
CROSSOVER DAY OVER! 2013 GENERAL HAS ASSEMBLY
TEN DAYS TO GO!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s SIXTH email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed 30 of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!
In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!

Sixth Newsletter Question:

Would you vote for HB 512 which passed the House this week to expand gun rights to carry concealed weapons into churches and onto college campuses, except for dorms and fraternity and sorority houses?

The House voted for HB 512 overwhelmingly, based on a Republican majority vote. Only three of 119 Republicans voted no, and only two Democrats voted yes. The Senate has passed another strong bill expanding gun carrying rights, and a possible combined bill may pass in the final ten days of the Session. I voted no, and spoke against HB 512 on the House floor, on behalf of Emory and other constituent voices, citing facts of history relating to gun control and the current imbalance of the debate that is driven by the NRA and GeorgiaCarry.org.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about HB 512 and gun control, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com. The specific language of HB 512 or any other bill may be found on the Georgia General Assembly web site.


MMO Legislative Activities:
Much of MMO’s legislative work is spent of local issues, matters directly impacting House District 82. The following are current local issues that are hot and requiring time and attention:

DeKalb School Board Removal – MMO and the DeKalb delegation have met personally with Governor Deal to discuss his decision to accept the State Board of Education’s recommendation to remove six of the DeKalb School Board members. This week, Governor Deal gave us the list of 403 citizens who have applied to serve as appointed members to replace the removed members before the list was made public. We are also meeting with the Nominating Committee this weekend to review the names and make our suggestions. MMO anticipates the Governor’s committee will move quickly to give the Governor names for consideration and new Board members will be appointed by the end of the week. MMO supports the Governor’s decisions to remove Board members and to move quickly. The legal proceedings will be ongoing, but the Governor is not enjoined from making new appointments. MMO also supports and is co-sponsor of HB 468 which prohibits removed or sanctioned School Board members from using taxpayer money to pay for attorneys to stop their personal removal from the Board.

HB 474, Druid Hills Protection of Georgia Historic Preservation Commission Districts — This week, the House Judiciary Committee voted to table HB 474, which guts the Georgia Historic Preservation Commission Act to assist one developer attempting to override Druid Hills Historic Commission rulings on a Clifton Road property. The issue may continue to be raised in the next ten days in the form of amendments to other bills, and MMO and many others are watching closely for any such attempts. There are 138 Historic Preservation Districts in Georgia, and many others are concerned about HB 474 dramatic negative impact on local control and zoning issues.

HB 481 Relating to Embryo Scientific Research ---MMO was appointed to a Special Committee of the House Judiciary Committee to hear testimony on HB 481, entitled the “Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act”. Similar to past political and faith-based discussions on stem cell research, Emory scientists have an interest in prohibitions on specific cellular research that make scientists subject to criminal sanctions. The hearing was lengthy and confusing and did not answer what exact research tools would be banned under the possible passage of HB 481. The debate will continue over the summer and fall, and MMO will continue to serve on the special committee that directly involves Emory’s research work on cancer and multiple sclerosis among other illnesses.

AGL Regulator Substation Construction -- Many neighbors in the north Clairmont and Tanglewood Road area are concerned about a major AGL construction project, and MMO is communicating on a frequent basis with Atlanta Gas Light and the Public Service Commission on safety issues being raised. A gas leak occurring yesterday and shutting down neighborhood roads did not help feelings of insecurity.

DeKalb Cityhood and Annexations – There are many ongoing discussions about possible new cities in DeKalb, and MMO is working with constituents in the Dresden neighborhoods on their wishes to me annexed into Chamblee. Local legislation will be introduced this week for the voters in this area to decide their fate. Part of the impetus of this annexation is the wish to be protected from inclusion in a possible new City of Lakeside. Talks will continue on all these boundary issues and self determination questions. On a procedural issue, any group seeking to create a new city must file a “placeholder” bill in 2013 in order to have an opportunity to pass legislation in 2014 to make a new city a reality by votes of the impacted citizens.

Supplemental and FY 2014 Budget Issues -- MMO serves on the Appropriations Committee and the Supplemental Budget to the 2013 Budget passed both Chambers this week. The only thing the General Assembly is required to do each year is pass a budget, and MMO is involved in budget activity on a daily basis. Of particular interest to HD 82 is the Medical Residency appropriations that impacts Medical training of residents through Emory and Grady Hospitals. MMO continues to question the possible loss of child and Adolescent psychiaric resdiency slots and resulting loss of mental health services for children in DeKalb County. The creation of a new state agency for Behavioral Health has created both opportunites and challenges for children's mental health services. The lack of progress on coordinated or managed care option for foster care children is also an issue in the 2014 Medicaid budget.




Capitol visits and Speaking engagements

MMO continues to host pages from District 82, and children twelve years and older are eligible. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com

 
MMO named to Suicide Prevention and Awareness Committee by State Bar of Georgia
March 7, 2013
 
State Bar tries to take on suicides
Greg Land
2013-02-27 00:00:11


Click here to review the State Bar of South Carolina’s study, “The Lawyers’ Epidemic: Depression, Suicide and Substance Abuse."

The recent suicide of a federal public defender in the State Bar of Georgia parking deck served as a tragic exclamation point for an effort by bar associations in Georgia and elsewhere to stem an often-unseen tide of suicides—successful and attempted—among attorneys.

In what she termed a "bizarre, intense" revelation, Georgia Bar President Robin Frazer Clark said investigators determined that at the very time Thomas "Jake" Waldrop was sitting in his car and preparing to take his own life, between 1 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 12, she and the bar's Executive Director Cliff Brashier were having a lengthy conversation about her proposed "How to Save a Life" initiative.

"It's chilling," said Clark. "Literally two minutes after we hung up, Cliff called me back and said, 'I have some very bad news.' We were discussing it while a man was committing suicide in our parking deck."

Clark said she is aware of at least three Georgia lawyers who have taken their own lives in the last nine months, including Waldrop. The suicide of an Emory Law School student last year had already spurred a panel discussion there aimed at throwing light on the stresses that can trigger depression or substance abuse and start a spiral that can, if left unchecked, end in suicide.

Three days after Waldrop's death, Clark named a five-member panel to a new Suicide Prevention and Awareness Committee that was part of her initial plan.

J. Randolph Evans of McKenna Long & Aldridge will chair the panel, which also includes Duane Morris partner and former bar president Bill Barwick; bar executive committee member Elizabeth L. Fite of Kutak Rock; Decatur family law practitioner and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver; and Atlanta solo Charles "Chuck" Pekor Jr., who chairs the bar's Lawyer Assistance Program Committee.

The panel's task, according to the appointment letter, is to "develop new means through which to provide Bar members, their families and colleagues with suicide prevention resources and information, including understanding the warning signs, myths and realities, and attorney specific risks."

According to figures circulated at a bar seminar last week, "The Attorney's First Aid Kit," the suicide death rate for lawyers is six times that of the general population, and it is the third-highest cause of death for lawyers.

Attorneys are also among the professionals most prone to suffer from depression, according to course materials. A 2008 review of several studies estimated that of about 1 million lawyers in the United States, 250,000 suffer from some form of depression.

Evans, whose practice includes professional negligence, said his interest in the causes and prevention of suicide began with a client.

"I had a client, an attorney with a potential malpractice claim, and it just consumed him," Evans said. "He had [malpractice] insurance, but this claim was all he could think about. He had a 30- or 40-year practice, and he felt like it was about to collapse around him."

After the client took his own life, Evans said, "I tried to learn everything I could about it. Over my career, I've had a couple of other acquaintances who've attempted suicide; between the career pressures and the economic pressures, people are becoming more susceptible, I think."

Evans said that educating lawyers—as well as their colleagues, friends and families—is key to the program. Other states are already taking the lead in such efforts, he said, and Georgia is learning from their experiences.

"Texas has got a very progressive program and a great video, and some other states do as well; we're trying to collect all of that," said Evans. "Education is really the single most important tool. There are patterns of communication that are pretty clear signs that something is wrong."

According to a 2009 white paper authored by attorney C. Stuart Mauney of Greenville, S.C.'s Gallivan, White & Boyd, "The Lawyers' Epidemic: Depression, Suicide and Substance Abuse," the symptoms of depression include a depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, a change in sleeping patterns, fatigue, indecisiveness, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of suicide.

The warning signs of suicide include an unrelenting low mood, pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, inner tension, withdrawal and sleep problems.

Alcoholism, according to the paper, is a factor in 30 percent of all completed suicides, it said.

Evans said that, had he been more cognizant of the warning signs, he might have been able to intervene and prevent his former client's suicide.

"If I had only known; there are certain kinds of language patterns, certain kinds of conduct that indicate that they don't see any solution to their problems," he said. "The signs were there, I just didn't see them."

The bar has a 24-hour confidential hotline through its Lawyer Assistance Program that is served by an outside referral service. Attorneys and law students can call 1-800-327-9631 for help. Pekor lauds the service it provides, which includes the availability of round-the-clock professional counselors.

As a member of the LAP Committee for six or seven years, Pekor said he and fellow committee members are often called upon to offer after-hours advice, referrals, or even to drive a troubled lawyer to an emergency Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

"I get these calls literally at 2 o'clock in the morning," said Pekor. "We have a hotline, but sometimes a lawyer wants to talk to another lawyer. The LAP Committee has a pretty extensive program: You can get counseling, your family and children can get help. We get a lot of calls from family members, and even some from judges who are worried about a lawyer."

"Everything is completely confidential," Pekor emphasized.

Pekor, himself a recovering alcoholic who weathered his own professional and personal turbulence many years ago, said he appreciates the need for a dedicated suicide-oriented program.

"There's not a practicing attorney anywhere, essentially, that doesn't deal with anxiety on a routine basis," said Pekor. "The depression goes hand in hand with that; there's so much stress. … An awful lot of our suicides over the last few years haven't been down and out, or about to be disbarred, they're people from all walks of life, outwardly successful with a good practice."

"Probably 75 percent of those suicides were preventable," Pekor said. "There are a lot of warning signs you can look for, and that's what we're trying to raise awareness of. It's astonishing how much good you can do just talking to someone who's willing to listen."



http://www.law.com/jsp/ga/PubArticleDRO.jsp?id=1202589783901>

 
MMO co-sponsors HB 468
February 27, 2013
 
Spending taxpayer money to save your elected job to avoid SACS sanctions is just wrong.

 
MMO interviewed on Channel 2 regarding Bishop Wright's message
February 21, 2013
 

 
MMO introduces House Bill 136 to insure consistency in monitoring wet coal ash ponds
February 15, 2013
 
PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: J.D. Easley
Friday, February 15, 2013
(404) 656-0311

john.easley@house.ga.gov.easley

Rep. Oliver Introduces Legislation Aimed Regulating Georgia’s Solid Waste Management

ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) today announced the introduction of House Bill 136. This legislation would make Georgia’s wet and dry ash waste created by coal burning power plants monitored in a more consistent way.
“We must pay extra attention to this matter,” said Rep. Oliver. “Georgia’s statutes are inconsistent right now, and Georgia Power has a big job ahead of itself as it goes about closing coal ponds.”
Coal burning plants produce both dry and wet coal ash. Although Georgia’s Solid Waste Treatment Act requires monitoring of dry ash ponds to ensure that they do not contaminate the local water supply, the act does not apply to wet coal ash. As a result, wet ash ponds in Georgia are monitored inconsistently based on size and Georgia’s Safe Dam Act.
HB 136 would correct the inconsistency in state law by requiring all coal ash ponds to obtain a permit from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD). To receive an EPD permit, the pond would need to have an adequate ground-water monitoring system. This measure will thus ensure that both dry and wet ash ponds are monitored. HB 136 would also require all new coal ash ponds constructed after January 1, 2014, to include liners that prevent environmental contamination.
The introduction of HB 136 comes on the heels of Georgia Power announcing earlier this year that the company will be closing 15 coal and oil-fired units at plants throughout the state. Georgia Power is taking the units offline to comply with federal rules aimed at reducing air pollution. While these closures will reduce the amount of coal ash generated in Georgia, it also raises issues concerning the long term storage of existing ash in the closing units.
“This bill is timely and important because Georgia Power is preparing to shut down about half of its coal burners and will have to figure out what to do with their coal ash ponds. This legislation will provide needed direction for Georgia power and further protection of our water,” added Rep. Oliver.
Coal ash is the waste byproduct that remains after coal is burned. It includes fly ash, bottom ash, and boiler slag residue. Coal burning plants typically store coal ash in landfills and surface impoundments, like ponds, pits, or lagoons.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), coal ash contains a broad range of metals, including arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead, and mercury. While the concentrations of these metals are generally low, the EPA warns that coal ash may cause a risk to human health and the environment if it is not properly managed. The EPA considers proper management to include the use of lined storage units.
Georgia generates over 3.1 million tons of coal ash per year, making it the 13th highest generator of coal ash in the country. This coal ash is stored in a total of 28 ponds at 10 power plants throughout the state. According to a 2007 EPA risk assessment, 11 of these ponds are unlined. Of these 11 unlined ponds, 10 do not have leachate collection systems to remove environmentally harmful substances for treatment and disposal, and 9 of the 11 unlined ponds do not have any groundwater monitoring.
For more information on HB 136, please click here.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 82, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and she currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Science & Technology committees.


 
MMO pictures of President's visit to Decatur
February 15, 2013
 
MMO enjoying front row seat to see POTUS
MMO enjoying front row seat to see POTUS
 

 
MMO on WXIA talking about Georgia's leaderhip role in pre-K education
February 15, 2013
 

 
MMO discusses new DeKalb School Superintendent
February 15, 2013
 

 
MMO's 3rd e-mail newsletter of the session
February 2, 2013
 
Mary Margaret Oliver
Law office: 404.377.0485
Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Suite 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334 mail to: mmo@mmolaw.com


February 2, 2013 – HAPPY GROUND HOG DAY1 2013 GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENED JANUARY 14
AND HAS MET NINE DAYS!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s THIRD email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed nine of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!

In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!
Third newsletter question:
Would you vote to create additional financial responsibilities and analysis before citizen groups would be allowed to create new cities by referendum of the voters?
I have introduced HB 22 to create additional responsibilities for citizen groups to ask voters to create new cities. The purpose of additional procedures is to strengthen financial accountability and analysis of comparative costs for counties and cities to deliver services. Also, HB 22 would require new cities to create some form of county-wide cityhood proposal if 25% of the county is already in cities. The intended purpose of HB 22 is to make decisions for new cities based on more real economic impact factors, and to improve planning and economic development.. The argument against HB 22 is that it would create barriers to new cities. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about HB 22, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/

MMO Legislative Activities: MMO has filed HB 136 to require wet coal ash ponds resulting from coal fire plants in Georgia be regulated and monitored in the same manner as dry coal ash ponds under the Georgia Solid Waste Treatment Act. There is federal scrutiny and pending federal regulations on wet coal ash ponds and the Georgia wet coal ash ponds are treated differently under Georgia law. Some ponds require ground water testing by Georgia Power, the entity that creates all coal ash ponds from its plants, and some do not. Also this week, neighboring citizens of Georgia Power Plant Scherer have filed suit over alleged ground water pollution from wet coal ash ponds. This issue is pretty hot currently, and HB 136 attempts to make monitoring and protection of water resources consistent. You may review HB 136 and any other bill filed in the 2013 Session on the General Assembly web site. http://www.legis.state.ga.us. HB 136 has been assigned to the Natural Resources Committee, and additional updates will be provided on MMO’s Facebook and web site www.marymargaretoliver.org.

MMO has participated in the last two weeks in Appropriation Committee hearings. She has been assigned by Speaker David Ralston, in addition to the Appropriations Committee, also to Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, Science and Technology, and Juvenile Justice Committees--all excellent assignments. All committees have met, organized and have begun hearing new bills. All committee meetings are open to the public and may be viewed on-line live on the General Assembly web site. Please visit your Capitol or Tune in!

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO, Representatives Howard Mosby, Rahn Mayo, and Senator Jason Carter will hold a Town hall meeting on Wednesday night, February 13, 6:30 to 8:00 pm, at Decatur City Hall. Please attend and tell us what you think!

MMO visited recently with Nursing students from Emory on Nurses Day at the Capitol and Barton Child Law and Policy Center law students who are working on HB 21 on post adoption agreements. She hosted Ella Biehn as a Page for the House–thank you Ella for your service! National Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway was a big hit with the House and MMO and she personally met with Governor Deal who presented Natasha with his formal Commendation.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com

 
Discussion of DeKalb County organization is ongoing
January 30, 2013
 

 
MMO quoted in AJC article on new Chair of Science and Technology Committee
January 23, 2013
 

 
Second MMO newsletter of the 2013 session
January 21, 2013
 
January 18, 2012 – 2013 GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENED AND COMPLETED FOUR DAYS!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s second email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convened January 14, 2013 and has completed four of its forty days of work. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.
Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!
In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!
Second newsletter question:

If you were a member of the State Board of Education, would you vote to recommend to Governor Deal removal all members of the DeKalb School Board based on the SACS Report of December 17, 2012?

On January 17, 2013 the State Board of Education met to review the SACS report which placed the DeKalb Board of Education of “Accredited Probation” by the SACS Council on Accreditation and School Improvement. Accredited Probation is the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation. After several hours of testimony the Board entered a Consent Order suspending the hearing for a period of 30 days. The School Board members assert they are capable of continuing to serve to meet the required steps of improvement and should not be removed. The SACS report and the Consent Order are both available for review on line of DeKalb School Board web site.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about the SACs report and DeKalb School Board, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.

MMO Legislative Activities: During the first week of the 2013 Session MMO received her Committee assignments from Speaker Ralston, and again will serve on the Judiciary, Appropriations, Governmental Affairs and Science and Technology Committees. In addition, MMO was appointed to the newly created Juvenile Justice Committee, and is very happy with her previous and new assignments.

Appropriations Committee Meetings-- On January 22, in Room 341 of the Capitol, at 10:30 am the Appropriations Committee begins hearings on the Supplemental 2013 Budget and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, which runs from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. The Governor will be the first witness before the Committee, and these hearings, and most other House Committees, may be viewed live and on-line from the General Assembly web site. I will be in attendance for all hearings from Tuesday morning through Thursday noon. Please come to the Capitol to join us, or tune in on-line!

Governor Deal's Budget Proposals -- On Thursday of this week, the Governor gave his State of the State message in the House Chambers to all Representatives and Senators. I am very pleased to report that the Governor endorsed the Criminal Justice Reform Council's proposals and pledged five million dollars of new money to fund some of the alternative programs for juvenile offenders who have committed no violent crimes. The Council Report and the Governor's complete State of State speech may be viewed on his web site. The legislation fully setting forth the Council's proposals will be introduced during the week of January 28 when the General Assembly reconvenes after the Budget hearings.

Other issues the Governor addressed included lowering the alcohol content level required to convict for Operating a Boat under the influence (BUI) to .08 percent, consistent with Driving under the influence.(DUI). Currently under law, the alcohol level to convict for DUI is .10. The HOPE scholarship funds will be increased 3%, and funding for pre-k shall return to 180 days per year. State employees and teachers will receive no pay raises for the fifth year in a row.
Special Visitor to Capitol -- Also on Thursday, right before the Governor's speech, MMO introduced National Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway to the House based on a special invitation from the Speaker. Natasha is a Pulizer award winner Professor at Emory University, a resident of Decatur, and former cheerleader at UGA! Natasha also received a Commendation from the Governor and met with him and Mrs. Deal personally in the Governor's office. One of the House Freshmen was a football player on the UGA team when Natasha was a cheerleader for the team, and they had a happy reunion. It was a fun visit and in my next newsletter I will share pictures, and furhter reports on the Budget hearings.

Finally, another important MMO activity of the week. Thursday was the Department of Natural Resources Day at the Capitol, and I helped the young staff from the Charles Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield load the snakes into the elevators to travel to the displays with other creatures, including a Bald Eagle, in the Rotunda. The looks on the faces of other Capitol visitors thinking about joining us on the elevator was fun!

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO and Senator Jason Carter spoke to the Glenn Memorial Wednesday night supper this week, January 16--always a great group interested in a Capitol report! On January 13, MMO appeared on a Panel at the Capitol sponsored by Voices on children's issues in the 2013 Session. The DeKalb delegation's final public hearing was on January 10 at Agnes Scott.
On Wednesday morning January 23 at Henderson Elementary School, beginning at 9:00 am, MMO and Senator Fran Millar will meet with the Emory Lavista Parent Council on the SACs report and the State Board of Education response.


MMO continues to host pages from DeKalb District 82 children twelve years and older. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com

 
Article in Daily Report on HB 21
January 15, 2013
 

 
First MMO Newsletter of 2013 Session
December 18, 2012
 


December 17, 2012 – HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! 2013 GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES JANUARY 14!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s first email newsletter for the 2013 General Assembly Session which convenes January 14, 2013. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.
Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2013 Session, please friend her on Facebook and follow her Tweets. Thank you for your interest!

In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your opinions and guidance.
First 2013 newsletter question:
Would you vote to increase the Georgia World Congress Center’s bonding authority by $300 million dollars to help the Atlanta Falcons build a new billion dollar football stadium?

A new football stadium would cost a little over one billion dollars, and the old (twenty years old) stadium would be torn down. The Falcons would contribute $700 million dollars, and would manage the new stadium for thirty years, paying the state a yearly fee of 2.5 million. At the end of the 30 year lease, the state would own the more modern stadium that will have a retractable roof. The exact location of the new stadium has not been decided, but would be near the current stadium. In order to complete the financial plan to build a new stadium, the General Assembly must vote to increase the bonding authority of the Georgia World Congress Center, and the state's $300 million share would be paid from the hotel/motel tax revenues that guests pay on their hotel bills.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to this question about how to fund a possible new stadium , please click “reply” or message me on my web site http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.
MMO Legislative Activities: MMO has pre-filed for consideration in the 2013 Session two bills, HB 21 and 22. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20132014/HB/21. HB 21 relates to enforcement of post adoption agreements about visitation between birth and adopting families that is the best interest of the child.

HB 22 provides that a new city may not be legislatively created in less than a two year legislative term, and adds procedures for new financial analysis for both the new city proposed and the county. MMO has met with Commissioners Kathy Gannon and Jeff Rader, and representatives of the county and city associations about the process for creating new cities in general. At issue, in part, is the goal to create new cities based on financial viability standards, and to give voters more options on how they wish to receive services. This discussion will be ongoing in the House Government Affairs Committee on which MMO serves.
You can review these or any other bill filed at the General Assembly web-site /http://www.legis.state.ga.us, and additional updates will be provided on MMO’s Facebook and web site www.marymargaretoliver.org.
Governor Deal named MMO to the Criminal Justice Reform Commission, to follow up on HB 1176 from the 2012 Session. The Commission met over many days during the fall, and has voted on new recommendations, which focus primarily on juvenile justice reform for the Governor to introduce in 2013. Future newsletters will reform on these recommendations when the Report is made public in the near future. Stay tuned!

District talks, Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO and Senator Jason Carter will speak to the Glenn Memorial Wednesday night supper January 16 at 6:15 pm, and the DeKalb delegation will conduct a pre-Session public hearing on January 10 at Presser Hall on the Agnes Scott Campus, beginning at 6:00 pm. Please attend!


MMO continues to host pages from DeKalb’s District 82 children twelve years and older. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.
If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com


 
MMO at DeKalb delegation town hall meeting
December 13, 2012
 

 
MMO quoted in AJC article discussing budget disaster at rape crisis centers.
December 17, 2012
 

 
Ethics disclosure on the way for 2013 General Assembly session
October 14, 2012
 
MMO looks forward to progress...finally!

 
MMO falsley accused of hypocrisy
July 27, 2012
 

 
AJC examining HB 535 and funding issues for State's Veterans' nursing homes
July 7, 2012
 

 
MMO told to do her job by DeKalb BOE head Dr. Walker. She is doing her job.
June 18, 2012
 

 
MMO quoted on Brookhaven cityhood in longer interview
June 15, 2012
 

 
MMO files complaint with Attorney General alleging DeKalb School Bd. violation of Open Meetings Law
June 5, 2012
 

 
MMO says Tea Party success in Republican primaries could create opportunities for Democrats
May 23, 2012
 

 
MMO pictured at Criminal Justice Reform bill signing
May 3, 2012
 

 
Governor Deal signs Criminal Justice Reform Bill
May 2, 2012
 
I attended Governor Deal's press conference and bill signing ceremony today at the Capitol for the Criminal Justice Reform Commission's HB 1176. Governor Deal is reappointing the Commission by Executive Order, and I am one of those who will continue to serve. He is asking that the work go forward with recommendations from the Commission that were not included in HB 1176. Also, the Governor wants the Juvenile Court Code Reform project to be a part of the 2012 and 2013 efforts. I look forward to working with the other Commission members on these efforts. All of this is very positive for our state.

 
MMO's language added to HB 1176 will increase the number of adults who must report child abuse
April 24, 2012
 

 
MMO quoted on ongoing analysis of DFCS funding inequities
April 13, 2012
 

 
MARTA woes continue...
April 4, 2012
 

 
MMO and Stephanie Stuckey Benfield catch "them" trying to pull a fast one
April 2, 2012
 

 
MMO's 6th Legislative e-mail newsletter
March 23, 2012
 
Description: MMO_EmailMary Margaret Oliver

Law office: 404.377.0485

Legislative office: 404.656.0265 Coverdell Legislative Office Building

Suite 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334 mail to: mmo@mmolaw.com



March 23, 2012, 2012 – 40 Day Session Completes Day 37



FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK TO RECEIVE DAILY POSTINGS FROM THE 2012 SESSION!



Link: https://.facebook.com/marymoliver
>

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s sixth email newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session which convened January 9, 2012, and has now completed 37 days of the 40 day session. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at
http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.



HOME STRETCH---Thank you for your interest!



In each previous newsletter this Session, I have asked how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. THE FOLLOWING IS HOW YOU VOTED:



Would you ban cell phone use for all drivers of cars, not just teenage drivers?



Yes 68% (18% would allow hands free exception)

No 32%





Would you increase the Tobacco tax to $1.00 for a package of cigarettes?



Yes 79%

No 21%



Would you grant an Energy Tax Exemption for Manufacturing?



Yes 32%

No 35%

Undecided 33



Would you vote for no tax changes without comprehensive overhaul?



Yes 55%

No 38%

Undecided 9%









Would you impose an Income cap of $140,000 for HOPE scholarship eligibility?



Yes 62% (51% cap should be less or on a sliding scale depending on income/grades)

No 24%

Undecided 14%





Would you add Clergy and Coaches to list of mandated reporters for suspicious child abuse?





Yes 92%

No 6%

Undecided 2%



Do you think all adults should be mandated child abuse reporters?



Yes 51%

No 42% (44% worried about vindictiveness/false claims)

Undecided 7%





Do you think possession of drugs should be presumed to receive probation instead of prison time?



Yes 95%

Undecided 5% (not enough local resources to handle)





To comment on your “votes” or ask questions, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.





MMO Legislative Activities:

Good news to report! On Day 37 of the Session, MMO’s HB 535 passed the Senate and now is on the way to the Governor for his signature. HB 535 grants new authority to the state Veteran’s Administration to participate in additional federal funding streams for the Georgia’s two veteran’s nursing homes. This bill will begin the process, long overdue of modernizing the funding for this service, and MMO will be monitoring the bill’s implementation over the summer. This effort was based on the work of the Appropriations committees and passed with the governor’s support. HB 535 is the first bill of the 2012 Session to be passed by a Democrat.



HB 1176, the Criminal Justice Reform package, passed the House on Thursday with only one “no” vote, and now moves to the Senate. HB 948, authored by MMO, to add clergy and coaches to the list of mandate reporters of child abuse, is included in the bill. These criminal justice reforms may be the most significant action of the 2012 Session.



A tax package has been voted on by both Chambers and also moves to the Governor for final action. HB 386 contains many provisions that were part of the 2011 Tax Reform Council recommendations, but not all, and it is not a comprehensive re-write or modernization of Georgia’s tax structure. But, it does include elimination of the “birthday tax” ad valorem for cars and replaces it with a one time title fee, expands the marriage couple exemption for income tax, grants a energy tax ecemption for manufactures, imposes a limit on the income tax exemption for taxpayers over 65, and recreates the sales tax “holiday” for pre-school shopping. A comprehensive review of this bill may be best found at the http://gbpi.org/bill-analysis-house-bill-386-lc-34-3484s-tax-package. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute provides an independent review of budget and tax legislation and is an excellent resource.



HOW WOULD YOU HAVE VOTED?



Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – This week international law and graduate students from Emory Law School visited the Capitol along with a special group of AARP members. MMO will speak to Decatur Rotary on April 6 with Senator Jason Carter, and to the Hunting Hill Garden Club in late April. If your group would like to invite MMO to review the 2012 Session, please ask.



Thank you!



MARY MARGARET

Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334
image001.jpg    image001.jpg
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MMO sponsored HB 535 to save State $3-6mm from two Veterans' Homes
March 22, 2012
 

 
MMO's Juvenile Justice projects for last 10 days of session
March 12, 2012
 

 
DeKalb AARP members visit with MMO at Capitol
March 12, 2012
 

 
Drug testing welfare applicants will cost the taxpayers more
March 9, 2012
 

 
HB 630 creating employment protection for gay state employees was tabled
February 22, 2012
 

 
MMO on WABE discussing timing of a referendum vote on Dekalb School Board size
February 20, 2012
 

 
MMO co-sponsors HB 949, easing ballot access for independent and third party candidates
February 20, 2012
 

 
Conversations continue about the size of the DeKalb School Board
February 20, 2012
 

 
MMO op-ed in AJC about her HB 948 expanding mandated reporters of child abuse
February 18, 2012
 

 
MMO speaks on floor of House opposing HB 636, the Brookhaven/Ashford incorporation bill
February 17, 2012
 

 
MMO interviewed on WABE over ongoing work of DeKalb School Board redistricting
February 17, 2012
 

 
MMO interviewed on Channel 2 about adoption reimbursement mismanagement
February 17, 2012
 

 
MMO awaiting response from DHS on psychtropic driug report from Barton Center at Emory
February 16, 2012
 

 
MMO and Sen. Fran Millar meet with parents about Dekalb school board redistricting
February 16, 2012
 

 
MMO asks for answers to two questions as redistricting moves forward
February 15, 2012
 

 
DeKalb School Board redistricting
February 15, 2012
 

 
HB 830 an attempt to slow municipalization process
February 14, 2012
 

 
MMO on WABE about Truancy Bill
February 10, 2012
 

 
MMO co-sponsors Ballot Access bill
February 10, 2012
 

 
Another article on MMO's request to slow Brookhaven/Ashford process
February 10, 2012
 

 
Hearing held on MMO sponsored HB 23 dealing with oversight of psychotropic medications administered
February 10, 2012
 

 
MMO attempts to slow Brookhaven/Ashford move toward referendum
February 10, 2012
 

 
Dekalb Legislators hold Decatur Town Hall meeting
February 5, 2012
 
MMO & Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield at Town Hall Meeting
MMO & Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield at Town Hall Meeting
 

 
Dekalb redistricting and HB 671
2/5/12
 

 
MMO interview on WSB concerning truancy bill
January 30, 2012
 

 
MMO and Rep. Parent introduce Municipalization legislation
January 30, 2012
 
PRESS RELEASE



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
   

Contact: J.D. Easley

Monday, January 30, 2012
   

(404) 656-0311


   

john.easley@house.ga.gov.easley



Representatives Oliver and Parent Introduce Municipalization Legislation



ATLANTA— State Representatives Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) and Elena Parent (D-Chamblee) announced today the introduction of House Bill 830, legislation that would help the General Assembly and Georgia voters assess the financial viability of proposed municipalities.

“The financial model we currently use is inadequate,” said Rep. Oliver. “The electorate deserves to know what impact a new city would have on the financial health of those inside and outside the boundaries of the proposed city before they are asked to make a decision on incorporation.”

“Observing the process of the proposal to incorporate a city of Brookhaven in part of my district made me see up close the deficiencies in our current process,” said Rep. Parent. “Our current municipalization process does not take into account the interests of surrounding cities or unincorporated neighborhoods. For a new city to be successful, it needs to do that.”

Since 2005, the cities of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills, and Dunwoody have all been incorporated as new municipalities. Efforts to incorporate Brookhaven are currently underway.

Representatives Parent and Oliver believe that the 10-county Atlanta region will undergo a process of municipalization over the course of the next several decades.

“This process must be done with sound planning and with attention given to the economic viability of the counties and of the Atlanta region, which is the economic engine of the State,” said Rep. Parent.

Currently, no state law or regulation governs a specific process or procedure for Georgia communities hoping to incorporate into a new municipality. Instead, the proposals are introduced as state legislation, which then follows the rules of whichever committee happens to be assigned the legislation.

HB 830 would replace this existing committee-based system with a detailed statutory procedure that sets specific steps that every community must go through before being incorporated into a municipality. This more predictable statutory procedure could only be changed by legislative acts signed into law by the governor.

The new statutory procedure created by HB 830 would consist of a two year process that must begin in the first year of a Generally Assembly term, which will always be an odd numbered year unless changed by the state constitution. During that first year, a committee in the General Assembly must determine the boundaries of the proposed municipality in a way that does not create unincorporated islands.

Once the boundaries have been determined, a financial viability study must be conducted during the interim between the first and second sessions of the General Assembly term, which would include the amount of taxes needed to sustain the proposed municipality and the services it would provide; a before and after incorporation comparison of the estimated costs of police, fire, and sanitation services of the new municipality, county, and adjacent existing counties; and the financial impact of the incorporation of the municipality on the county where the new city is located, as well as the impact on adjacent existing municipalities in the same county. After this study, the proposed new municipality must receive express consent to incorporate from the existing municipalities within close proximity to the proposed municipality’s boundaries.

Only after the boundaries have been determined, a financial viability study has been conducted, and existing municipalities within close proximity have given their express consent may the General Assembly move forward with committee action to determine the merits of the proposed municipality, and this may only be done during the second year of a Generally Assembly term. When this happens, any committee reviewing the legislation to create the proposed municipality must determine whether sufficient testimony and evidence show that alternatives to incorporation meet the needs of those living within the proposed municipality. A certification of the committee’s decision must then be attached to the report of the committee. After all of these procedures are completed, the General Assembly may vote on passage of the measure.

For more information on HB 830, please click here.



Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and also has five years of previous service. She currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Science and Technology committees.



Representative Elena Parent represents the citizens of District 81, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves on the Children and Youth, Defense and Veteran Affairs, and Code Revision committees.


 
MMO co-sponsors Ethics bill
January 26, 2012
 

 
MMO introduces legislation focusing on truancy
January 26, 2012
 
MMO and Rep. Rahn Mayo have introduced a bill which will provide administrators and law enforcement with better tools to enforce truancy laws.

 
MMO has questions at first hearing on bill concerning creation of the City of Brookhaven
January 26, 2012
 

 
MMO has questions at first hearing on bill concerning creation of the City of Brookhaven
January 26, 2012
 

 
Second Newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session
January 21, 2012
 
January 20, 2012 – 40 Day Session Completes Day 5 and Budget Hearings!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s second email newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session which convened January 9, 2012, and will focus on pending budget and tax questions. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

TOWN HALL MEETING – MMO, Representatives Stephanie Benfield and Stacy Abrams, and Senator Jason Carter will host a town hall meeting at the Decatur City Commission chamber on January 26, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Please come!

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2012 Session, please friend her on Facebook. Thank you for your interest!

In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your opinions and guidance.
Second Newsletter -- Budget and Tax Questions:

How would you vote to change Georgia’s tax code? Does it need changing?

1. Would you raise tobacco tax on cigarettes by $1.00 per pack?
2. Would you grant to manufacturing companies in Georgia an exemption for taxes on energy costs as other southern states do?
3. Would you make no specific tax changes without a comprehensive overall of the entire tax code?

I serve on the Appropriations Committee, and beginning with Governor Nathan Deal’s presentation of his budget to the full Committee on January 17, and his revenue estimate from all taxes in the next fiscal year, the Committee heard Executive and Judicial leaders present budget requests and analysis over three days of public hearings. During the 2012 Session, the General Assembly will pass two budgets: the first will amend the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, and the second will create a new budget of Fiscal Year 2013. Georgia’s Fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends June 30th , so we are about half way through this year’s budget.

Budget Overview – Both the FY 2012 and FY 2013 budgets may be reviewed on-line at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget web site www.opb.gov. Analysis of Georgia’s budget may also be examined on the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute web-site www.gbpi.org. Georgia must pass a balanced budget, and state laws require maintenance of specific reserves or a “rainy day fund”, and a limit on state incurred debt at no more than 10% of revenues. The current debt carried by Georgia is 7.8%, the highest it has been in my legislative career. Georgia is one of eight states that has a Triple A bond rating by all three rating agencies.

Budget Cutbacks in Recent Years- Since 2001, the number of state employees has been reduced by over 14,000 positions, from a high of just over 100,000. In FY 2009, passed before the beginning of the recession, the state budget was 21.4 billion dollars, and by amended FY 2010 it had dropped to 17 billion. The 2013 FY budget is based on projected revenues of 19.2 billion, so the economy has begun a recovery from its recession low mark. Each year, the governor sets a revenue estimate for the next fiscal year, with the assistance of the state economist, and this week the estimate of total tax revenues was set at 4.9% over 2012 revenues. Our mid-year FY 2012 revenue growth is 5.9 through December 2011. The overall budget cuts have been over 25%, and in terms of dollars, education funding has been reduced by over one billion. Some state agencies, like Department of Natural Resource which includes parks, have been cut over 40%.

With these budget cuts, would you raise taxes? Last year a Tax Reform Commission, after extensive study, proposed a comprehensive tax code revision, that created more of a consumption based code, by taxing additional services and reducing income taxes. The Georgia General Assembly did not adopt the tax code recommendations, and this year, specific “piece-meal” provisions will be considered– see questions above.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

To reply to the weekly question about taxes, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org. Also, for any question you may have, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/


MMO Legislative Activities: MMO met this past week with the Glenn Memorial Wednesday night supper group to discuss the 2012 Session, and on January 27th she will appear on a panel with Court of Appeals Judge Mike Boggs, and Judge Todd Markle to review recommended reforms of the Criminal Justice Reform Commission. This panel is hosted by Georgia State Law School. Legislation to implement the Commission reforms is being drafted by the Governor’s counsel and MMO will be a co-sponsor.

HB 671, which was pre-filed by MMO, has been re-introduced as required, and MMO is serving on a specially appointed committee of the DeKalb delegation to redraw election district lines for the County Commission and the DeKalb School Board. There will be a public hearing on how these lines should be drawn, and how the School Board will be reduced from nine to seven members as required by SB 79.

MMO is working with Representative Elena Parent on amendments to HB 672 and the proposed new City of Brookhaven, and hearings on the new city will begin in the Governmental Affairs Committee soon. MMO serves on this Committee, and is seeking a better process for creating new cities.

You can review these or any other bill filed at the General Assembly web-site http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/http://www.legis.state.ga.us, and additional updates will be provided on MMO’s Facebook and web site www.marymargaretoliver.org.


MMO continues to host District 83 children twelve years and older as House pages.
And, if you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.
Thank you !!

MARY MARGARET
Law office 404 377 0485
Legislative office 404 656 0265
CLOB 604
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
mmo@mmolaw.com

 
MMO on new DeKalb Commision and School Board Districts
January 20, 2012
 

 
MMO named as one of 175 Emory History Makers.
January 12, 2012
 

 
Rep. Oliver Named as an “Emory History Maker”



ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) was recently recognized as one of Emory University’s 175 History Makers.

“Emory has maintained a tradition of excellence for 175 years,” said Rep. Oliver. “I am honored to be a part of that legacy and humbled to receive this recognition from my alma mater.”

Rep. Oliver was one of only 30 women honored with an Emory History Maker award. Given in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of Emory University’s founding, the award is intended to honor individuals who have demonstrated courageous and ethical leadership in behalf of the greater community, a legacy of imparting knowledge on others, and a significant contribution to life at Emory.

Rep. Oliver, a 1972 graduate of Emory Law School, has taught at the law school’s Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic and served on the Emory University School of Law Advisory Board. She has served in both the House and Senate of the Georgia General Assembly and chaired the Judiciary Committee of both chambers.

For more information on the 175 Emory History Makers, click here.



Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, plus five years previous service. She currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Science and Technology committees.


 
MMO quoted on Lobbyists' work.
January 12, 2012
 

 
First newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session
January 8, 2012
 
January 7, 2012 – 40 Day Session Convenes January 9! HAPPY NEW YEAR!



This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s first email newsletter for the 2012 General Assembly Session which convenes January 9, 2012. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.

Also, to follow MMO’s legislative work and receive more updates on the 2012 Session, please friend her on Facebook. Thank you for your interest.



In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your opinions and guidance!

First newsletter question:

Would you vote to prohibit the use of cell phones for all drivers while operating a car or truck?



This fall the National Transportation and Safety Board recommended that all states prohibit the use of cells phones for any driver operating a vehicle. In Georgia, texting with hand-held devices has been prohibited for all drivers based 2010 legislation, and cell phone use is prohibited for teenage drivers. The NTSB states on-going research demonstrates that drivers are more distracted by cell phones, and that injuries and deaths as a result are rising. Georgia has considered prohibiting cell phone use for all drivers in past years, and compromised to pass prohibitions only for teenage drivers. Most corporations have implemented rules that employees operating employer owned vehicles may not be allowed to use cell phones while driving. WHAT DO YOU THINK?



To reply to the weekly question about cell phone use, please click “reply” or message me on my web site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/. Or for any question, feel free to email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.



MMO Legislative Activities: MMO has pre-filed for consideration in the 2012 Session two bills, HB 671 and 672. HB 671 implements the specific directions of 2011 legislation that reduces the DeKalb School Board’s nine member Board to seven members. Because of this reduction in Board size and the need to reapportion districts based on the 2010 Census, new district lines must be drawn and the election of seven new board members must be staggered over 2012 and 2014 election cycles. MMO has met with constituents and school advocates on this proposal and has requested that the School Board submit new district lines to the DeKalb Delegation for review.



HB 672 provides that a new city may not be legislatively created in less than a two year legislative term, and is introduced, in part, in response to a proposal for the new city of Brookhaven in DeKalb County. MMO has met with Commissioners Kathy Gannon and Jeff Rader, and representatives of the county and city associations about the process for creating new cities in general. At issue, in part, is the goal to create new cities based on financial viability standards, and to give voters more options on how they wish to receive city services. This discussion will be ongoing in the House Government Affairs Committee on which MMO serves.



MMO recently met with the new Department of Family and Children Services Director Ron Scoggins to discuss HB 633 which creates a centralized child abuse reporting telephone line and intake system. A central intake system is now operating in 157 counties for the hours when DFCS offices are not open.



You can review these or any other bill filed at the General Assembly web-site http://www.marymargaretoliver.org/http://www.legis.state.ga.us, and additional updates will be provided on MMO’s Facebook and web site www.marymargaretoliver.org.



Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO, Representative Stephanie Benfield and Senator Jason Carter will speak to the Glenn Memorial Wednesday night supper this week, January 11 at 6:15 pm,



Also, all three will host a town hall meeting at the Decatur City Commission chamber on January 26, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Please come!



MMO continues to host pages from DeKalb’s Leadership Institute, and District 83 children twelve years and older. Please let her know if your child would like to page on the House floor.

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.

Thank you !!



MARY MARGARET

Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

mmo@mmolaw.com


 
Another article on MMO bill requiring 2 year waiting period for municipalization
December 5, 2011
 

 
Criminal Justice Reform report will lead to survey of juvenile justice system
December 1. 2011
 

 
MMO pre-files bill that will make municipalization a two year process
November 29, 2011
 

 
Criminal Justice Reform report could mean vast changes to Georgia's justice system
November 29, 2011
 

 
MMO pre-files HB 671 reducing size of DeKalb School Board
November 23, 2011
 
PRESS RELEASE



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
   

Contact: J.D. Easley

Monday, November 21, 2011
   

(404) 656-0311


   

john.easley@house.ga.gov.easley



Rep. Oliver Pre-files Legislation to

Reduce Size of DeKalb School Board



ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) recently pre-filed House Bill 671, which would implement a process for reducing the DeKalb County School board from nine to seven members, as required by Senate Bill 79, which was signed into law earlier this year.

“Reducing the size of the DeKalb School Board from nine to seven members, along with our obligation to draw new School Board district lines, requires thought and input from voters and school supporters,” said Rep. Oliver. “I hope pre-filing HB 671 will allow a more open discussion, and help us move toward more effective school governance.”

Currently, DeKalb County is divided into seven individual “local” school board districts and two at-large districts. One of these at-large districts, also known as “super districts,” is comprised of the northeastern half of DeKalb County, while the other at-large district represents the southwestern half of the county. Thus, each resident of DeKalb County is actually represented by two school board members, their local district board member and their at-large district board member.

If passed by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor, HB 671 would meet the mandates of SB 79 by eliminating the DeKalb County Board of Education’s two at-large districts. The legislation would also establish a system for electing school board members from seven redrawn single-member districts. Because voters elected the current board members to four year terms, which cannot be shortened without a referendum, the changes included in HB 671 would not affect the terms of the current board members. Instead, the legislation would deem local districts one, three, five, and seven, as well as at-large district nine, to represent the new single-member districts in which they live. Then, in 2012, the board members currently representing local districts two, four, and six, as well as at-large district eight, will run for election in the remaining two new districts, resulting in a seven member board by January, 2013.

For more information about HB 671, please click here.



Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, plus five years previous service. She currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Science and Technology committees.


 
MMO pre-files HB 672 to improve process to create new cities.
November 17, 2011
 
PRESS RELEASE



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
   

Contact: J.D. Easley

Wednesday, November 16, 2011
   

(404) 656-0311


   

john.easley@house.ga.gov.easley



Rep. Oliver Pre-files Legislation to Ensure More Effective and Responsive Local Governments



ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) recently pre-filed House Bill 672, legislation that would help ensure that Georgians have more effective and responsive local governments by creating a two year procedure that communities in Georgia would have to follow before they could consolidate into cities.

“HB 672 is simply the first step in a broader discussion about the options Georgians have in choosing the type of local government that best suits their community and appropriate process for creating that government,” said Rep. Oliver. “As our metro counties become more dense and diverse, we should provide more choices for governance for citizens to choose. Other options, like townships or special land use oversight, should be offered as options. We must also ensure that the process of creating new municipalities provides enough time for everyone to consider the economic viability of the new city, as well as the effects it will have on surrounding areas.”

For more information about HB 672, please click here.



Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, plus five years previous service. She currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Science and Technology committees.


 
Dekald Legislative Delegation to host 2nd public Hearing Nov. 15.
November 14, 2011
 
DeKalb Legislative Delegation

to Host 2nd Public Hearing

Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7:00 pm

Porter Sanford Community Center





The DeKalb County Legislative Delegation from the State House will hold the second of three public hearings on Tuesday, November 15 at 7:00 p.m. at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts & Community Center (located at 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur, GA 30034).



The third public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, December 8 at 6:00 p.m. at the Maloof Auditorium (located at 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur, GA 30030).



The public hearings will give DeKalb residents the opportunity to be heard on issues to be considered during the upcoming 2012 legislative session beginning in January. "Because of the issues surrounding the upcoming regional transportation SPLOST, and the creation of new cities in DeKalb," says Delegation Chair Howard Mosby, "it is extremely important that we hear from constituents across the county about those issues and any other concerns regarding the county and state government."



For more information, please contact Rep. Howard Mosby at (404) 656-0287.

 
November 8 Election Day Alert - MMO Legislative Newsletter
November 2, 2011
 
NOVEMBER 8 ELECTION DAY ALERT -- MMO LEGISLATIVE NEWSLETTER



Next Tuesday, November 8, voters will be asked to approve an extension of DeKalb County’s SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) for DeKalb School construction projects. This one cent tax is already in place for DeKalb schools based on past election results in 2007 and earlier, and will extend the one penny sales tax for an additional 60 months if the voters approve next week. DeKalb School System has developed a project list that the penny tax will pay for through an open process, and the list is available on-line on the DeKalb School System web site.



The project list may be of special interest to voters in the middle DeKalb because of the replacement of Fernbank Elementary School and Chamblee High school, and significant renovations and modifications of Avondale School for the Arts. Click here for more information about the proposal, including a proposed project list for all DeKalb County Schools.



HOW WILL YOU VOTE? To give me your feedback, please hit reply and tell me what you think. Thank you!



Also, on next Tuesday’s ballot are local municipal elections, including one contested Decatur School Board race, and opportunities to vote on a referendum to allow Sunday sales of liquor by the drink in some DeKalb County cities. Unincorporated DeKalb voters will not be voting on the Sunday sales issue this election cycle.



MMO ACTIVITIES -- PREPARATION FOR 2012 GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION



MMO was appointed by Speaker David Ralston as one of thirteen members of Governor Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Commission, and ahs attended all meetings over the summer and fall. The final report of the Criminal Justice Reform Commission will be released at the final Commission meeting scheduled for this Friday, and the Governor will be present. If you would like to attend this meeting, it will be held in the Capitol, in Senate Mezzanine Room 1. It is a public meeting and you are welcome to attend and visit your state Capitol.



MMO is drafting local legislation to implement passage of SB 79 in the 2011 General Assembly which reduced the size of DeKalb School Board from nine to seven members. SB 79 eliminated the at-large Board districts, and new district lines must be drawn for the remaining seven Board districts, and election of these seven members will be staggered over the 2012 and 2014 elections. When this local election legislation is drafted it will be available to review on-line.



MMO will report in future newsletters on additional pre-filed legislation, speaking engagements around the District, and other work in preparation for the 2012 Session. Please visit her web site www.marymargaretoliver.org and on Facebook!

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO hosts pages from District 83 and if you want to sign up to page in the 2012 Session, and are at least twelve years old, please contact her.

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues before the 2012 Session, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.

Thank you for all your interest and support!



MARY MARGARET

Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

mmo@mmolaw.com




 
MMO on panel at National Prisoner Reentry Conference
October 12, 2011
 
On October 12, MMO participated in the National Prisoner Reentry Conference sponsored by the Christian Association for Prisoner Aftercare. She sat on a panel with Dr. Harold Dean Trulear of Howard University; Michael Owens, Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory University and Vickie Lopez Lukis from Florida.

MMO advised attendees on how to advocate for good policy, specifically asking Georgia attendees to participate in the upcoming debate as a result of the report of the Criminal Justice Reform Commission, working with their House and Senate members in the 2012 General Assembly Session. House Speaker David Ralston appointed MMO to this commission and she is working with the other members to produce the commission’s final report by November 1.

MMO states: “The recommendations of this commission will provide two things for the citizens of Georgia – better outcomes from those who pass through the Criminal Justice system at a significantly reduced cost.”

 
MMO appointed to Committee on Justice for Children
October 5, 2011
 
PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    Contact: J.D. Easley
Wednesday, October 5, 2011    (404) 656-0311
    john.easley@house.ga.gov.easley


Rep. Oliver Appointed to Committee on Justice for Children

ATLANTA – State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) has been appointed by the Georgia Supreme Court to its Committee on Justice for Children. Her two-year term began Saturday, October 1, 2011.
“The Committee on Justice for Children has done excellent work, and I am honored to be a part of it,” said Rep. Oliver.
Rep. Oliver is a longtime advocate for child justice. During this year’s regular legislative session, she sponsored House Bill 23, which would provide oversight for children in Georgia’s foster care system that are prescribed psychotropic drugs. In past years, she has introduced legislation to improve Georgia’s youth detention system and reform the juvenile justice system as well as legislation to decrease truancy and increase student attendance and school enrollment.
The Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Justice for Children is comprised of 25 members. Formerly known as the Child Placement Project, the Committee was created by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1995 and is charged with ensuring stable placement for children in foster care. The Committee also works to assess and improve court proceedings involving abused and neglected children in Georgia.
For more information of the Committee on Justice for Children, please click here.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, plus five years previous service. She currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Science and Technology committees.

###

 
Immigration Panel Slammed for Lack of Diversity
September 12, 2011
 
State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver opposed the new immigration law, and says it's not a surprise that the seven appointees to the state's new immigration review board are all white men.

"All white men being in charge seems to be pretty typical in my political world," said Oliver, referring to the Republican leadership at the Capitol.

 
Special Session Adjourns! MMO Legislative Newsletter
September 2, 2011
 
ENJOY THE DECATUR BOOK FESTIVAL THIS LABOR DAY WEEKEND!!

The 2011 General Assembly Special Session convened at the call of Governor Nathan Deal on August 15, 2011, and adjourned August 31, 2011. The Special Session was called by the Governor for the General Assembly to draw new political districts for180 Georgia House seats, 56 Georgia Senate seats, and 14 Congressional Districts based on new census data acquired during the 2010 Census count. Georgia grew in population over 18% between 2000 and 2010, and therefore “earned” a new Congressional District. By contrast to the state growth, DeKalb County only grew a little over 3% in the same time period.

If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.


Based on constitutional requirements of “one man one vote”, meaning every vote must has the same weight, political districts shall have approximately the same number of citizens. In 2000 the “ideal” size of a House District was about 45,000, and under the new plans each House District must have about 53,000 people. In addition to drawing new political lines containing the right number of citizens, the boundaries must also be in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act and guarantee constitutional protections for minority voters. Drawing new political districts is an intensively political and legally demanding exercise, which is always contested in federal courts. How districts are drawn determines the strength of the majority party and secures relative political power of competing parties for at least another decade.

In addition to reapportionment and map drawing duties, the Governor also directed the General Assembly to confirm the Governor’s executive Order to suspend an increase in gasoline tax, to review the date of the 2012 referendum on an additional sales tax for transportation, and to take action on a limited numbers of local legislation issues.

DeKalb County Reapportionment Issues – Because both DeKalb and Fulton Counties’ growth was significantly less than the state growth rate, the majority party chose to pair incumbent legislators into the same districts in several areas of the County, assuring that some incumbents would leave office, either by choice or by election defeat. However, although several legislators were grouped into the same districts, two new open House seats were created in the south eastern portion of DeKalb County . Maps for all House, Senate and Congressional Districts may be reviewed on the Georgia General Assembly web site.

House District 83 now House District 82 – Mary Margaret serves currently in House District 83, which was drawn by the Federal Court in 2004 following a legal challenge to maps drawn following the 2000 census. The 2000s redistricting process led by a Democrat majority and Governor Roy Barnes was set aside by the Court. Under the 2011 Special Session maps, MMO is drawn into House District 82, slightly northeasterly of her current district, and she is the only incumbent who lives in the new District. MMO will run again for office in the newly drawn House District 82. The anticipated Court challenge could redraw the 2011 Republican drawn districts again, similarly to the success of the legal challenges to the Democratic drawn maps of the earlier decade. The reapportionment process is not over.

DeKalb Local Redistricting Tasks –All political districts for DeKalb County Commissioners, and all city council lines must also be re-drawn, and will be finalized in the 2012 General Assembly Sessions through enactment of local legislation. For instance, the City of Decatur has already adopted its proposed lines and has conducted public debate on the proposals. Like the state maps, all county and city districts must also comply with Voting Rights pre-clearance procedures, and may be subject to legal challenge.

The DeKalb School Board size was reduced in SB 79 in the 2011 regular Session from nine members to seven members. This local legislation was sponsored by MMO, and in 2012 new School board districts will be drawn eliminating the At large districts, and decisions will be made whether to elect all seven members at once or phase in the new seven members over two election cycles. Because of the controversies of the DeKalb School Board this political process will be particularly difficult. MMO will be working to make all the County and School District reapportionment proposed maps as public as possible so voters can offer their opinions and participate in the process.

Transportation Referendum Date Governor Deal also included in the call for the Special Session a proposal to change the date of the 2012 Transportation referendum from the July primary date to the November Presidential Election date. The purpose of the proposed change of the referendum date was to include a larger number of voters who might participate. In Presidential election years, it is always true that more people vote in the November election than in the primary election during the summer. MMO was prepared to vote “YES” on the date change but the Republican leadership, primarily in the State Senate, would not allow the vote to come before the House or Senate.

HOW WOULD YOU VOTE? The list of transit and road projects that the proposed one penny extra in sales tax would pay for is being developed and voters are now aware of the preliminary project list. The project list is well publicized, and final decisions will be made soon for the ten county metro area. As of now, DeKalb County would receive more of the possible six billion dollars raised by the new sales tax in the next ten years than any other county. And, for the first time under the proposed project list, metro counties other than DeKalb and Fulton would contribute financially to MARTA.

WOULD YOU VOTE TO CHANGE THE TRANSPORTATION REFERENDUM DATE TO NOVEMBER INSTEAD OF JULY PRIMARY?

WOULD YOU VOTE FOR THE ADDITIONAL ONE PENNY IN SALES TAX TO FUND TRANSIT AND ROAD PROJECTS FOR THE METRO AREA? To “vote” please hit Reply and tell me what you think.

Criminal Justice Reform Commission, Open Records Amendments and Juvenile Code revision Also during the Special Session, MMO participated in Committee meetings of the Criminal Justice Reform Commission and the Judiciary Committee on Juvenile Court and Open Meeting bills that will be studied and voted on in he 2012 Session. Future newsletters will report more extensively on these projects, and others.

Thank you for all your interest in the work of the 2011 Special Session. Please call or email anytime you may have a question or I can help you in anyway.

MARY MARGARET OLIVER
mmo@mmolaw.com
404 377 0485
150 East Ponce de Leon, Suite 230
Decatur, Georgia 30030

 
DeKalb lawyer to run for Ga. Supreme Court
August 30, 2011
 
Scott Bonder on Tuesday released a list of supporters who will serve on his campaign committee to win a spot on the state's top court, MMO being on of those suporters

 
Attorney Scott Bonder announces run for Georgia Supreme Court
August 30,2011
 
Attorney Scott Bonder announced his intention to run for the Georgia Supreme Court in Atlanta today with the release of his campaign committee. Mary Margaret Olive and other elected officials give their support

 
Your Morning Jolt: An outsider’s View of the APS Cheating Scandal
July 7, 2011
 
AJC, Jim Galloway

In another school-related development, my AJC colleague Rich McKay reports today that the name of former state school superintendent William “Brad” Bryant has surfaced as a proposed candidate to head the DeKalb County school system.

The position has been filled temporarily by Ramona Tyson, but a search for a permanent replacement has been stymied by a series of candidate withdrawals and 5-4 votes on the board.

State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, called in to say that both he and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, had pitched the name to the DeKalb County Board of Education on Tuesday. “It’s a Republican-Democrat thing,” Millar said. “I’ve thrown these guys a lifeline.”

Bryant is a former chairman of the DeKalb County school board. He was then-Gov. Sonny Perdue’s pick to fill in for state school superintendent Kathy Cox following her resignation. Dick Williams of the Dunwoody Crier notes that Tuesday’s DeKalb school board meeting was held in the William Bradley Bryant Center.

 
Millar Wants Bryant to Take DeKalb School Position
July 6,2011
 
Millar, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a Republican, was accompanied by Democratic state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, the ranking member of the DeKalb house delegation.

Millar told the board his suggestion of Bryant had the backing of Gov. Nathan Deal and State School Superintendent John Barge.

The DeKalb school board has been trying for months to find a superintendent to replace the indicted Crawford Lewis. Three finalists were named publicly, but a series of leaks torpedoed them. The contract of interim superintendent Ramona Tyson was just extended.

 
Criminal Justice Reform Panel Named
May 17, 2011
 
Published by the AJC, Bill Rankin

Thirteen lawyers, lawmakers and judges will explore ways to reform Georgia's criminal justice system, which spends $1 billion a year to lock up lawbreakers.

The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which includes the state's chief justice, will explore ways to change sentencing patterns and will report its findings by Nov. 1. The council was established by House Bill 265.

“It is our hope to uncover new approaches to make Georgia communities safer while increasing offender accountability, improving rehabilitation efforts and lowering costs,” Gov. Nathan Deal said.

Deal appointed four members to the council, and House Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Chief Justice Carol Hunstein each appointed three members.

State lawmakers on the council are: Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur; Jay Powell, R-Camilla; and Willie Talton, R-Warner Robins; and Sens. John Crosby, R-Tifton; Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton; and Ron Ramsey, D-Decatur.

Other members of the council are: Hunstein; Todd Markle, Deal's executive counsel; Douglas County District Attorney David McDade; Atlanta lawyer Linda Evans; Atlanta lawyer Ken Shigley, president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia; and Superior Court Judges Ural Glanville of Fulton County and Michael Boggs of the Waycross Judicial Circuit.

The group will work with The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit that will analyze the ideas of the council. It will report its findings and recommendations by Nov. 1 to a group of 16 legislators who will consider legislation for next year’s session.

 
Dekalb Schools Stumped After Second Candidate Withdraws
April 25, 2011
 
Public Broadcasting Atlnta, By Martha Dalton

ATLANTA (WABE) - The leading candidate for Dekalb County school superintendent has withdrawn from consideration. Dr. Lillie Cox, of Hickory, North Carolina, notified the school board through her attorney over the weekend. WABE's Martha Dalton reports.

The Dekalb County School Board held a closed-door meeting, following the news that Dr. Cox withdrew. Afterwards, Dekalb Schools spokesman Jeff Dickerson told reporters the board's next step isn't clear:
"There are several options obviously available to the board. One is to start over. One would be, I would image, to interview the remaining candidate of the three. Another option would be to go back and interview candidates 4 and 5."
Cox is the second of three finalists to drop out of consideration for the job. Gloria Davis withdrew two weeks ago, leaving just Arthur Culver, of Champaign Illinois still in the running.
The news of Cox's withdrawl has caused some to speculate that the board may ask interim superintendent Ramona Tyson to reconsider applying for the position. Georgia Representative Mary Margaret Oliver, of Decatur, says that's a good idea:
"I think superintendent Tyson has done an excellent job under very difficult circumstances in the last year. I think she's earned a lot of respect and she's helped move the system forward in a lot of ways."
But Georgia Senator Fran Millar of Dunwoody says the Dekalb schools need a clean slate:
"My own personal opinion, although I think very, very highly of her, I think perhaps what is needed in the Dekalb school system is a fresh look from the outside. Someone with experience and be able to come in and assemble their own team eventually."
But they can't wait too long. Dekalb is facing a tight deadline from their accrediting agency. The board must complete a national superintendent search by October to keep their accreditation. However, the school system says this latest setback won't impact their efforts.
Whoever is finally tapped for the job will replace former Superintendent Crawford Lewis, who was fired just before being indicted on charges he ran a criminal enterprise in the school system.

 
House Passes Legislation Affecting School Board Size
April 11, 2011
 
The Weekly, Author Not Listed

ATLANTA- The Georgia House of Representatives today passed Senate Bill 79 with a vote of 109 to 62. State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) not only voted for this legislation limiting the size of the DeKalb County school board, but she also spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor.

“In light of SACS actions, and governance and conduct issues of the DeKalb school board, I believe the size of the board should be reduced. I believe smaller boards serve children better,” said Rep. Oliver.

SB 79 would require minimum four year terms for local school board members. Additionally, this bill would require counties that have both a homestead option sales and use tax, as well as a county sales and use tax for education purposes, to have a county board of education made up of seven members from single-member districts. Finally, SB 79 would allow the governor to remove school board members when their school system is placed on probation or accreditation is lost.

SB 79 is similar to House Bill 22, which was introduced by Rep. Oliver. Both pieces of legislation sought to set an appropriate size for the DeKalb County school board. SB 79 will resolve this issue by requiring DeKalb County to reduce its school board size from nine members to seven members. HB 22 would have addressed the school board size issue by allowing DeKalb County voters to choose the most appropriate size of their school board through a referendum on the November 2011 DeKalb County general election ballot. Both HB 22 and SB 79 built on last session’s Senate Bill 84, which stated an ideal school board size of seven members.

For more information about SB 79, please click here.



Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, plus five years previous service. She currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Science and Technology committees.

 
Newsletter
March 18, 2011
 
March 18, 2011–2011 Session Completes Day 30! HAPPY SPRING!



This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s fourth email newsletter for the 2011 General Assembly Session which convened January 10, 2011, and has completed 30 days of the 40 day Session. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.



In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your interest and opinions!



HOW WOULD YOU VOTE? HB 274 provides that grass clippings may be deposited into land fills if the individual county allows. Currently under Georgia law, grass clippings and other yard trimmings must be hauled or deposited in separate waste treatment sites or operations.



Proponents of HB 274 state that combining yard trimmings would allow the counties to process more waste methane into alternate energy, which is what DeKalb County does now with a separate dump for grass and yard trimmings, creating more pure composting. Opponents argue that the using existing land fills for yard trimmings is a bill that only serves the waste treatment industries, and the counties may already use yard trimmings for compost and energy. Recycling has reduced the volume of materials going into land fills, and the industry wants more waste in existing sites, and the opportunity to fill the sites more quickly and build new land fills.



HOW WOULD YOU VOTE? SB 160 would allow utility and regulated industries to have political pacs and give campaign contributions directly to candidates for public offices other than the Public Service Commission. Proponents say the utilities should have the same “first amendment rights” as other businesses, and opponents state the current law that prohibits EMCs, Georgia Power and AT&T, etc., from making campaign contributions serves Georgians better by reducing the political influence of Georgia’s biggest industries.



What do you think?





To reply to the weekly question about waste treatment or political campaign contributions, please click “reply” or email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.

MMO Legislative Activities:

MMO announced that a pilot project has been funded by the Casey Family Foundations to conduct the medical reviews anticipated in HB 23 “Foster Children’s Psychotropic Medication Monitoring Act”. The Casey Foundation representatives met with Governor Deal and and with Commissioner of Human Resources Clyde Reese to plan the pilot project that will be managed through the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School. You may review more details about HB 23 on Mary Margaret’s web site under Media.





HB 22 relating to reduced DeKalb School Board size has been advertized as required in The Champion, and MMO formally presented the bill to the DeKalb delegation, and obtained the necessary number of signatures from the DeKalb delegation for the bill to pass as local legislation. Unfortunately, one member removed his name as a supporter immediately before the Committee meeting and other options for passage are being researched.



MMO hosted a dinner with Emory Law Students at the Capitol, and met with Leadership DeKalb at its annual state politics gathering. She continues to meet with Georgia State policy and nursing students on a variety of bills, and to meet with all constituents who visit the Capitol.





Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO continues to host pages from District 83 who are at least twelve years old.

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.

Thank you for all your interest and support, and contact me about any issue that concerns you.

MARY MARGARET

Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

mmo@mmolaw.com




 
Pilot Program to Review use of Psychotrophic Prescription Drugs in Georgia's Foster Care System
March 18, 2011
 
http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/cb8fff2210184f518492f5067ae08709/GA--Foster-Care-Drugs/

 
Concern over High Medication Rate Among Foster Kids--Review of kids’ psych drugs urged
Feb. 23, 2011
 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, By April Hunt

Giovan Bazan was 6 when a doctor first gave him medicine to treat his diagnosis of hyperactivity.

Bita Honarvar, bhonarvar@ajc.com While in foster care, Giovan Bazan, now 20, says he was put on Ritalin, anti-depressants and sleeping pills. At 18, he elected to stop all drugs, and says he learned he didn't need them.

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Bazan admits he was unruly at the time. Perhaps it was because the only parent he had ever known, his foster mother since he was an infant, had just died.

No one asked about that. Nor did anyone check years later to see that he was on a double dose of Ritalin when another physician, seeing a boy so mellowed out that he barely reacted, prescribed an antidepressant. “They start you on one thing for a problem, then the side effects mean you need a new medicine,” Bazan said. “As a foster kid, I’d go between all these doctors, caseworkers, therapists, and [it] seemed like every time there was a new drug to try me on.”

When he turned 18, Bazan elected to stop all medications. It turned out he didn’t need any of them.

Now, the Georgia House is weighing an idea to better track the psychotropic drugs foster children take at a far greater rate than other kids.

House Bill 23 hits a rare political sweet spot. The proposal to create an independent clinic review of the drugs foster children are given has support from Democrats and Republicans because of its efforts to protect the vulnerable — and projections that it will save the state millions of dollars. The state spends $7.87 million per year in Medicaid funds on those mind-altering drugs for foster kids. “This is an idea I’m very open and willing to have a discussion about,” said Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, adding his main concern is the cost of the review.

The issue is a national one. Only half of state child welfare systems — not including Georgia — have a policy to review usage of mind-altering drugs, even though as many as 52 percent of kids in foster care are taking them.

By comparison, about 4 percent of the general youth population is on the medications, according to a 2010 Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute study.

“These drugs are not something you take like an aspirin,” said state Rep. Judy Manning, a Marietta Republican and chairwoman of the House Children & Youth Committee who is co-sponsoring HB 23 with Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur.

“We want to monitor it and make sure the treatment is correct,” she said. “You don’t want a tragedy.”

Lack of oversight can prove deadly. Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old foster child in Florida, hanged himself in 2009 while taking three powerful psychotropic medications, none of which had been approved for use in children.

There have been no similar high-profile cases in Georgia. Still, one in three foster 
children on Medicaid was 
prescribed mind-altering psychotropic drugs last year, according to a January report from the state Department of Community Health. More than half of them were on a daily cocktail of more than two of the drugs — some of which lack approval for treatment in children.

Oliver argues that both the cost and number of foster children on such drugs will drop if her proposal succeeds.

Her plan calls for an independent review to kick in on red-flag cases in the system, such as when a very young child is prescribed drugs for mental health or when a youngster is on multiple medications at once.

It would be up to the Human Services or Behavioral Health departments to decide what would flag cases and how to best manage the independent psychiatrists who would monitor them.

Oliver said private foundations have expressed interest in funding the idea as a national pilot program.

“Foster children are more traumatized, for horrible reasons, and that’s why their medical care has to be better,” Oliver said. “I am excited about the number of stakeholders who want to work on solving this problem with us.”

The issue may extend to lack of oversight on what drugs foster kids are being prescribed and taking. A 2010 investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed several companies operating foster care homes in the state had repeatedly used psychotropic medications to “subdue” children.

“Medications dispersed often aren’t to help the child with their problems but to make the child more docile for the caregivers,” said Richard Wexler, who heads the National Coalition for Child Protection and Reform. “And the paradox of child welfare care has always been the worst thing for the kids is what costs the most.”

That seems to have been the case for Bazan. Now 20, he can recall a brief period in high school when prescriptions had run out and his foster mother didn’t keep him on the stew of mind-altering drugs.

Fellow students noticed the no-nonsense boy was suddenly joking around and friendly.

“When I was off the medicines, everyone kept asking me why I was so happy,” Bazan said. “There was a real difference.”

The medications quickly 
returned, however. But Bazan said they didn’t help with the loss he felt over the death of 
his first foster mother or his feelings of being unwanted 
and under attack in the foster home he repeatedly ran away from.

He spent time in Department of Juvenile Justice facilities, where the medications kept coming, sometimes provoking seizures because some of them didn’t mix.

No one, he said, ever asked about his feelings. “They would have gotten a better response if someone had just taken a look at what was really going on in my life,” he said.

Bazan did that himself when he quit all medications cold turkey at age 18. But the years of medication already have hurt his future: His plan to enter the military to pay for college is blocked by the diagnosis of hyperactivity. He is ineligible to serve.

Bazan now works part time at the Division of Family and Children Services, acting as 
a liaison with community 
organizations and state agencies.

He also has started his own security company to provide nighttime patrols at his church in DeKalb County and others.

His goal is to get a full-time job with DFCS and persuade Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint him to the Georgia National Guard. With that, he could pay for college.

First, though, he is sharing his story in the hope that lawmakers and others will see him as a cautionary tale for what can happen when someone isn’t monitoring care of foster kids.

“I ask them, ‘Would you give all these people carte blanche with your kids, without any scrutiny of their medical history and a review of their life?’” Bazan said. “We’re just children. Someone has to look out for us. We need the same care and attention you give your own children.”


 
Oliver’s Strategy to Stop the Overmedication of Foster Children
Feb. 13, 2011
 
Written by Chandra R. Thomas

Rep. Oliver
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)


says too many of Georgia’s 7,000 foster children are being over prescribed potent, mood-altering psychotropic drugs. Some are being given more than four different medications daily, many of which have serious side effects and have not been tested and approved as safe for children. HB 23, she says, can help begin to address the complex problems that this dangerous practice imposes on some of Georgia’s most vulnerable young people. She also insists that a major overhaul of the current process could save our financially strapped state lots of money. Here’s what Rep. Oliver, who represents a portion of middle DeKalb County, told JJIE.org’s Chandra Thomas about the “Foster Children’s Psychotropic Medication Monitoring Act” that she has introduced in the House.
What initially drew your interest to this issue?

There are a lot of people doing preliminary work on this issue. The recent report conducted by Karen Worthington (prepared for the Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Justice for Children - view the report here) gives a lot of background and is quite helpful in getting a handle on this issue. The report is a national study of other state practices in the area of psychotropic drugs. The Department of Community Health (DCH) has provided their payment patterns and recommendations for drugs. I learned a lot from Georgia’s Cold Case Project, a project sponsored by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children. That effort was about improving the legal process for abused and neglected children in the courts. The committee did an intensive file review of those cases of children who have been in the foster care system long-term and learned a lot about high psychotropic drug use among them. There needs to be some independent clinical oversight in regards to this. These are children with no parents or other adults to advocate on their behalf. There are caseworkers who don’t have the skill set or knowledge, being asked to approve medications for these kids. These children move around a lot; there’s a lack of consistent medical record keeping. We need to have a more uniform process for prescribing these drugs and to assess whether they’re needed in some cases at all.

How serious is this issue in Georgia?

First off let me say that this problem is not unique to Georgia; this is a national issue too. What we do know is that our state spends $7.8 million annually on psychotropic drugs for many of our foster children. That’s a huge expense and one that we can’t afford not to look at more closely. We have a huge obligation to provide better care for our foster children. There is an obligation for us to create a rule-making process to help us find out what are the needs here and how to address the situation. We need to identify the red flag cases and look at private psychiatrists who can help caseworkers do some troubleshooting. When you see Medicaid payment records showing thousands of children receiving multiple psychotropic drugs at one time, you’ve really got to look at whether this is necessary for these children.

What exactly are you hoping to achieve with HB23?

I am pushing for better medical records management for these children. My bill calls for the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to implement rules creating a process for an independent medical review of the mental health treatment programs for foster care children. Who should decide and oversee psychotropic medications for these foster kids? There is no loving or competent parent? We know that we need a clinical review, but how do we do it? That’s one of the many questions that have to be answered. We have to be a part of the solution for these children. Significant changes could result in us spending a lot less money.

Now that you’ve introduced the legislation, what’s the next step?

It is now before Sharon Cooper’s Health and Human Services Committee. I have not asked for a hearing yet because I am waiting to collect more data. I want to hear from some private funders about what they want to provide. There are still a lot of questions that have to get answered. What problems do we anticipate? What are the costs? What are the solutions? We have to get those questions answered. I’m seeing a lot of attention brought to this issue. People are really paying attention to this. With the amount of money being spent and the number of children being affected, it’s a huge issue. I’ve been pleased with the process. I believe that we are going to be able to make a lot of progress on this issue.

View Rep. Oliver’s op-ed published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



 
Third Newsletter
Feb. 14, 2011
 
February 14, 2011–2011 Session Completes Day 13! HAPPY VALENTINES DAY1

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s third email newsletter for the 2011 General Assembly Session which convened January 10, 2011, and has completed thirteen days of the 40 day Session. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.



In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your interest and opinions!

Third newsletter question: What legislation, if any, do you support relating to immigration reform? Numerous bills have been introduced to tighten or enforce federal immigration laws under Georgia law, and require more efforts by Georgia law enforcement. Which do you support?



1. HB 72 would prohibit Georgia Driver’s License Division from giving the written driving test in any language other than English. Currently, the Driver’s License test is given in several languages for legal residents only, and after the applicant can identify certain safety road signs in English. Supporters state that requiring the written test be given only in English promotes public safety. Opponents state that public safety is enhanced by allowing more legal residents to take the test in his or her own native language, and effectively test actual driving skills. Neither side provides data for their position, but law enforcement wants to test everyone who drives, preferring more people in general to be tested and monitored through insurance coverage.



2. Several bills would prohibit high school graduates from attending Georgia colleges if they were brought into this country illegally by their parents when they were children. Supporters wish to deny college admission to young people who were brought into this country illegally, and opponents state those students who qualify for admission, and can pay non-resident tuition, should be admitted. Opponents argue we need all qualified residents to attend college and earn degrees. The federal “Dream Act” would resolve this question for all states, and is before Congress again.



3. Both the House and Senate are considering “Arizona” type legislation, allowing Georgia law enforcement officers to detain people to determine if they have their “papers” and can prove citizenship.



4. Should undocumented workers be allowed to collect Worker’s Compensation benefits if they are injured on the job? Proponents say employers should be more responsible for determining their workers are legal, and insurance companies should not be required to pay for undocumented workers. Opponents say employers are paying for insurance, and if insurance does not cover the workers, the medical costs will be shifted to the taxpayers, and in Fulton and DeKalb shifted in part to property tax payers supporting Grady.



What do you think?

To reply to the weekly question about immigration issues, please click “reply” or email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.

MMO Legislative Activities:

MMO continues work on HB 23 “Foster Children’s Psychotropic Medication Monitoring Act”, and met with Commissioner of Human Resources Clyde Reece to report on a pilot project that has been initiated to conduct medical reviews. This pilot project is being paid for by Casey Family Programs. An Op-Ed on this issue was published in the AJC on November 12, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/opinion/review-rules-on-meds-746035.
>

MMO will appear before a Judiciary subcommittee February 15th to present HB 27, a bill she introduced to assist businesses in administrative proceedings before the Office of Hearings and Appeals. She has also co-sponsored new legislation to speed administrative appeals of the Katie Beckett program.



HB 22 relating to reduced DeKalb School Board size has been advertized as required in The Champion, and MMO has formally presented the bill to the DeKalb delegation, and a committee meeting by the delegation will be held February 16th.



On February 8, MMO spoke to HealthStat, and group of medical and allied medical students at Emory University, and on February 15 she will host Emory Law School public interest students at the Capitol for dinner and a tour. The Town Hall meeting hosted by MMO and other legislators on February 1 brought out over 125 people to the Decatur City Hall to discuss the 2011 General Assembly Session. On February 7, MMO appeared on GPTV Lawmakers to discuss HB 23. Thank you for your attention to these events and your interest!



Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO continues to host pages from District 83 who are at least twelve years old.

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.

Thank you for all your interest and support, and contact me about any issue that concerns you.

MARY MARGARET

Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

mmo@mmolaw.com


 
Second News Letter- Session Completes Day 6
January 28, 2011
 
January 28, 2011–2011 Session Completes Day 6!

This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s second email newsletter for the 2011 General Assembly Session which convened January 10, 2011, and has completed six days of the 40 day Session. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site at http://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.



PLEASE JOIN MMO AT A TOWNHALL MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVE STEPHANIE STUCKEY BENFIELD, REPRESENTATIVE STACY ABRAMS, SENATOR JASON CARTER, and MAYOR BILL FLOYD!

FEBRUARY 1, 6 PM TO 7 PM AT DECATUR CITY HALL–PLEASE COME TO DISCUSS THIS SESSION, TO ASK YOUR QUESTIONS, AND OFFER YOUR VIEWS!



In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your interest and opinions!

Second newsletter question: How would you vote to save HOPE, which is running out of money? What benefits of the HOPE Scholarship would you eliminate to allow the scholarships to continue for the maximum number of qualified students?

The HOPE reserves from the lottery profits will be spent in the near future, and the lottery profits will not be enough to fund all Georgia’s pre-K Students and HOPE scholars who want to participate. Please consider which of the following spending reductions the General Assembly should adopt to reduce current spending of HOPE. Choose more than one option or rank your reductions if you like:



1. Require a means test so the HOPE scholarship would only be available to students from families with incomes less than $100,000.00. Less than $75,000.00?



2. Reduce tuition scholarship to 80% of total cost of tuition, books and fees. Benefits for books and fees have already been reduced. This option reduces the scholarship equally for all students now qualifying.



3. Cap the tuition scholarships so that students attending the more expensive state schools will only receive partial scholarship and students attending the less expensive schools will receive the full HOPE scholarship. Georgia Tech and UGA are the most expensive of the 35 colleges in the Georgia Regents system.



4. Deny HOPE scholarships to students requiring remedial classes upon admission to college. Argument: HOPE scholars who have received the benefit of grade inflation to achieve the B average, are not ready for college work, have not really “qualified” as a HOPE scholar.



5. Raise the grade average to qualify to B+ instead of B.



What do you think?

To reply to the weekly question about saving HOPE, please click “reply” or email me at mmo@mmolaw.com.



MMO Legislative Activities: MMO has been interviewed by WSB radio and quoted by the AJC relating to the DeKalb School Board size and HB 22. These news stories can be reviewed under the media section of her web site or Facebook.

MMO and Senator Fran Millar spoke to the Emory LaVista Parents Council at Hawthorne Elementary School on Friday, January 28 to discuss DeKalb School issues and redistricting. She has met with and discussed redistricting school issues with many parents.

On January 19 with Representative Benfield MMO spoke to the Glenn Memorial Wednesday night dinner group, and on Saturday February 5, she will address HealthStat, a group of medical and allied medical students at Emory Medical School on health legislation and the state budget.



MMO is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and participated in Human Services Subcommittee budget hearings January 19, 20 and 21. Most of these budget hearings are available for you to watch live on the Georgia General Assembly web site. On January 19, she attended the swearing in ceremony for Amy Howell, named Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice by Governor Deal. Commissioner Howell was a law intern with the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School where MMO has taught, and was a fellow in juvenile law with Barton after graduation from law school.



On January 24th, MMO attended the DeKalb Delegation public hearing at Georgia Perimeter College, with a large crowd of participating citizens, mainly focused on school redistricting issues.

MMO continues work on HB 23 “Foster Children’s Psychotropic Medication Monitoring Act”, and met with the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Commissioner of Human Resources and private psychiatrists interested in solutions. An Op-Ed on this issue was published in the AJC on November 12, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/opinion/review-rules-on-meds-746035, and Casey Family Foundations is providing a grant to provide clinical reviews for foster care children.

In future newsletters, MMO will report on other bills she has filed relating to permitting coal fire plants, Mountain top removal mining practices, bills relating to reduced DeKalb School Board size, and new proposals relative to an independent ethics commission for the school system. What bill would you like MMO to file?

Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO continues to host pages from DeKalb’s Leadership Institute, and District 83 children twelve years and older.

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.

Thank you for all your interest and support, and contact me about any issue that concerns you.

MARY MARGARET

Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

mmo@mmolaw.com


 
State Reps and Senator will hold Town Hall Meeting
January 28, 2011
 
State representatives and a senator from Decatur will hold a town hall meeting Tuesday with constituents.

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The session will let residents comment on various items before the General Assembly, including the budget, taxes and local issues such as the structure of the DeKalb school board.

State Sen. Jason Carter and state Reps. Stacey Abrams, Stephanie Stuckey Benfield and Mary Margaret Oliver will attend the session.

The meeting is set for 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Decatur City Hall.


 
Decatur Legislature Delegation Hosts Town Hall
January 27, 2011
 
Published by The Weekly

The 2011 Session of the Georgia General Assembly began Monday, January 10 and Democrats are wasting no time taking their message to communities around the state. House members of the Decatur-area DeKalb County delegation will host a town hall meeting on Tuesday, February 1, 6 p.m.- 7 p.m. at Decatur City Hall.

 
Medicaid Faces $1 Billion Hole
January 20, 2011
 
GPB, Melissa Stiers

Loss of stimulus dollars has created a gaping hole in the state's budget. The agency that administers Medicaid is facing a billion dollar shortfall. The program will be supported by cuts to other state agencies, but some Medicaid services may be lost.

 
State Lawmaker: Smaller Dekalb School Board
January 28, 2011
 
WSB, Sandra Parrish

A DeKalb County state lawmaker wants to reduce the size of the county's school board in light of problems that could affect the school systems accreditation.
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) is sponsoring HB 22 that would allow DeKalb voters to choose between five, seven, and nine board members. Currently the Dekalb school board has nine members.

 
Appalachain Mountains Preservation Act
January 28 2011
 
PRESS RELEASE



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: J.D. Easley

Friday, January 28, 2011
(404) 656-0311


john.easley@house.ga.gov.easley




Rep. Oliver Re-introduces Appalachian Mountain Preservation Act



ATLANTA— State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) today announced the introduction of House Bill 43, environmental legislation designed to protect Georgia’s clean water and air resources from coal-fire power plant pollution. Specifically, HB 43 would phase out the use of coal from mountaintop removal (MTR) mines by power plants in Georgia and would place a five year moratorium on permitting of Georgia-based coal-fire power plants. This legislation is similar to HB 276 from the 2009-10 legislative term, also introduced by Rep. Oliver.

“I am continuing my efforts to curtail the harm new coal plants will cause our state,” said Rep. Oliver. “Last year’s support from faith-based and environmental communities has been strong and encouraging. Our water and air must be protected from more coal plants, and we must use our efforts for renewable and cleaner energy sources.”

To protect Georgia’s landscape and natural resources, HB 43 would phase out use of MTR coal in Georgia over seven years. The bill would also place a ban on issuing permits for coal-fired power plants from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2016. Further, the legislation would suspend any permit issued before July 1, 2011 for a coal-fire power plant that has not commenced operations.

Georgia continues to be one of the largest consumers of mountaintop removal coal in the nation. This is due in part to Georgia’s proximity to the MTR mines in Central Appalachia, whose coal is prized for its relatively low levels of restricted pollutants, which helps utilities meet air quality standards.

Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining that removes hundreds of feet of elevation from a mountain in order to uncover thin seams of coal. The waste created by this form of mining is deposited into adjacent valleys, burying forests and streams.

For more information on HB 43, please click here.

###

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver represents the citizens of District 83, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and also has five years of previous service. She currently serves on the Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Science and Technology committees

 
Dekalb School Board Size Under Legislative Fire
Jan. 26, 2011
 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April Hunt

The growing belief that the nine-member DeKalb County school board is too large has hit the state Legislature, where two bills could reduce its size.

House Bill 22, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, would let voters decide in a referendum whether the board should be kept at its current size or cut to seven or five members. The county’s legislative delegation must approve the proposal as local legislation.

 
Newsletter- 40 Day Session Convenes
January 13, 2011
 
January 13, 2011–2011 40 Day Session Convenes!



This is Mary Margaret Oliver’s first email newsletter for the 2011 General Assembly Session which convened January 10, 2011, and because of the snow storm, has started slowly and completed only two days of the 40 day Session. If you do not want to receive this email newsletter please visit my web-site athttp://www.marymargaretoliver.org to unsubscribe.





In each newsletter, I ask how you would vote on a pending bill or budget item. I am very grateful for your thoughtful responses and I personally read all your answers. Thank you for your interest and opinions!



First newsletter question: Would you vote for the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for all Georgians recommendations released after a six month study effort? The web site for the Tax Council’s work and complete final report may be found at http://fiscalresearch.gsu.edu/taxcouncil/
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In the 2010 Session, the Special Council on Tax Reform was created to prepare a comprehensive new tax plan, and the web site sets forth all the public meetings held, testimony of participants, and members of the Council. Economists and business leaders were appointed members of the Council with no elected officials, and no lobbyists, and the Chair is A.D. Frazier, former CEO of the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. The Reform Package cannot be amended by the General Assembly and must be voted up or down as a comprehensive package.



Among the recommendations, which you can review in detail on the web site, are reduction of corporate income taxes by one-third and reduction of income taxes from 6.5 % to maximum 4.5%. New sales taxes will be generated by taxing more services like haircuts and house cleaning, and again applying sales taxes to food and prescriptions, which was exempted from state sales tax in the 1990s. Tobacco tax is increased also. In general, the package of proposals relies more on consumption taxes and less on income tax, and is intended to be “revenue neutral” over time.



This Tax Reform plan will generate extensive review and attention by the General Assembly, and I appreciate your views and thoughts, even at this early date. I will report more on this work as the Session progresses, and thank you for your interest!



To reply to the weekly question about the Special Council on Tax Reform, please click “reply” or email me at
mmo@mmolaw.com.



MMO Legislative Activities: MMO has filed this week the following new bills, and will follow up with further discussion and progress in later newsletters. Please contact me if you have any questions. You can review these or any other bill filed at the General Assembly web-sitehttp://www.marymargaretoliver.org/http://www.legis.state.ga.us, and additional updates will be provided on MMO’s Facebook and web site www.marymargaretoliver.org.



HB 23 “Foster Children’s Psychotropic Medication Monitoring Act”–We know that from national studies and a specific review of Georgia’s foster care children that there is extensive use of psychotropic drugs prescribed that varies widely from the general and the Medicaid population. HB 23 requires the Department of Human Services to develop rules creating a process of independent medical review of psychotropic drugs for Georgia children in foster care. MMO conducted multiple meetings on this proposal prior to the Session, and is collaborating with advocacy groups and Emory child psychiatrists interested in solutions. An Op-Ed on this issue was published in the AJC on November 12, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/opinion/review-rules-on-meds-746035.html
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HB 27 allows corporations to represent themselves in specified administrative proceedings, instead of requiring all parties to hire legal counsel.



HB 43, following up on last year’s work on HB 276, would reduce and then eliminate the importation of mountain top removal mined coal into Georgia, and place a five year moratorium on permitting new coal fire plants in Georgia.



In future newsletters, MMO will report on the pre-filed local legislation HB 22 she filed which gives DeKalb voters the right to choose a reduced DeKalb School Board size, and new proposals relative to an independent ethics commission for the school system. The Emory LaVista Parents Council will be discussing HB 22 at its upcoming Wednesday morning meeting at Hawthorne Elementary School.









Capitol visits and Speaking engagements – MMO continues to host pages from DeKalb’s Leadership Institute, and District 83 children twelve years and older. She is meeting with parents relating to Fernbank re-districting, and attending Glenn Memorial Wednesday night supper discussion on January 19th with Representative Stephanie Benfield and Senator Jason Carter. Representative Benfield and MMO will be scheduling a town hall meeting soon, and the DeKalb Delegation will also be hosting a public hearing and you will receive notice of both these events.

If you would like MMO to visit your group to talk about legislative issues, or visit the Capitol during a Session, please let her know.

Thank you for all your interest and support, and contact me about any issue that concerns you.

MARY MARGARET



Law office 404 377 0485

Legislative office 404 656 0265

CLOB 604

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

mmo@mmolaw.com






 
Review Rules on meds for Foster Kids
November 18, 2010
 
Opinion 7:14 p.m. Thursday, November 18, 2010
Review rules on meds for foster kids
By Mary Margaret Oliver



Tommy made good grades in the first grade, and his teacher said he was a big help and a delight to have in the classroom. Soon after this report card was sent home, Tommy’s toddler sister drowned in the bathtub while Tommy was watching her and his other siblings. Tommy’s parents were arrested, the surviving children entered foster care and Tommy’s early successes and hopes for the future began to fade.

More opinion »
Letters to the Editor
Readers Write 1/14
Pro & Con: Should the General Assembly reinstate the sales tax on food?
Electric co-ops need new rules
Drug courts work for many defendants, and they cut costs
Health Care Reform: News and resources
.Columns and blogs
Cynthia Tucker
Kyle Wingfield
Jay Bookman
Bob Barr
Mike Luckovich
Jim Wooten
Neal Boortz
.Today, Tommy is 13, living in an expensive restrictive institution and on multiple psychotropic drugs for his behavior, some of which are not Federal Drug and Administration approved for use by children. These drugs come with side-effects like involuntary jerking motions and fatigue, hard for any teenager. His parents are now out of prison but have left Georgia and taken Tommy’s sibling with them. No adult outside of government caseworkers and its contractors are connected to Tommy. He has few visitors. And yet, Tommy is still making good grades, and he hopes to be placed in a loving home with real parents soon.

Tommy is a real child, although Tommy is not his real name, and his story is one case reviewed during Georgia’s Cold Case Project, a project sponsored by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children charged with improving the legal process for children in the courts as result of abuse and neglect.

With federal Court Improvement Project funding, the committee, chaired by Justice Harris Hines, and in full partnership with the Division of Families and Children Services, first identified children who have lingered in foster care for many years, with multiple placements, and no connection to their original family.

The committee hired attorneys to work as “Fellows” to the Supreme Court, reviewed in detail 214 cases, and with a specialized research firm have made recommendations for improvement for both for these particular children and the system. The full report on the yearlong Cold Case Project is available at www.georgiacourts.gov.

One of the 15 recommendations from the Cold Case Project’s report is for Georgia to provide independent oversight of mental health treatment, specifically that children’s medications be routinely reviewed by an independent psychiatrist. Case reviews have detailed tragic consequences of prescribing multiple psychotropic drugs, and this issue has received national attention, based both on what is adequate medical care and the costs.

Children as young as 12 in the review were observed to be on more than four psychotropic drugs simultaneously. Research is clear that over medication can result in negative symptoms, can be used for discipline or control issues, and is particularly a problem for children in foster care where there is no loving family member who advocates for, or is connected to, the child and to his or her future.

I pre-filed HB 23 this week, which requires DFCS to implement rules creating a process for independent medical review of mental health treatment programs for foster care children. While Georgia’s child welfare system has much improved during the past 10 years, there are still specific, complex problems that must be addressed and not merely endured. The most vulnerable children in our state’s foster care system deserve nothing less, and specifically Tommy deserves a home.

Who should decide and oversee psychotropic medications for children in foster care where there is no loving or competent parent? This is an important question for Tommy and hundreds of other children, and they deserve our response.


State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat, represents a portion of middle DeKalb County in the Legislature.


 
House Delegation Leader Plans Public Hearing
1-3-2011
 
House delegation leader plans public hearing as lawmakers begin to stake out their positions for upcoming session

The Champion Newspaper, Nigel Roberts

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur) pre-filed a bill (HB 22) on Nov. 15 that asks DeKalb voters whether they want to reduce the number of school board members to five or seven, or remain at its current size of nine. Oliver said the purpose of her bill is to create a more effective school board that could maintain the school system’s accreditation.

 


State Office:   Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square, Suite 604
Atlanta, GA   30334
Email:   marymargaret.oliver@house.ga.gov
Phone:   404-656-0265
Fax:   404-463-2634