Georgia’s hot and sticky summer is finally coming to a close. The leaves are changing, the weather is starting to get that nice cool and crisp feeling, and now it’s time to get ready for fall. Here at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), we are getting the pumpkins out, changing the wreaths, and preparing for the upcoming legislative session.
With the session on its summer break and the Gold Dome almost completely empty, GCDD left the Capitol and started visiting our legislators in their home districts. We traveled over 500 miles of our beautiful state and met with four key legislators. We started our travels by going down south to visit East Georgia State’s CHOICE Program for Inclusive Learning. While there we invited Senator Billy Hickman who represents Georgia’s 4th District to have a chat with the students.
The students were excited to hear from Senator Hickman and get to know what he does within the General Assembly. Senator Hickman was able to explain that he represents the school and surrounding area and how his work at the Capitol makes a difference to the community he serves. Afterwards, GCDD had an opportunity to speak with him one on one and discuss issues that are affecting the disability community in his area. He was interested in the transportation issues that the disability community has been facing and was eager to hear how he can help move the needle in the right direction.
After the fruitful conversation we had with Senator Hickman, we decided it was best to stay on the Senate side and keep making our way through south Georgia. Our next stop was Vidalia, Georgia, home to Georgia’s sweet Vidalia onions and State Senator Blake Tillery. Senator Tillery represents Georgia’s 19th District and is the Senate’s appropriations chair.
As chair of the Appropriations Committee, he has a lot of influence over the budget process. He is also a great advocate for Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) and the home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver budget. He was able to give us some tips about what he thinks is the best way to move forward in advocating for our budgets.
Our next visit was Rome, Georgia, to visit Representative Katie Dempsey.
Representative Dempsey serves the 13th District in Georgia. She has been a long-time supporter of disability issues in the state, and she is the chair of our Appropriations Subcommittee in the State House of Representatives. In this position, she has the opportunity to make a big impact on the budgets of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Georgia Vocational Rehab, and a few others related to healthcare in Georgia. We were able to sit down with her and strategize how to push disability issues in the state.
Our final visit this summer was with Representative Henry “Wayne” Howard, who represents the 124th District in Georgia. Representative Howard has been working on issues for people with physical disabilities for a long time. Recently, he filed a bill that would help people with physical disabilities pump gas when they are at a gas station and they can’t get to the pump. Currently, the bill is on the Senate side waiting to be heard in committee. But Representative Howard did not want that to stop him; he teamed up with Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black. They made sure every gas pump in Georgia has a sign with the phone number of the store to make sure there was a way people with disabilities can request help when filling their cars with gas.
Summer is a great opportunity for constituents to have some really deep and meaningful conversations with their legislators before the legislative session begins in January. GCDD encourages you to do the same!
Your local state senators and representatives are always wanting to talk to their community and make sure they are advocating on behalf of the community they serve. If you are interested in finding out who represents you, look at the website openstates. Here you can type in your zip code and instantly find out who represents you on the state and federal levels.
Special Session for Redistricting
Like always, we are excited to see the session get rolling so we can start solving some of Georgia’s toughest issues. This year, before the regular legislative session starts, we are going to have to work through a special session for redistricting. Special sessions can be called any time Governor Brian Kemp feels like it is needed – the last time one was called was at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
This time, the Governor is calling a special session for the redistricting process. Every 10 years, the United States embarks on a monumental task around getting people to fill out the United States Census. The census helps us understand how to use federal funding to help support states and local communities. It also helps calculate how many people live in each area of the country.
State legislatures can also use this data to start the redistricting process. Redistricting only happens every 10 years after the census data is released. The data that will be used will help determine who your state legislators will be. At the time of writing this article, we do not know when Special Session will be called but as soon as we know, we will make sure the disability community knows and how to advocate.
With all of the legislative visits over with for the summer, we are ready for the session to get here.
Until then, make sure to reach out to your legislator and let them know you vote in their district. If you have a meeting with your legislator, please take a picture with them and send it to GCDD at firstname.lastname@example.org, for a chance to be featured on our social media channels.
We look forward to calling on each and every one of you to help us push disability issues in the right way in Georgia.
What Is Redistricting?
Redistricting is the regular process of adjusting the lines of voting districts in accordance with population shifts. For many states, this means redrawing congressional and state legislative district lines every 10 years following the decennial census. In the modern era of redistricting, all district lines must be reviewed after the census to meet strict requirements for population equality and voting rights protections.
Source: The Rose Institute of State and Local Government
How to Connect with Your Legislator:
- Visit openstates.org and type in your zip code.
- Find out the email or phone numbers of your state senators and representatives.
- Follow these four easy steps on connecting with your lawmaker.
- Write to them using this Legislative Advocacy Letter
- Build a relationship and work with them to make your community a better place for people with disabilities!