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DeKalb Legislative Delegation discusses priorities for the 2022 legislative session

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DeKalb Legislative Delegation discusses priorities for the 2022 legislative session

Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated.

Atlanta, GA  — As the legislative session is underway, the senators and representatives of the DeKalb Legislative Delegation held town hall meetings before the session began and early on in the legislative session to discuss their priorities and hear from residents on issues that are important to them.

During a virtual town hall on Jan. 8, the DeKalb Legislative Delegation discussed issues they expect to see during the 2022 legislative session, which began on Jan. 10. The legislators expect to discuss the redistricting of DeKalb County and the local school boards.

“The role of the DeKalb Senate delegation, as well as the House, is to bring forward the priorities that are given to us by the school board, by the county commission and by all the cities that are in our districts,” Sen. Sally Harrell (SD 40) said. “One of the things that Sen. [Emmanuel] Jones briefly mentioned that is going to drive this session is redistricting, because we did redistrict Congress and the state legislature during the special session, but we did not deal with redistricting for school boards and county commissions.”

She added that cities can do some redistricting under home rule, but members of the DeKalb Legislative Delegation will probably introduce some local bills that are generated by the cities. The legislators will also look at charter reviews, which happens at the city and county levels.

“We’re looking forward to the county doing a charter review, which hasn’t been done for a long time, so we’re really looking forward to seeing what transpires with that,” Harrell said. “Lastly, one of the things that our Senate delegation has been working on…is the technical college expansion in South DeKalb, which is really exciting how our delegation came together to request those funds.”

The senators will be doing a sister project to that as well by asking members of the delegation to support the requisition of an appropriation for the expansion of Georgia Piedmont Technical College in North DeKalb County.

As the session continues, the DeKalb delegation anticipates the legislature will deliberate on issues that put the majority party in a good place with their base, as it is an election year. Sen. Elena Parent (SD 42) said she expects politics will drive the session in the state Senate. Among those issues, the General Assembly expects to see legislation regarding constitutional carry for guns and banning “critical race theory.”

“We have already seen a dramatic shift in some of the types of legislation supported by [senators running for statewide office], particularly our pro tem Butch Miller, trying to [move] much harder to the right in order to try to win the primary,” Parent said. “I really think the politics are going to drive a lot of what we hear and what we see. How much of it is actually signed into law is another matter, but I do think there is some pretty extreme danger given the political atmosphere on the right here in Georgia that we could see some pretty hard right bills around social issues — guns, voting, abortion maybe, etc. — signed into law.”

The Senate will be carefully watching where the state’s federal funds are spent, which is in the control of the governor and the Republican Party. Legislators hope to see progress made on mental health, cost of living adjustments from state employees, more funding for schools systems.

“There’s a lot of things that we feel should be better addressed by our state budgeteers, but we do think that social issues are doing to take a front burner position,” Parent said.

Teacher pay raises and mental health care will be on the agenda, Rep. Billy Mitchell (D- Stone Mountain) said. Other issues that will be on the agenda will be online sports betting, casinos and horse racing.

“Those issues will be before us. There are advantages for allowing these kinds of industries in our state, and there are disadvantages,” Mitchell said.

He added that there will probably be at least two cityhood issues regarding Buckhead and the city of DeKalb will be analyzed and discussed in the legislature.

The General Assembly will continue to see legislation about elections after Senate Bill 202 was signed into law last year.

“There’s going to be an attempt, primarily through the local legislation process, to change the non-partisan nature of these elections boards. They started last session and I expect to see much more of that,” Mitchell said.

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