This past weekend, Saturday, December 5th, about 40 individuals descended on ITT-Atlanta eager to be engaged in the legislative process. The purpose was to bring Georgians from all over the state to discuss legislation they would like to see proposed to address a specific issue. I titled it a “hack-a-thon” because hack-a-thons are associated in the technology industry with computer coding to solve a specific issue. Other industries haven taken this concept to make it more broadly apply to resolving any issue, not just technology issues.
Engagement is one of the pivotal roles I see as a legislator. As one participant told me “I’ve never been asked my opinion about what legislation I think is needed for this state.” That’s a sad statement and one I hope me and my colleagues under the Gold Dome can address. Engagement in the legislative process not only makes me a better, more accountable legislator but a better citizen and the state better. Indeed some of my BEST legislative ideas, like HB 6 (My HOPE bill) come from constituents involved in the legislative process and willing to communicate their thoughts to me.
The day started with hearing from 2 individuals that I consider to be experts in their field and great associates of mine—-Kenyette Barnes and Jason M. Shepard, who is a former agency lobbyist. We discussed how bills are REALLY passed under the Gold Dome, a day in the life of a lobbyists, addressed some of the reasons “lobbyists” get a bad name and what average citizens can do to lobby their legislator. The questions from the audience focused on getting involved in the committee process (yay!), how lobbyist made money (which we saved for in person discussions) and creative ways to communicate with law makers.
After pictures, networking and hugs for the panelists (because they did an AWESOME job), the groups broke out as follows:
The topics were:
- Child Support Reform, moderated by me and Attorney Kelli Hooper
- School Discipline, moderated by Jennifer Young and Attorney Kathryn Boortz
- Mental Health and the Police, moderated by Ashlyn Shockley and Attorney Raquel Hoover
- Technology Skills & Jobs, moderated by A. Fitzgerald Breland and Theron Johnson
- Treatment of the Homeless, moderated by Yasmin Neal and Attorney Emily Macheski-Preston
After spending 2.5 hours asking the tough questions to our attorneys and experts in each group, each group was tasked with making a 5 minute presentation to the whole group. We had lunch provided by Jewel Anderson and then reconvened to hear the ideas from the other groups and ask the tough questions.
The Child Support Reform group presents to all the participants. Here are the results of their deliberations.
The Technology & Jobs group presents to all the participants. Here are the results of their deliberations.
The School Discipline group presents to all the participants. Here are the results of their deliberations.
The Mental Health & The Police group presents to all the participants. Here are the results of their deliberations.
The Homelessness group presents to all the participants. Here are the results of their deliberations.
So what are the next steps?
- Assess which pieces of proposed legislation are feasible by discussing with legislative counsel.
- Review the comments on how to improve from the Host committee for this year and the participants.
- Plan the 2016 Legislative Hack-a-thon by putting together the Host committee now.
I have been elected to the House of Representatives since 2011, representing over 54,000 Georgians in East DeKalb and South Gwinnett counties. I currently serve on the Juvenile Justice, Interstate Cooperation, Judiciary Non-Civil, and as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business Development and Job Creation committee. I am a private securities lawyer by profession and a native of Atlanta, GA. Please visit my website , YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and slideshare account for more information on Georgia government.