James Jan-Feb 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 46
the 2021 Georgia legislative session begins, the
of 2020 looms. The COVID-19 pandemic
infected over half a million Georgians and claimed nearly 10,000 lives. In addition to public political skirmishes
impacting national perceptions of our state, the pandemic
put pressure on the state’s finances which has not been felt
fully— despite federal aid and local austerity measures.
The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and
Breonna Taylor and others created a social justice tsunami
that has not fully abated. Poignantly, as the birthplace of
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, it cannot be ignored that key
events fueling national outrage and demands for social
change occurred right here in Georgia. Based upon the
legislative pre-filings, a tough conversation at least, and a
serious reckoning at most, is in store for the session.
As if these winds were not gale force enough, American politics landed to Georgia— and not just for a brief
layover at Hartsfield-Jackson. In dramatic Romanesque
fashion, a triumvirate of political events turned our
sleepy red state into the purple crossroads of the U.S.
electoral world. With Joe Biden winning the state’s 16
electoral votes, two U.S. Senate runoffs deciding party control in Congress, a series of presidential election
challenges sparking lawsuits, legislative hearings and
Republican infighting that uncharacteristically spilled
into the streets, all roads lead to Georgia. Yes, as the
young folks say, Georgia is “woke.”
The impact of these incredible events will undoubtedly extend this “wokeness” into the 2021 state legislative session. The state Capitol will stay well lit and her
halls will be chock full of new members with bold agendas, as well as veteran lawmakers feeling the swirling
winds of change.
Democratic lawmakers have an opportunity to build
upon the momentum of national and local election successes. The presidential and U.S. Senate runoffs confirm
that Democrats are politically relevant in Georgia. But
while the Dems picked up a few seats in the legislature,
Republicans are still in the majority. Thus, unity will be
key to advancing the Democratic agenda. Its leadership
will be well-served by skillfully employing bipartisan
collaboration, demanding good faith debate and enterJANUARY/ FEBRUA RY 2021
taining sensible compromise. Democratic leader Sen.
Gloria Butler, known as a serious no-nonsense lawmaker,
is adept at deploying such strategies. It helps that Butler
and Rep. James Beverly enjoy the confidence and support of their respective caucuses.
For starters, the pandemic and its aftermath will
continue to expose political rifts and cultural divides
not only in the substance of the polices under consideration, but in the very manner the legislature physically
convenes to deliberate. Democrats will push for sensible safety measures as legislators, staff and the public
assemble at the Capitol. While this might seem like a
no-brainer issue, given the differences amongst the two
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