A Flicker of Hope

candlesEditor’s note: I really don’t like folks who wear their religion on their sleeve.  It makes me uncomfortable, kinda like when the Deet mixes with your sweat when you’re doing yard work in Georgia in July and you can’t seem to move without everything sticking to you.  Maybe that’s just me.  Both instances leave me wanting to get out of that awkward situation quickly and shower off all the memories thereof.

That said, I am also not one to miss sharing a good word.  Thus in the midst of all the chaos and bad news that has filled my news feed as of late, I am happy to share a light in the darkness with all the readers out there.  I recently moved my letter of membership to The Church At Ponce & Highland. My Minister to Families, Carra Greer, and her husband, Brian Greer offered an amazing word a few weeks ago that spoke to the sadness and frustration I have felt recently, in light of all of the senseless killings of our own people.  Thus, I asked Carra if I might share their sermon with Southern Indeed readers.

It should also be said that Brian Greer is the first man Southern Indeed has featured as a writer- a thing of merit all of its own!

Personally, I really am not into complaining for the sake of hearing myself complain.  Me? I am a doer.  In my mind, there is always an opportunity for a resolution, solution, or way to fix things.  It may not be perfect or pretty, but one of the reasons I have always felt called to policy and politics is because I know in my heart we can always strive to improve.  I am no damsel in distress and you will rarely find me throwing my hands up in the air, looking for someone to swoop in and save me.  For this reason, this particular sermon really spoke to me and in turn, I share it with all of y’all for your consideration of what we may do and how we may find comfort.

The sermon focused on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:20-33.  Rather than focusing on the death and destruction, the Greers focused on the small flicker of light in the darkness.  That’s my kind of theology, but certainly does not have to be yours.  If discussions of faith and God are not your thing, you may wish to wait for the next post.  Conversely, if you would like the audio of the sermon, please click here.  And now onto the good stuff…

Continue reading “A Flicker of Hope”

How Do We Define Open Access?

How do we define open access?

periscopeThe ever present use of social media and the ability to self- report the ground breaking as well as the mundane has caused me to ponder these tools a bit.  I am grouped into the millennial age group, albeit on the older side.  I have recognized my generation’s preference on certain things alters our expectations.   This age group around the globe seems to be less and less interested with ownership of things, or with developing status through accumulating material goods and more the access to them.  Think of Über and Airbnb instead of buying a car or house.  So too, my age group seems to enjoy dabbling in multiple jobs, rather than focusing on life-long careers in one profession or another.

So, if we applied the same principle to politics, what would that look like? 

For my parents, it is important to have access to their elected officials on a city and county level.  For them this means attending meetings in the evening and if need be, catching a moment with decision makers at the local watering hole or breakfast spot.  EVERY small town has a local hangout where the older men sit and discuss the events of the day over biscuits and coffee.  Where you will find a good biscuit in a Southern town, so shall you find folks sitting in clusters discussing the way things “should be”.  My parents’ generation’s expectation of access was determined more by their own efforts, namey because there existed no other options.

Yet as we see so many of the long-held seats being vacated by members retiring, I wonder aloud what the future will bring.  Many of the old guard’s replacements are closer in age to me, if not even younger!  So what shall these young guns bring?  Perhaps more of the same status quo, with little transparency, the same glacial pace of addressing actual challenges faced by Southerners, and little actual informed engagement of the voters…or maybe not.

I remain more optimistic because our options have changed. Continue reading “How Do We Define Open Access?”

“So…What do you do?”

On a personal note….

I haven’t written in some months due to the fact that life got in the way.  An engagement, a house renovation, a move that combined two households, a death of a grandfather, a near death and hospitalization of a grandmother, identity theft, vehicle theft, and loss of health insurance will do that to a woman….even Steel Magnolias bruise and bend.  Yet I am consistently like a bad penny: I just keep turning up and will continue to offer my opinions (for whatever they are worth to others) for as long as I am able.  I intend to spend the next little bit writing through all of the topics I have wanted to cover and yet did not have the time to do so in the last few months, so bear with me as I bear witness and I hope that I can offer insight/ explanation as we go along together.

And now back to the reason you’re here….

what-do-you-do-2

“What do you do?”

People ask this of one another because we search for common ground and for safe topics in small talk.  Alas, my job description usually isn’t anything like that.  People see the term “political consultant” and “lobbyist” as a loaded gun, aimed at their rights, their perceptions of how things should be, or they see me as some sort of elite class.

I repeatedly have to tell them it’s really not anything remotely like what you see on House of Cards. 

I am sincerely not powerful and my work is more on the side of being kind to everyone- even when they are not kind to me rather than passionately debating legislators or playing puppet master behind the scenes.  I am not debating that the Remy Denton types of lobbyists exist, I am just here to tell you: that isn’t me.

I typically answer that question with a shoulder shrug and the factual statement, “I talk to people.”  Many times before I have also asserted that I think a monkey could do my job.  To be honest, there are probably primates that are more fully functioning than a LOT of people in their jobs, but I digress…Now that I have had the fortune of meeting a number of people who are very book-smart but have zero ability to communicate effectively nor manage a filter on themselves, I have come to value my own diplomacy skills a bit better.  Not everyone can take rejection well, nor know they are being purposefully left out of conversations and still try to make a difference.

I would say these are my greatest gifts. 

Hearing “no” is simply part of the process.  Brush it off.  The more important question is always, “what will get you to “yes”?” Continue reading ““So…What do you do?””

Rules, Shmules!

rulesToday is the last day of the Georgia legislature, and I am ever the optimistic populist.  So if you are watching from home, or from the galleries and have a bit of confusion about what’s going on, I thought it might be helpful to have your own copy of the Rules.

House Rules

Senate Rules

Click on the links above and you will find the rules governing the chambers.  The Senate Rules are online at legis.ga.gov, but the House Rules were updated back in 2013 and never made it back online.  With the gracious assistance of a transparency-loving House member, I scanned and copied the above for your reading pleasure/assistance before you head to sleep.

While these are the Rules governing the chambers, it would also be helpful to note that the House’s parliamentary procedure most closely follows the American version of Robert’s Rules of Order and the Senate more closely follows Mason’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.  I’m a fan of Robert’s, but Mason’s was explicitly designed for state legislatures.

Here’s NCSL’s take on the differences.

Now the key portions to pay attention to are terms like “germane”, “engrossment”, and paying attention to which floor votes are performed by a show of hands.  These procedures are what make the action on the floor more interesting and volatile.  Transparency is not the populace’s friend on Sine Die, and so I would encourage all Georgians to come out after work to watch the floors, if you want to really know what happens.

Want real time floor notes?  Twitter is your friend.

Senate Press

House Floor Notes

You can also get feedback from individuals and media on legislation by following #gapol on Twitter.

Happy Sine Die, all!

Mike Griffin: The Baptist Who Will Call You Hitler at the Liquor Store

white patentIt seems that Mike Griffin has finally pissed off Baptists other than just me.  Even the white patent shoe wearing, floppy-Bible-toting stock get irritated when you compare them to a totalitarian.

Aaron Gould Shenin of the AJC quotes members from the floor in his post, identifying his comparison of lawmakers to Hitler as beyond the pale.  There are many more Baptists than those quoted at the Capitol, many who have long considered Griffin to be Satan incarnate, but I am rather glad to invite others to the party.  All are welcome at this table!

On the matter of being Baptist: I have been and cannot imagine myself to ever separate from the title of Baptist, no matter how many Mike Griffins, Jerry Falwells, or Westboro Baptists there may be.  In addition to that preference, I also have always loved my scotch neat, I rarely miss a chance to break it down on the dance floor, have been and will forever be solidly pro-choice, and as for my card playing abilities? My middle school girl friends can vouch for the repercussions of our serious games of five card draw.

If you are of the misconceived notion that Baptists are unilaterally characterized by the opposite of the above mentioned actions, I am here to tell you Baptist is a big, broad tent that welcomes sinners of all stripes.  Like all Christians, we believe devoutly in the salvation of our souls given mercifully and unconditionally by God.  There are some who believe in the sacrificial atonement of sins in the death of Jesus the Christ, and there are some who do not.  Yet Baptists go further beyond the belief of merciful salvation and are somewhat unique in our deeply held convictions around full immersion baptism and regarding a term called congregational polity, where every church is self-governed, autonomous from the fold as a whole, and independent.  Quakers, Puritans, and many of the congregational churches created in the American colonies were cut from this cloth.  Unitarian Universalists, some synagogues, and mosques employ a version of this as well, but Baptists are often the denomination to be identified with this in mainstream Protestantism.

For this reason alone I have deeply held convictions against ANYONE saying they represent all Baptists.  We are organized differently for this VERY reason.  So for Mr. Griffin to assert he speaks for “us” is to be not only challenging to comprehend, it is organizationally impossible. Continue reading “Mike Griffin: The Baptist Who Will Call You Hitler at the Liquor Store”

Crossover Day: Death or Second Chance?

fig_treeIt’s Crossover Day.

For any lobbyist, legislator, and general run of the mill politico, this is a day of significance.  Crossover Day is the 30th legislative day in the 40 day legislative calendar of the Georgia General Assembly.  Each bill begins in either the House or the Senate, and then must go through the committee process on its originating side before “crossing over” to the second chamber- to then begin the process again before being signed into law.  This is dictated by the Senate Rules. If the bill does not successfully cross over (it died in committee, failed on a floor vote, etc.) then the bill is considered “dead” for the remainder of the current session.  Bills remain “alive” even if they do not crossover for two years.

I am going to get a little wonky in the next few paragraphs, so if process discussion is not your thing, skip down until after the definition.

In everyone’s head there is a timeline as we approach Crossover Day.  When must the bill be introduced?  By when must it be favorably recommended by the committee?  Can I get the majority of floor votes that are requisite?

There’s a lot of gallows humor in the week preceding Crossover Day, with terms such as “dead”, “Frankenstein”, “alive”, and “revival” thrown around at will.

For obvious reasons, the House is the more difficult chamber in which for a bill to originate.  It must pass 180 differing opinions before it may crossover.  Have you ever tried to herd cats?  Try passing something in the House.  The Senate is the easier chamber to originate bills, due to sheer fewer numbers of egos people.  However, any bills dealing with funds going or coming from the general fund are constitutionally required to begin in the House.

So what do you do if your bill does not cross over?  Give up?

Oh, no.  You just become more aware of the term “germane”. Continue reading “Crossover Day: Death or Second Chance?”

Superbowl 50: The Ladies’ Political Platform

Super_Bowl_50_Logo.svgSo there was a little football game this past weekend.  Not sure if you caught it, but in the midst of the pigskin throwing, the millions of dollars in ad buys and the simple joy of watching Peyton Manning win again, there was a little political statement made by a couple of ladies in unexpected ways.

For beginners, Lady Gaga, who is known for her outlandish costumes, audacious lyrics, and unwavering support of the LGBT community gave an outstanding rendition of our nation’s anthem.  She stood (all 5’1”) in a simple yet sparkly pantsuit and sang her heart out in a performance that brought many unexpectedly to tears.  She was the picture of modern grace and patriotic pride in her red pantsuit (reminiscent of a certain female Presidential candidate) and simple stud earrings.  Her eye makeup, nail color and shoes were the only hints of stepping out of line with the outfit otherwise à la Jackie O with a modern twist.  The element of surprise here was not then what she was wearing, but how powerful her voice and presence is without adornment.  Implicitly, this nation building moment also highlights the changes in the country since we last gathered for this game- the SCOTUS ruling of marriage equality.

Maybe it was just a song, or maybe this was a platform for a much larger statement on how we define ourselves as Americans. Continue reading “Superbowl 50: The Ladies’ Political Platform”

Rep. Mike Dudgeon: Transparency In the Age of Technology

voting card

Anyone who knows me personally knows how much I adore convenience providing technology, individuals who speak their mind, and processes that afford ample transparency.  I believe that those who can be informed can also engage, and the more folks are engaged are the more who can bring about sustainable methods of solutions to the challenges of our time.  I do not believe that elected oficials are inherently corrupt, but do recognize that it takes some serious courage and vision to alter a pre-existing system.  With this perspective, my compliments to legislators do not come easily nor is my respect earned without merit.  The Georgia General Assembly has been my playground and profession for the last twelve years.  I cut my teeth with the House Hawk system (to which Congressman Tom Graves belonged) and I have mourned the loss of a number of men and women who contributed not simply to their district, but to greatness of the state as a whole.

Last week I was sad to hear of the decision of Representative Mike Dudgeon to not seek re-election.   The image to the right was the image accompanying his Facebook post notifying the public he would not be seeking re-election.  I am particularly sad about this because of his contribution to a more open and transparent bill comparison system.  In a General Assembly in which the Senate still does not provide live streamed meetings, (and as of last week) I was told by Senate Gallery Doorkeepers photographs were no longer allowed in the Senate gallery, Representative Dudgeon stood in direct contrast.  He is no rabble rouser, but simply admires limited scope of government and does not hide behind some archaic idea that technology is something to be feared.  In contrast to the same photo-prohibiting ladies that explained I could use my cell phone for “business” not for “playing” while in the gallery, Representative Dudgeon and many House members actively have dialogue with their constituents via social media.

Thanks be to God for the House chamber, and specifically for Representative Dudgeon.  For those who are unaware, Representative Dudgeon graduated Georgia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering and currently holds five patents.  During his years in the Georgia General Assembly, Rep. Dudgeon also took time out of his full-time job in the tech sector and his service as a member to develop an inter-office software program that analyzes the different versions of bills as they go through the legislative process. 

Here’s where is gets wonky, so skip down a paragraph if you are not into political nerdom/ jargon. Continue reading “Rep. Mike Dudgeon: Transparency In the Age of Technology”

Of Rumors and Peach Punditry…

man woman hands holding broken heartIt would seem while I was in NOLA, a little change occurred in politics and punditry in the peach state.  (And I thought things were rowdy in the French Quarter.  Yikes!)

Long time Editor in Chief, Charlie Harper and many of the contributors jumped ship and moved to their own, new blog (gapol.com) with Harper serving as the publisher.  Yours truly got her start blogging there, met her current boyfriend among the writers there, and continue to hold many of the writers in high personal professional esteem.  Published by Clayton Wagar and created by Erick Erickson, Peach Pundit is now taking a new turn without the old crew.

It is my understanding that Peach Pundit, like Z Politics, has been acquired by Stoneridge.

If this rumor is true: Bravo to Wagar and Erickson for monetizing opinions and comments on a website!  Bravo too to the writers who left wishing to separate themselves from the monetization of their words!  Bravo to Jay Williams and gang for acquiring another hold on political punditry in Georgia!

Win-win for everyone, and a great start to session 2016!

 

Session: My Second Favorite Time of Year

footballLegislative session will begin next week.  It is my second favorite time of year.  Clearly it’s no one’s first; but a strong second in a heated primary, if you will.  Football season is my favorite time of year.  Some may love Christmas, others Halloween, but my favorite time in Georgia is the fall in which every self-respecting Southerner picks a team and joins their friends and family in heated rivalry for a few months.  It’s a second religion here, and I’m certain the rules are written somewhere in Leviticus, right next to church starting at 11am sharp.

The two seasons are not so unlike one another.  My love of college football is because of the intense drama on the field in a strategically played game that has an extremely diverse mix of talent…Unless you’re Alabama, of course.  Then you just mark your calendar with bowl rings and trophies.  The legislative session is similar in that there is strategy of sorts, lots of drama and high spirits, and the talent is as diverse as the power.  Freshmen legislators may rise up on the rungs quickly in popular opinion even if their bills go nowhere and the mighty three are typically protected and lead from behind as much as any star quarterback.  There is also occasional Tebowing on the sidelines for dramatic effect and ingratiating oneself to the social conservative base.

However, the rumors of success and predictions for which way the score will go are as varied as the talent in the second string draft.  Yet, I will try my hand at a few suspicions I have and we shall all see where the rumors of session will fall. Continue reading “Session: My Second Favorite Time of Year”