Bath­room bills, bul­ly­ing and con­ver­sion ther­apy ban

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

There’s an air of an­tic­i­pa­tion in down­town At­lanta this month as the 2017 General Assembly ses­sion gets un­der­way.

“With the ad­di­tion of [Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville)] and I this leg­isla­tive ses­sion, we’re rep­re­sent­ing over 200,000 in­di­vid­u­als not only in DeKalb and Ful­ton coun­ties, but also Gwin­nett County,” said Rep. Park Can­non (D-At­lanta). “Our reach is larger and our voice is larger.”

Park and Can­non join fel­low LGBT leg­is­la­tors Rep. Karla Dren­ner (D-Avon­dale Es­tates) and Rep. Keisha Waites (D-At­lanta) this year, an­other link in a chain of tri­umphs. 2016 had sev­eral leg­isla­tive vic­to­ries for the LGBT com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing the veto of House Bill 757 and the in­clu­sion of HIV care fund­ing in the ap­pro­pri­a­tions for Grady Hospi­tal, and the four leg­is­la­tors are ex­cited and cau­tiously op­ti­mistic for what this year will bring. Not only do Park and Can­non rep­re­sent Georgia’s LGBT com­mu­ni­ties, but they rep­re­sent other mi­nor­ity groups as well. Park is the only Asian-Amer­i­can in the General Assembly, and Can­non is a woman of color.

Park hopes to rep­re­sent the voices of mi­nori­ties, while do­ing “any­thing and ev­ery­thing” to en­sure bills serve the best in­ter­ests of all Peach State cit­i­zens.

“I’m very hope­ful in that the mil­len­ni­als in our gen­er­a­tion, also those com­ing af­ter us, have a dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ing and view. When all is said and done, re­gard­less of our dif­fer­ences, we’re all peo­ple. We’re all neigh­bors. We’re all Ge­or­gians,” Park said.

‘A health­care cri­sis’ in mid­dle and south Georgia

“I think there are a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties for us as Georgia Democrats to move our leg­isla­tive agenda for­ward. There’s also an op­por­tu­nity to bet­ter de­fine our­selves in terms of the Demo­cratic Party, who we are as a party

Jan­uary 6, 2017

and what we stand for,” Park said. “The LGBT is­sues are an es­sen­tial, crit­i­cal part of our leg­isla­tive agenda and party plat­form, be­ing that we are the party of in­clu­sive­ness.”

He be­lieves the General Assembly should place fo­cus on what he calls “a health­care cri­sis,” where 15 hospitals in mid­dle and south Georgia are in a state of col­lapse. He hopes both par­ties will push for pas­sage of the Bed Tax this ses­sion, which pools money from larger hospitals based on their num­ber of in­di­gent pa­tients and brings match­ing fed­eral funds.

“That pool of money then gets dis­trib­uted down to some of these hospitals that have larger in­di­gent pop­u­la­tions, such as Grady,” he said.

Even Repub­li­can law­mak­ers ex­pressed con­cern that some of those funds are go­ing to con­sult­ing fees and not di­rectly to the hospitals they’re de­signed to ben­e­fit, said Jeff Gra­ham, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Georgia Equal­ity.

“I do be­lieve the Leg­is­la­ture is go­ing to have to ad­dress this in some sub­stan­tial way this year,” he said. “It may not be the con­ver­sa­tions about Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion that six months ago I had an­tic­i­pated that they would be, but there will be con­ver­sa­tions that will be hap­pen­ing and we will con­tinue to make sure that what­ever pol­icy de­ci­sions get made, that we will do our best to en­sure that it does help mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity and peo­ple liv­ing with HIV.”

Gra­ham said a ma­jor worry this year is di­rect at­tacks on the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity.

“Un­like les­bian, gay and bi­sex­ual folks, that most peo­ple have a co­worker or a fam­ily mem­ber or a close friend … the ex­pe­ri­ence of trans­gen­der peo­ple are still a bit more re­mote for the av­er­age Ge­or­gian,” he said. “While [North Carolina’s anti-LGBT] House Bill 2 has proven to be a cau­tion­ary tale that I do hope may have tem­pered some of the re­ac­tionary Jeff Gra­ham

Sam Park

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