The way is forward, the time is now!
Marisue Hilliard for Georgia Senate District 46
For too many years, legislators have put their lobbyists and donors above their constituents.
I intend to change that. I will put the families of the 46th District and the issues that affect their ability to thrive above all. And I will never forget that I work for the people of this district.
My first priority is to make sure our people have access to the education they need and jobs that pay a living wage. I believe all Georgians have the right to high quality, affordable healthcare. I support policies that deal with climate change and protect our environment to sustain the health of our citizens and our economy. I will fight for criminal justice reform and common-sense gun laws that reduce gun violence. And I will advocate for measures that ensure fair elections and voter rights.
I will work to advance economic opportunities for all Georgians.
Creating an economy that works for all of us helps to address a wide range of issues in our society — from addressing the root causes of crime to improving educational and health outcomes, democratic engagement, and relieving the strain of financial worry that wreaks havoc on our quality of life and our relationships.
That’s why I plan to spend my time in office addressing the needs of all Georgians — not by pandering to corporate interests with tax cuts that benefit a select few.
- I will work to take bold steps to improve job opportunities and ensure that Georgians earn a living wage.1
- I support a phased-in increase to a $15 per hour minimum wage — which is favored by the majority of Georgians.2 I also support an increase in the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been fixed at $2.13 per hour since 1991. Of the states that specify a minimum wage, Georgia is tied with Wyoming for lowest in the nation at $5.15 per hour.3 Minimum wage in Georgia needs to be indexed to inflation and the cost of living, and increases should be implemented at a pace that will allow businesses to adjust. In our district, with nearly full employment, many fellow Georgians still fall below the poverty line. No one should have to work two jobs to put food on the table or take their kid to the dentist.
- I will work to implement paid family and sick leave because every hiccup in our life shouldn’t break our finances. Publicly-administered family and medical leave insurance programs will help small businesses offer family and sick leave to employees.4
1 Glasmeier, A. 2018. MIT Living Wage Calculator for Georgia http://livingwage.mit.edu/states/13
2 Atlanta Journal Constitution August 2016 Georgia Statewide Poll, p. 56. http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/news/documents/2016/08/05/30532_GA_Poll_Banner_FINAL_20160804.pdf
3 National Conference of State Legislatures: State Minimum Wages | 2018 Minimum Wage by State http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx#Table
4 Small Business Majority and Center for American Progress, March 30, 2017. http://www.smallbusinessmajority.org/our-research/workforce/small-businesses-support-paid-family-leave-programs
Access to Quality Education
I will work tirelessly to improve access to quality education for children and young adults.
Top-quality educational opportunities in early childhood have been proven to nurture the social and behavioral skills that translate to positive personal and professional outcomes later in life.5 We owe these opportunities to all children and students in Georgia, particularly those from historically underprivileged communities.
- It is imperative that we open more early learning centers in Georgia.
- We should help non-profit private and in-home pre-K/daycare centers to earn the Quality Rated designation, a voluntary program that ensures early education and school-age care programs meet or exceed state requirements.
- We should fully and equitably fund and staff our public schools.
- For our young adults, we must increase state funding to public universities and technical colleges so that students are not forced to shoulder an unsustainable burden in tuition and fees and resort to student loans that saddle them with debt that will often take decades to repay.
5 Bakken, Brown, and Danning. 2015. Early Childhood Education: The Long-term Benefits. Journal of Research in Childhood Education. Volume 31, Issue 2.
Affordable, High Quality Healthcare
I believe all Georgians should have affordable, high quality healthcare.
No Georgian should have to stay sick because they can’t afford a doctor, no Georgian should have to live in fear of being bankrupted by a medical emergency, and no Georgian should have a third of their paycheck torn away for a health insurance policy that does not meet their family’s needs.
Political grandstanding should never get in the way of what is best for the health of Georgians. When politicians turn down federal money for healthcare to save face with party leadership, they place the party line ahead of the well-being of their constituents.
Georgia’s 10-year cost to expand Medicaid was estimated at only $2.5 billion dollars in 2014. When the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature chose not to expand Medicaid, the consequence was a loss of nearly $34 billion dollars in federal Medicaid funding and a loss of $12.8 billion dollars in hospital reimbursement.6 It is never acceptable to play politics with the health of Georgians.
- I will never sit idly while politicians decline funding that expands Medicaid funding to 600,000 Georgians.
- I will fight for a universal healthcare plan for all Georgians that keeps premiums affordable, minimizes out-of-pocket expenses and eliminates out-of-network costs. I will support measures that help people with pre-existing conditions, improve the quality of care, and reduce prescription drug prices.
- I also support legislation to end surprise billing such as from unexpected out-of-network medical costs.
6 Dorm, S., McGrath, M. and Holahan, J. 2014. What is the result of states not expanding Medicaid? Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute. https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/22816/413192-What-is-the-Result-of-States-Not-Expanding-Medicaid-.PDF
Protecting the Environment
I will work to protect the environment and natural resources of Georgia.
Protecting our environment is not a luxury; it is a necessity for Georgia to have healthy people, healthy communities and healthy economies.
I spent my entire 30+ year career with the U.S. Forest Service working to protect our environment. As an expert in public land management and policy, I understand the importance of protecting our precious natural resources without placing undue burdens on business and industry.
Protecting our natural resources also means that Georgia needs to deal with the expected impacts from climate change. The Georgia Climate Research Roadmap, developed by a team of experts, lists 40 key research questions that can guide policy for dealing with impacts to water, the coast, agriculture, health, and energy.7
One of Georgia’s great environmental challenges is population growth especially in the northern part of the state which lacks water resources and faces heavy demands for energy. I will work to address these issues while continuing my lifelong commitment to protecting the diversity of ecosystems in our beautiful state. Some specific priorities for me are:
- We should take action on climate change. The majority of Americans, 72 percent, take climate change seriously8. Currently, Georgia does not have a climate plan in place or in progress. However, it is essential that we make it a priority to develop a plan to prepare for the inevitable impacts to not only our environment but our economy and health.
- I support knocking out the barriers to alternative energy, such as solar energy. Alternative energy, especially solar, can power our communities with clean, renewable, local energy. I will encourage a concerted push towards improved energy efficiency and tax incentives for those who build “green.”9
- I support programs to encourage smart growth of our cities and towns and rural areas.10 Clarke, Oconee, and Walton counties have vast expanses of privately owned farms and forests and numerous public parks, trails, and greenways. Local, state and federal public lands and waters should be protected as undeveloped spaces for water, clean air, and greenspace. I will encourage aesthetically sensitive development that enhances and expands greenspace in both rural and urban areas. We should maintain the rural character of Georgia’s rural areas by supporting policies and funding that will encourage sustaining forests and farmlands- this is key to maintaining water quality in our watersheds.
7 Georgia Climate Research Roadmap identifies state’s top 40 climate research questions http://news.emory.edu/stories/2018/05/georgia_climate_roadmap/campus.html
8 Climate Change in the American Mind: November 2016 http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-in-the-american-mind-november-2016/
9 GA Solar https://www.gasolar.org/
10 What is Smart Growth? https://smartgrowthamerica.org/our-vision/what-is-smart-growth/
Criminal Justice Reform
I will take bold steps to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system.
One out of every 13 Georgians is under some form of correctional supervision (including prison, jail, probation, or parole). Compare this to the national average of one out of every 31 people,11 and it becomes clear that Georgia’s laws are contributing to imbalances in our justice system.
We have a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets people of color, especially young black men, locks them in cages, and then excludes them from all kinds of rights and opportunities when they get out.12
Mandatory sentencing limits a trial judge’s ability to negotiate a case fairly and appropriately. It is irresponsible for the legislature to mandate that every case be treated the same.
- To ease the systemic and humanitarian burden resulting from high incarceration rates, I believe it is necessary to reevaluate mandatory minimum sentencing laws that deny judges the latitude to apply constructive solutions to non-violent offenses.
- I will work to counter the efforts of the private prison industry’s lobbyists, who have increased Georgia’s private prison population by 112% during a 15-year span.13
- I will also work to limit the influence of private probation companies that have helped drive Georgia’s probation rosters to heights that double those of every other state’s probation rate.14
- Poverty and inability to pay bail should not be criminalized so I support giving judges the authority to waive cash bail for non-violent crimes.
11 Private Prisons, Southern Center for Human Rights, https://www.schr.org/our-work/prisons-jails/private-prisons
12 Alexander, Michelle. 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.
13 Private Prisons in the United States. 2017. The Sentencing Project, https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/private-prisons-united-states/
14 Rabuy, B. and Wagner, P. 2016. Correctional control: Incarceration and supervision by state. Prison Policy Project, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/50statepie.html
Common Sense Gun Laws
I will work for common-sense changes to gun policy that make communities safer while respecting the fundamental rights of gun owners.
Georgia is a paradise for hunting and sporting enthusiasts, and lawful gun owners should not be punished for the tremendous public danger that results from guns in inexperienced or malicious hands.
Most Georgians oppose allowing anyone with a concealed-weapon permit to carry firearms on public college and university campuses, but that didn’t stop the 2017 Republican-controlled Georgia legislature from legalizing guns on campus.15 When Georgia legislators pass gun laws that Georgia voters do not want, they are not listening to the people — they are listening to the lobbyists.
I have a proven record of standing up for gun policy reforms that make sense to most Georgians and most Americans.
- I support requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales. Due to a loophole in federal law, felons, domestic abusers, and others prohibited from having firearms can easily buy guns from unlicensed sellers.
- I will work to raise the minimum age to 21 years old for the purchase of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Federal law requires you to be 21 for a handgun but only 18 to buy a semi-automatic weapon. An 18-year-old can’t buy a beer or a handgun but can buy a semi-automatic weapon. That is not common sense.
- I believe domestic abusers should be prohibited from owning guns. Criminals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes are generally prohibited from buying or possessing new guns by federal law.16 However, Georgia lacks an enforcement mechanism to ensure that prohibited abusers turn in the guns they already have — keeping victims in danger even after their abusers become prohibited.
15 Sheinin, A.G. and Torres, K. 2017. AJC poll: Voters don’t favor return of religious liberty, gun bills, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, https://politics.myajc.com/news/state–regional-govt- -politics/ajc- poll-voters- don-favor- return-religious- liberty-gun- bills/pXLC2QfPxNZdGvjJkN3YGP/
16 18 USC 922(g)(9). U.S. Government Publishing Office. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title18/pdf/USCODE-2011-title18-partI-chap44-sec922.pdf
I will ensure that nothing infringes on the ability of Georgia’s citizens to exercise their most fundamental and essential right to vote.
Too often in Georgia’s history, deliberate action has been taken to limit political access for minority communities and underprivileged segments of the population. We must take steps to move forward from this legacy of political suppression. Citizens should be able to vote without undue restrictions. When we deny political access to citizens, we lose out on the promise of a unified Georgia that works efficiently and effectively toward the betterment of all its citizens.
Gerrymandering has created a system of political redistricting that takes away the right of voters to choose their legislators. Instead legislators choose their voters.
- I support the creation of an independent redistricting commission to take the politics out of redistricting.
- I support laws that modernize voter registration, enhance voter access to polling precincts, and update voting machines to prevent ballot tampering.
- I support expanding opportunities for automatic voter registration for eligible citizens.