Stop the anti-people legislation in Georgia

Atlanta, March 20 — For the ninth consecutive week, Moral Monday Georgia staged actions on March 18 opposing reactionary legislation and demanding expansion of Medicaid for some 650,000 low-income workers in the state.

The coordinated acts of civil disobedience throughout the day — in the Senate gallery, blocking the governor’s office door and sitting in the Senate chamber entrance — brought national attention to the right-wing agenda being foisted on the people of Georgia. Inspired by the 2013 Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, which waged tremendous resistance to a rollback of rights in that state, the Georgia coalition, which includes a wide range of organizations and individuals, has launched a visible struggle that uses direct action as a primary tactic.

Thirty-nine people were arrested and jailed, including prominent faith leaders like Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and state NAACP president Rev. Francys Johnson, They were joined by students from Morehouse College, retired seniors, the state president of the National Organization for Women and other women’s rights advocates, and uninsured and unemployed workers.

Actions on Jan. 13 and Feb. 3 had resulted in dozens of other arrests of youth, students, elected officials, anti-war activists, and community, religious and civil rights leaders.

By law, the Georgia General Assembly meets for 40 days, beginning the second Monday of January. Extreme conservatives dominate both chambers of the Assembly as well as the governor’s office.

People demand health care and more

Proposed legislation included preventing abortion coverage in state employee insurance plans; making bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school employees ineligible for unemployment compensation during summer breaks; allowing guns in bars, churches and college campuses; drug testing for food stamp recipients; making it a crime for state workers to disseminate information about the Affordable Care Act; barring DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which addresses immigrants without papers) students from getting state driver’s licenses; mandating that cities reduce early voting from three weeks to six days; and legalization of discrimination toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities and others under the guise of defending religious freedom.

Moral Monday Georgia had placed special emphasis on demanding that Gov. Nathan Deal sign the expansion of Medicaid as provided under the Affordable Care Act. When statewide polls consistently showed that the large majority of Georgians supported expansion, and the pressure was beginning to be felt, the right-wing majority in the legislature, with Deal’s support, drafted legislation moving the power to expand Medicaid from the governor’s office to the General Assembly. Moral Monday Georgia thus targeted both the governor and the legislature in the fight for health care for poor Georgians.

March 18 was the 39th day of the session. With close to 100 bills still to be voted on, including the most contentious, the planned protests upped the ante and added to the tense atmosphere as hours of jockeying and dealing by legislators and pushback by the people took place.

On March 20, as the 2014 session closed at midnight, HB 990, which moves the Medicaid decision-making power to the General Assembly, passed along with a number of other reactionary laws.

Some right-wing legislation, however, went down in defeat, including privatizing foster care services, preventing DACA immigrants from getting driver’s licenses and the so-called “religious freedom” bill.

Moral Monday Georgia is now shifting its attention back to Gov. Deal, demanding that he veto a number of the pieces of legislation, particularly HB 990, and act to expand Medicaid.

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