Local Democrats filled the banquet room at the Ila Restaurant in Ila to hear a 30-minute speech by the minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, Stacey Abrams. Abrams is most noted for being the first woman to serve as leader of either party in either house of the General Assembly, and the first African American to lead either party in the House of Representatives.
According to Madison County Democratic Party Chairman Conolus Scott, many Democrats believe she is working on building a local party organization with the possibility of eventually running for Governor.
The speech was largely devoted to “the good, the bad and the ugly” of the last legislative session. It was described by one of the event organizers, Milton Bates, as “the best stump speech I’ve heard since Gene McCarthy back in 1968.” Abrams expressed approval for some parts of the budget passed by the Republican-dominated legislature.
She gave, as one example, the Internet sales tax because it “levels the playing field for local merchants.” She went on to say she was “proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Governor Nathan Deal” in the creation of drug courts and mental health courts that would stress treatment and relieve the economic burden of Georgia’s prison system, which she described as “the largest in the world.”
Turning to the bad and the ugly, Abrams explained that problems with the Unemployment Trust Fund were created by declaring a tax holiday, and then forgetting to end it. She then criticized Republicans for fixing a problem the legislature created on the backs of the unemployed, who are losing 65 percent of their benefits.
Her list of bad legislation ended with her two choices for the ugliest bills passed during the session. The first cut Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in half. For a family of three, cash assistance has been reduced from $435 to $280 per month from which the cost of drug testing is deducted. The second bill prohibits all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “What about the woman who doesn’t discover that she has a seriously deformed fetus until 21 weeks?” she asked. “What about the 14-year-old rape victim who doesn’t know enough about reproduction to know she’s pregnant until 22 weeks?”
Abrams also objected to making physicians criminally responsible for such abortions, noting that doctors will be afraid to perform many legal abortions because of the difficulty in establishing the date of conception. Abrams emphasized the importance of the Democratic Party working with all groups of people, pointing out that it was a coalition of Tea Party, Occupy, and union movements that stopped proposed legislation that would criminalize mass picketing. The speech ended with the audience and Abrams shouting Abrams’ mantra at one another: “Educate. Activate. Agitate.”