State Representative Lehman Franklin recently sat down with TGV News to discuss his first legislative session in the Capitol, the bills that gained final passage thanks to his sponsorship, and his plans for year two.
On His First Legislative Session
Franklin said he didn’t know what to expect going into his first session. He said he knew it would be fast paced and busy, but ‘chaotic’ was not what he anticipated from the get go. Days beginning at 6:30 a.m.to keep up with emails and correspondence, caucus meetings, various committee meetings, and networking receptions kept the pace at both a marathon and a sprint for the duration of the three months.
Most surprising to him, Franklin said, was the absent partisan divide. Of course, on key party issues, Republicans and Democrats were at odds, but
“I found that there was a lot of common ground. That was a big thing because the majority of the people up there, I believe, really want to do ‘good’ for Georgia. They’re up there for that purpose, but it’s just how that looks to them,” Franklin said. “There’s really good people up there that have a lot to offer.”
Franklin also said he was surprised to learn how difficult it can be to get legislation passed.
“I was so focused on the House side that I didn’t really even consider having to do it all over again on the Senate side and with different rules over there.”
On Legislation He Sponsored
The House passed a total of three bills with Franklin as the lead sponsor.
House Bill 285
As a retirement bill, HB 285 raises the limit for the total percentage of funds that the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia may invest in alternative investments.
While the House unanimously approved HB 285, the Senate extracted the language of Franklin’s bill and attached it to another Senate retirement bill. That bill did gain final approval by the Senate, but following an issue pointed out by the Governor with language added in on the Senate side, the measure stalled. The hope is that Franklin’s bill will either pass independently in 2024 or the issue in the combined bill will be resolved during the 2024 session and the Governor will sign the measure into law.
House Bill 302
HB 302 allows Georgia courts to issue either temporary or permanent protective orders to protect against conduct that constitutes stalking.
Under current law, Stalking Protective Order code sections for post-conviction no-contact orders are a gray area and most state court judges interpret the language to mean they can only order no-contact for the term of the sentence — two years at most. The new legislation provides more latitude for permanent solutions so the victims of stalking can secure lifetime protective orders against their stalkers. The measure was approved unanimously by both the Georgia House and the Georgia Senate.
Governor Kemp signed the measure into law on May 2. Read HB 302.
House Bill 480
HB 480 raises the maximum weekly amount of temporary total disability of workers’ compensation in state law to $800. The maximum weekly amount of temporary partial disability of workers’ compensation will also increase to $533, and the maximum total workers’ compensation that can be paid to a surviving spouse after their spouse dies will increase to $320,000.
Additionally, HB 480 establishes requirements for claiming workers’ compensation in cases where there is not a surviving spouse. The person making the claim will be required to prove that they received economic support from the deceased employee, including monetary support, food or housing. The compensation will be terminated if the surviving spouse remarries or is in a relationship similar to a marriage. No consideration will be made for payments of financial support that are less than a period of three months. HB 480 will go into effect on July 1, 2023, and will apply to injuries that occur on or after that date.
Kemp signed the measure into law on May 2. Read HB 480.
On Year Two
Legislatives terms in Georgia are two years, which means Franklin will serve in Atlanta again in spring of 2024 before having to seek reelection.
When asked if there were any particular issues he planned to target with legislation next year, Franklin said “Even this year, I didn’t have any agenda to create bills or anything. I think the best philosophy is to listen to what constituents are needing and wanting. I like that better anyway because then they’re practical reasons for pushing bills. There’s a real need that way.”
In that regard, Franklin said he’s always open to hearing from voters of Bulloch and Bryan counties about what issues they think need legislative attention. Just ahead of the interview with TGV News, Franklin said he’d been asked to explore the ways Artificial Intelligence (AI) trends will impact Georgia. While the topic is broad, it is one the legislature has not yet considered via legislation or study committee.
One thing Franklin said of his colleagues in Atlanta is the wealth of institutional knowledge among committee chairmen. “Our chairmen are really experienced, they know what they’re doing, they know the process. If [the majority] ever flipped, the impacts would be big. I don’t think the Democrats have that depth of knowledge or to be able to put those experienced people in the chairmanships.”
As for his own pathway, the institutional knowledge is a tool for Franklin to continue to learn the ropes. He said with all of the things happening under the Gold Dome, he’s focused on working alongside other representatives from the area.
“I think it was a good session, a good first session for me, too. We got a lot done and I’m energized about continuing to serve.”