“A Day at the Capitol”: A day of firsts! Georgia WAND gets recognized in the House and Hosts a Legislative Tea & Sweets for all Georgia women legislators

Left to Right: (front row) Kiddada Grey, Rep. Karen Bennett, Sen. Nan Orrock, Rep. Becky Evans, Rep. Kimberly Alexander, Connie Di Cicco; Left to Right:(back row) Lindsay Harper, Jumana Masters, Rep. Carolyn Hugley, Marcus Downs, Phyllis Richardson,  Rep. Mary Frances Williams, Jewel Howard, Rep. Donna McLeod, Kayn Jones. Because of the busy day at the Capitol and the multiple committee meetings held on this same day, there are many legislators who visited our event but were not able to stay for the picture. Photo credit: Georgia WAND Education Fund, Inc.

Georgia WAND held “A Day at the Capitol” on Thursday, March 21, just two weeks before Georgia’s 2019 legislative session drew to a close. We began the day in the Georgia House of Representatives. During session, Representative Becky Evans (District 83) went to the well to speak about the effective work of the Georgia WAND Education Fund. She was accompanied by many other legislators who showed support for the organization. Prior to that day, Representative Evans requested that we create a one-pager, which she made sure was placed on the desk of each legislator in the chamber. From the gallery, we watched her walk around greeting everyone and pointing out the sheet from Georgia WAND on their desks (the one-pager can be found here). Following the day of sessions, we hosted a Legislative Tea & Sweets reception, to which we invited all women legislators. Several members of the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL – a program of National WAND) served on the host committee of the tea, alongside Senator Nan Grogan Orrock (who led WiLL for over 30 years) and Representative Becky Evans (who is new to WiLL and the legislature. This was Georgia WAND’s first formal effort working with Georgia WiLL members, and it was a huge success. Many legislators, lobbyists, friends, and donors came through to share gratitude, learn about Georgia WAND’s work. 

Georgia WAND staff worked closely with Sen. Orrock and Rep. Evans on two resolutions: S.R. 243 and H.R.379, which state the Georgia legislature’s support for Nuclear Harm Reduction and No First Use. S.R. 243 and H.R.379 urge legislators to rethink policies that allow nuclear weapons to thrive. The resolutions urge Congress to stop funding the development of new nuclear weapons, such as the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA)’s plans for the Savannah River Site (SRS)’s planned production of 50 plutonium pits annually; it urges the President not to start a nuclear war; and urges Congress to impose limits on the President’s First Use Nuclear strike capabilities, which currently allow the President to respond to non-nuclear attacks with nuclear weapons as a first resort. The resolutions would be meaningful due to Georgia’s history of leaders in reducing global nuclear weapons threats, such as former Senator Sam Nunn, former Korean Ambassador James Laney, Ted Turner, and Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, Inc’s (our 501 (c) (4)) work to secure Senator Johnny Isakson’s 2010 vote to renew the New START treaty. While unfortunately the resolutions didn’t make it out of committees in either chamber, we are planning to educate elected officials of its necessity in the second year of the legislative session.

Georgia WAND Education Fund being recognized by Rep. Evans et al from the well 
Left to Right: (front row) Rep. Park Cannon, Rep. Bee Nguyen, Rep. Viola Davis, Rep. Becky Evans, Rep. Rhonda Burnough, Rep. Karen Bennett, Rep. Karen Schofield, Rep. Brenda Lopez-Romero, Rep. Michele Henson; Left to Right: (back row) Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, Rep. Debra Bazemore, Rep. Donna McLeod, Rep. Gloria Frazier, Rep. Betsy Holland, Rep. David Dryer, Rep.  Vernon Jones, Rep. Pat Gardner, Rep. Debbie Buckner, Rep. Mary Robichaux, Rep. Doreen Carter. Photo Credit: Georgia WAND Education Fund, Inc.

The Legislative Tea and Sweets reception was co-hosted by Rep. Evans and Sen. Orrock, along with several other members of the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL) program of National WAND. We took the opportunity to also discuss Georgia WAND’s Nuclear Harm Reduction strategies in Burke County, increased tritium manufacturing at SRS and possible increased radionuclide contamination; the need for sustainable and equitable jobs as alternatives to nuclear industry jobs; and the many ways in which women of color are disproportionately affected by radiological and other environmental contaminants. We emphasized how Burke County is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the intersection of climate realities and nuclear expansion. The Central Savannah River Area (CSRA), of which east Georgia is the predominate downwind and downstream recipient of air, water, fish, and land contamination, is Nuclear Ground Zero for the U.S. The future is here, and we must work collectively, across differences of ideology, class, field, industry, agency, race, geography, and gender to figure out collective, people- and planet- centered solutions.

We are grateful to Senator Nan Orrock for three decades of leadership on issues of peace and investing skyrocketing military spending back into communities, public health & welfare, and environmental justice. And to Representative Becky Evans, a long-time Georgia WAND supporter and new Georgia legislator, who is championing trans-partisan efforts to lead Georgia toward health, safety, and financial security of all, regardless of zip code. Lastly, we want to give a special shout out to all the Representatives who stood in support of the Georgia WAND Education Fund and/or who came out and attended our Legislative Tea and Sweets! Thank you for advancing environmental justice and nuclear harm reduction! 

The link to the live-stream can be found here.  Georgia WAND is recognized at time code – 36:50-38:18. 

For more information, please send an email to Phyllis Richardson at Phyllis@GeorgiaWAND.org.