CAIRO — State Representative Darlene Taylor was a special guest at Tuesday’s Grady County Family Connection meeting, and the fifth-term lawmaker used the opportunity to speak about the outcome of the 2019 legislative session.
Of particular note during the session was HB 481, also known as the “heartbeat bill,” which bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can first be detected, typically between six and eight weeks of pregnancy.
Taylor, who spoke in favor of the legislation, said she understands that others feel differently but that she felt obligated to take action on the issue.
“Women were getting up and talking about their rights, but what about the rights of that baby?” she said. “Half of those children being aborted are women. Who’s speaking for them?”
The issue divided lawmakers in the capital more fiercely than Taylor said she has seen in her nine years in office, but a survey of her district found that her constituents consistently supported the legislation by a margin of 9 to 1.
In any case, Taylor added that she believes strongly in the issue and that her decision to vote for the bill wasn’t a difficult one.
“For me, when there’s life, there’s life,” Taylor said. “I don’t say when it is. God does.”
Governor Brian Kemp signed the controversial bill into law last month, and it is set to go into effect in January.
Taylor also spoke about Georgia’s new electronic voting system, budgeted at $150 million, which she said will look similar to what voters currently use but is more secure.
Voters will select their choices on an electronic screen and then have their ballots printed out to be submitted into a reader, creating a physical paper trail in the case of discrepancies.
“It’s expensive, but what’s the value of your vote?” Taylor asked.
“I didn’t like spending all that money,” she continued. “I could have thought of other things to do with it, but I consider my vote very precious and honorable.”
The legislature also dealt with issues outside of the realm of predictability, and when federal disaster aid for Hurricane Michael was moving through Congress at a slower pace than Taylor would have liked, state lawmakers were left to figure out solutions on their own.
“It is extremely embarrassing for me as an American that our government had to wait eight months to help Grady County,” she said. “I was furious and I wrote some not real kind letters to people to let them know how I felt.”
Taylor previously met with Kemp and U.S. Senator David Perdue to discuss the issue and said she planned on taking part in a conference call with the White House to discuss the distribution of funds from the disaster aid package, which eventually cleared its congressional hurdles earlier this month.
In the interim, Georgia was left with numerous farmers unable to find the money to plant a crop. To deal with the issue, Taylor said the legislature came up with a unique solution that she isn’t sure has ever been attempted in any other state by creating a “bank” where planters could withdraw a maximum of $250,000 in operating costs.
“It gave them enough money to be able to go back and buy more seed, take care of the land, get their fertilizer or whatever they needed to do so they could get a crop out this year,” Taylor said.
“We need the farmers in the fields,” she added. “We don’t need them sitting in line somewhere and waiting for the federal government.”
Other issues addressed during the legislative session included expanded access to broadband in rural communities, additional funds for educators and pharmacy-distributed medical marijuana.
Taylor said the decisions she made during the session weren’t always easy to make, but that she represented her constituents the best she could.
“I will let you know that you’re always on my mind,” Taylor told those in attendance. “I’m going to do what helps us and I’m in there every day pitching and trying to get stuff.”