Georgia Democrats have put the economy, health care and civil rights at the top of their legislative agenda for 2015 as they try to make inroads with state voters for future elections.
“I always tell folks that the Democrats’ agenda is the people’s agenda,” said Dewey McClain, a state representative from Lilburn and president of the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate.
With more and more states across the nation raising the minimum wage for workers across all industries, McClain said Democrats hope to piggyback on this momentum.
Senate Democrats are poised to push for a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. McClain said he will champion legislation that would drive that standard up to $15 an hour.
Democrats are also looking to grow workers’ wages by restoring what amounts to an earned income tax credit at the state level.
Democrats also want to clamp down on employee misclassification, wherein workers’ are denied benefits because they are considered independent contractors, for example.
Liz Flowers, executive director of the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus, said these measures are meant, in part, to counter any moves Republicans might make to raise sales taxes to pay for infrastructure projects. Republicans have indicated a willingness to lower the state income tax while offsetting that lost revenue with sales tax increases.
“If we are going to move in this direction, then we need to look at some of these other areas, like raising the minimum wage ... to balance out for Georgia’s lowest-earning families,” Flowers said.
On the health care front, Democrats are eyeing ways to grow the Medicaid rolls.
“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” McClain said.
Flowers said she believes moderate Republican lawmakers are willing to address health care this year as the economic burden it creates continues to grow.
“We are going to continue to press for Medicaid expansion,” she added. “It becomes a harder hole to fill, economically.”
Finally, Flowers said Democrats would like to address a number of civil rights issues, including adding voting days and same-day voter registration at the polls.
Flowers said these measures would help counter voting ID laws, which disproportionately impact low-income and minority voters.