Rep. Bell, Erica Long Responses to HD58 Questionnaire
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of Georgia’s 2014 Primary Elections, Atlanta Progressive News submitted candidate questionnaires to State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) and Erica Long, who are each seeking the Democratic nomination for State House District 58.
In an interesting twist, Erica Long is the wife of former State Rep. Ralph Long (D-Atlanta), who previously held the seat.
In the 2010 redistricting, the Legislature drew former Rep. Long and Rep. Bell into the same district. The two faced off in the 2012 Democratic Primary and Bell received the nomination.
The two issues where there are strong distinctions between Bell and Erica Long are early voting and charter schools.
While in the Legislature, Rep. Bell has voted twice to cut early voting: first, in 2011, to cut early voting from 45 days to 21 days; and second, this year to allow municipalities the flexibility to cut early voting from 21 days down to six. Erica Long tells APN that she would not have supported, and would not support, cuts to early voting.
On the other hand, Long is a strong supporter of charter schools and supported the constitutional amendment re-creating the charter school commission that could override the decisions of local school boards to accept a charter school start-up application. Bell voted against the referendum in the Legislature.
Long began her career on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, where she worked as Scheduler and Legislative Assistant for U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Long subsequently moved over to the East Wing of the White House, serving as a Legislative Assistant within the Office of Legislative Affairs (House Liaison) for the Clinton-Gore Administration.
After the end of President Bill Clinton’s second term, Long began her matriculation at Harvard Law School. In 2004, she was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia and went to work for Atlanta-based King & Spalding law firm, a leading international law firm that represents half of the Fortune Global 100. Long practiced as a Tort/Products Liability litigation attorney before moving over to the Government Advocacy & Public Policy practice of the firm.
While in King & Spalding’s Washington, DC office, Erica worked as a registered federal lobbyist and attorney specializing in Government and Congressional investigations. Long left King & Spalding to work as an in-house attorney and lobbyist with American International Group (AIG), a Wall Street-based insurance and financial services company.
Bell and Long’s responses are as follows:
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON NUCLEAR POWER?
BELL: I believe that we have seen the devastating effects of Nuclear Power gone wrong. It contaminates the surrounding areas and eventually the community feels the effects through decreased health. There are clearly other options for “clean” energy and that is where Georgia should be focusing its attention.
LONG: I believe that nuclear power can be a useful answer to our energy problems, but am cautious that we take our time to explore the hazards involved. I hope that the U.S. Department of Energy will remember that its first duty is to protect the safety of American families, not to provide a quick way for energy companies to make more money.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS, IF ANY, TO EXPAND WIND AND SOLAR IN GEORGIA?
BELL: There are many conversations taking place at the Capitol regarding the expansion of Solar Energy in Georgia. Consumers should be given the opportunity to choose how they wish to help create a greener world. I see it as an opportunity to bring more jobs to Georgia, foster greater competition in the marketplace, and lead Georgia in the direction of providing environmentally friendly alternatives of energy.
LONG: I am excited about the possibilities of wind and solar power and will work with interested entities to bring these opportunities to Georgia families. I am encouraged that forward-thinking individuals and organizations are expanding wind and solar across the country, and Georgia should be included in that. This is an issue I look forward to learning more about and working on as the State Representative for House District 58.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT REDUCING PETITION REQUIREMENTS FOR INDEPENDENT AND POLITICAL BODY (MINOR PARTY) CANDIDATES FROM THE CURRENT ONE PERCENT STATEWIDE, FIVE PERCENT NON-STATEWIDE REQUIREMENT?
BELL: I think it’s important to democracy that we provide, without additional barriers, the opportunity for all citizens to be represented by a person from their party affiliation.
LONG: Yes, I do support reducing petition requirements placed on independent and minor party
candidates. Our democracy is stronger when we remove the barriers to participation, for voters as well as candidates.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT ADDING A VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL TO ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEMS IN GEORGIA?
BELL: Voting is a right that should be taken extremely seriously, and anything that we can do to provide for transparency in the process is going in the right direction. Rather than creating barriers at the ballot, our state should be concerned with expanding access and assuring that each person’s vote counts. Adding a voter verifiable paper audit will help accomplish this goal.
LONG: I support augmenting Georgia’s electronic voting system with a voter verifiable paper audit trail. A paper audit trail would restore voter confidence in the integrity of the electronic system.
WHAT WAS YOUR POSITION ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO RE-CREATE THE CHARTER SCHOOL COMMISSION TO OVERRIDE LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD AND STATE SCHOOL BOARD DECISIONS REGARDING CHARTER SCHOOL APPLICATIONS?
BELL: I voted against the amendment. Local school boards were given the authority, through the ruling of the Georgia Supreme Court, to maintain local control in granting charters. There was no evidence of willful neglect on behalf of school boards to limit or in any way systematically deny the expansion of public charter schools. The Amendment was an overreach tactic of the Republican establishment to reverse the decision of what they deemed an “activist court.”
LONG: I supported the referendum recreating the State Charter School Commission and was happy about its passage. As an Atlanta resident and public school parent, I am fortunate to live within a public school district that has embraced quality public charter schools. Families stuck in districts that fight educational innovation through public charters should have the ability to get relief from the State Charter School Commission. Even though my own child is blessed to attend our neighborhood public school, I understand it’s important that all families get a wide range of public school options for their children. High quality public charter schools should be encouraged and their effective methods replicated.
WOULD/DID YOU SUPPORT HB 885, THE MEDICAL CANNABIS BILL THAT WAS BEFORE THE LEGISLATURE THIS YEAR? WOULD YOU SUPPORT A STRONGER MEDICAL BILL? WOULD YOU SUPPORT DECRIMINALIZATION OR FULL LEGALIZATION?
BELL: I supported HB 885. I think it was a great first attempt at looking at ways to better serve the health needs of Georgia’s children. There are still so many factors to be decided as to how Georgia can move in that direction, not only for children, but also for adults that are living with debilitating diseases. I am a proponent of decriminalization, specifically if we reach our goal of proving medical marijuana as a tool increased quality of life. I would like to see full legalization based on sound and policy research.
LONG: Yes, yes, and yes. I support the full legalization of marijuana, a plant that grows out of the ground. Marijuana should be legalized and regulated like the many other harmful substances Americans ingest daily – tobacco, alcohol, fatty foods, or sugary sodas. Adult consumers should have the right to choose to use marijuana just as they choose to use other harmful products. I support HB 885, which is a good first step towards improving health outcomes for millions of people through the use of medical cannabis.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE CITY OF LAKESIDE PROPOSAL?
BELL: I’m not a fan of expanding cityhood across Georgia, but I do understand many of the arguments for and against these measures. I’d like to give the constituents the opportunity to hear from both sides and then be presented with a referendum vote so that all parties affected can voice their opinion.
LONG: I have no position on the City of Lakeside other than believing that residents of an area should have a right to self-determination. This is true whether we are talking about South Fulton or Lakeside.
DID YOU SUPPORT THE INCORPORATION OF THE CITY OF BROOKHAVEN IN 2012?
LONG: I have no position on the City of Brookhaven other than believing that residents of an area should have a right to self-determination. This is true whether we are talking about South Fulton or Brookhaven.
DO YOU SUPPORT GMO (GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS) LABELING?
LONG: Yes. Families and consumers should be empowered with information about the foods they are ingesting.
WHAT IS/WAS YOUR POSITION ON HB 891, TO REDUCE EARLY VOTING FROM 21 DAYS TO SIX DAYS?
BELL: There were several procedural votes on HB 891 that changed to [sic] initial intention of the legislation. I voted yes to create an exception and that [sic] without supporting the compromise; early voting would have been completely eliminated for local governments.
LONG: I oppose H.B. 891 and any effort to limit the franchise of eligible voters, including efforts to limit opportunities to vote and/or ease of voting.
DID YOU/WOULD YOU HAVE SUPPORT THE PREVIOUS REDUCTION OF EARLY VOTING FROM 45 DAYS TO 21 DAYS?
BELL: I voted yes to create a comprise [sic] that would expand absentee voting measures.
LONG: No. I oppose any effort to disenfranchise eligible voters, including efforts to limit opportunities to vote and/or ease of voting.