By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 22, 2021
ATLANTA—The Georgia Legislature started its new session Monday, Jan. 11, ushering in debates over spending and voting laws.
A sign of the times, elected officials are working with a heavy police presence surrounding the state capitol building after supporters of President Donald J. Trump mobbed the U.S Capitol.
Georgia Lawmakers and visitors are masked to curb the spread of the coronavirus and there is more use of video and virtual conferences than ever.
“Everybody wears masks; everybody tries to have social distancing. I find a lot of the legislators are more reluctant to have in person meetings in the office, and especially, before the session where we might go out and meet a legislator in his district office or near his home, they really discouraged them,” said Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference.
Discussions around state spending and laws about voting in Georgia are expected to be the key issues during the 40 days of the legislative session, said Mulcahy.
The Georgia Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah. There are an estimated 1.2 million Catholics in the archdiocese and some 77,000 in the diocese.
The Catholic Church views voting rights as a key feature of Catholic social teaching, said Mulcahy. The church supports measures that enhance voting, he said, speaking from downtown Atlanta at the legislature.
“We support the right of every citizen to vote, and we encourage every citizen to vote. We would be opposed to any restriction on voting rights, exactly how that will play out in legislation and what we will do about it will depend on what comes out in the legislation,” he said.
With more than a million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, a meeting with Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., and Gov. Brian Kemp is one of his goals also.
“It’s important for the governor to understand the scope of the Catholic Church in Georgia and to understand who the leader of the church is in Georgia. So that’s our tradition,” he said.
Mulcahy said the Georgia Catholic Conference will look for opportunities to work with allies to advance legislation against abortion, work to curb the death penalty and pay attention to any effort to revise the student scholarship organization benefiting Catholic school families.