Some Democratic candidates push campaign platforms through legislation

Several Democratic lawmakers running for statewide office are filing legislation as a way to show potential voters how they would run the state agencies they wish to lead.

With the Legislature under GOP control, it’s unlikely many of the proposals will go far.

Charles Bullock, a longtime political scientist at the University of Georgia, said lawmakers can give voters the impression they are knowledgeable about issues affecting a department they hope to run by filing bills to regulate the agency.

“When you’re trying to move into a new position, you typically say: ‘Look here are my credentials. I’m already looking and have ideas of how I would improve the department that I’m hoping to take over,” Bullock said.

Based on legislation filed this year, a few Democrats have taken that approach.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson, a Brookhaven Democrat running for insurance commissioner, has filed five bills since making the decision to run for office, including three that would regulate auto insurance companies and one to increase penalties on building owners who fail to get their elevators, escalators and other similar machinery inspected by the state.

Lawmakers have turned an eye to the inspection process in Georgia after a teen was killed in an elevator accident. That elevator was overdue for its annual inspection.

The state Office of Insurance and Fire Safety is tasked with regulating insurance agencies, such as health and auto, as well as building safety, such as building inspections and fire investigations.

“I filed these bills with the hope that they can move forward because I believe they are the right policies for Georgia, but even if they don’t move forward, I want to be on the record as standing up for these policies that I believe in,” Wilson said.

Of the 10 bills filed by Atlanta Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen — who is running for secretary of state — two of them would make changes to Georgia’s election process. The secretary of state regulates the state’s elections, and it issues professional and business licenses.

Nguyen’s proposals would end the state’s practice of removing inactive voters from the voting rolls and would ban poll watchers who’ve violated state laws while in a polling place from serving as a poll worker again.

Three state lawmakers are among the candidates running to be labor commissioner, including East Point Democratic state Rep. William Boddie, who said he has put a focus on filing legislation that would affect Georgia’s workforce.

Boddie’s proposals include bills that would require employers to give their employees breaks during their shifts, give five days of sick leave to employees who need to care for a family member and create a pilot statewide peer workforce navigator program that would help connect the unemployed with resources to help them find work.

“I want to show that I have a strong policy acumen, and this is the type of legislation I’m going to pursue,” he said.

Sen. Bruce Thompson of White, who is also running for labor commissioner, has taken the approach of some of his fellow Republicans who have filed bills on hot-button issues that play to the GOP base.

Thompson proposed legislation that would ban women with a prescription from obtaining the abortion pill through the mail. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December changed its policy to allow the pills to be mailed.

Other bills Thompson has filed this year mostly aim to make the transition easier for veterans who move to Georgia and need to obtain business licenses from the secretary of state’s office before they can begin working in the state.

“Other candidates may choose to introduce legislation that is more consistent with the office they’re running for,” Thompson said, “but that’s not necessarily my policy or my approach to business.”