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Mar. 1 – Sen. Jackson’s bill to create Commission on African American History passes with Bi-Partisan support

By Lou Phelps, Coastal Empire News

March 1, 2018 – It was a long day Wednesday, ‘Crossover Day,’ at the Georgia General Assembly, where a bill either passes in one body and moves to the other … or it dies for the current session. Sen. Lester Jackson, representing Savannah, got a 49-0 vote to move Senate Bill 411 forward to the House, and a thumbs up from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.  

The bill, authored by Sen. Jackson, made it to the floor of the Senate on the last day of February - Black History Month – after months of work with members of both the Democratic and Republican party in the legislature.

Sen. Jackson’s bill creates the Georgia Commission on African American History and Culture (GCAAHC), aimed at building a major museum in Georgia, to enhance education about the over 400 year history of African Americans in Georgia, and to preserve the history of African Americans here.

"African Americans have played a significant role in the growth and economic development of this state. This museum will tell the story of the history and culture of a people that helped shape "The Great State of Georgia," he explained, after the bill's passage in the Senate. 

The directive to the Commission is to "discover, document, preserve, collect, and promote Georgia's African American heritage with a primary focus on educating the citizens of this state about the significance of the African American experience in Georgia,” the bill states.

“The primary objectives of the GCAAHC shall be to (A)  Cultivate, present, interpret and promote the history and culture of African Americans in the State of Georgia through museum collections, exhibitions,  commemorations, educational programs, publications, research, and public participation; (B)  Serve as a clearinghouse for information and insights about African Americans in Georgia and the nation through collaboration with other public, educational, corporate, and Georgia based institutions on strategies for promoting African American history and culture; (C)  Discover, preserve, collect, and catalog African American historical materials and artifacts and establish, manage, and coordinate museums and other appropriate facilities  for the promotion of African American history and culture; and (D)  Disseminate and integrate African American historical and cultural materials into the mainstream of Georgia life and education as a method of fostering constructive social change through better racial understanding.”   

The Commission will have 20 members, appointed by August 1, 2018, with two members by the Governor, one member by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one member by the President of the Senate, and one member by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus – that will serve a one-year term. There will also be two members by the Governor, one member by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one member by the President of the Senate, and one member by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus to serve a two-year term; and two members by the Governor, one member by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one member by the President of the Senate, and one member by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus shall be appointed to each serve a three-year term; and two members by the Governor, one member by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one member by the President of the Senate, and one member by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus shall be appointed to each serve a four-year term.

The Governor will designate one of such appointed members to serve as the chairperson, and the members will elect a vice chairperson. 

The commission will meet at least quarterly, with meetings held around the state, “particularly in rural areas of this state, interacting with local government officials, educational leaders, health care providers, business leaders, civic groups, and all other citizens who desire to offer input,” the legislation states.

After the vote, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, president of the Senate, commented, “It’s a very good bill.” 

The Commission will report back to the General Assembly on or before Dec. 31. 2019, reporting on information on the proposed location of the facility and a comprehensive plan for the implementation of fundraising efforts for construction and for ongoing support of the facility.  He anticipates a $40 million effort by the State, plus private corporate matching funds. 

Citizen members of the commission will receive a daily expense allowance as well as the mileage or transportation allowance authorized for state employees, not to exceed five days.  

The bill was co-sponsored by State Senators Steve Henson and Emanuel Jones.

Sen. Jackson chairs the Senate’s Urban Affairs Committee, and is the current Chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus for the 2017-2018 session.  

The bill adds Chapter 2510 to Section 1.7 Title 45 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to public officers and employees.

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