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Roger Bruce

The Georgia General Assembly’s 2017 session doesn’t begin for another week, but legislators have already been pre-filing bills they’re hoping to pass during the 40-day showdown.

One of those is District 61 state Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, who represents portions of Douglas, Cobb and Fulton counties.

Bruce has pre-filed two bills, HB 21 and HB 22. HB 21 would create a division of supplier diversity in Georgia, and HB 22 would allow voters to cast ballots in any precinct in their home county on election day.

Regarding HB 22, currently, voters can often use multiple voting sites for early voting, but are limited to their local precinct on the day of the election.

“We have early voting, and there you have an early voting facility where you cast your ballot,” Bruce said. “You don’t have to travel to a specific place. What I’m looking for is doing that on election day. I don’t understand the logic, with the technology we have now there’s no reason why you should have to run from downtown or wherever you work to get back to where you live and cast a ballot.”

Voters would still vote for races pertaining to their local address, and would still have to vote in their home county. Bruce hopes to receive bipartisan support for the bill, but expects resistance from the secretary of state. 

“There shouldn’t be any resistance, but there probably will be,” Bruce said. “I think [the secretary of state’s] concern will be whether or not the technology can handle it. My answer is that where it can handle it, let it go, and where it can’t let’s get to the point where it can.”

Regarding HB 21, Bruce said state business contracts rarely go to minority-owned businesses, and that there’s a need for more equity.

“The bill would make sure that everybody in this state has an opportunity to participate in the economic growth of Georgia,” he said. “We have between a 30 and 35 percent African-American population in this state, and we have less than one percent of the state budget going toward minority-owned businesses.”

Bruce said his aim isn’t necessarily to introduce a quota for minority-owned businesses, but to study the issue and find ways to address the discrepancy.

“I want us to take an objective look at what’s being spent, who with, and what the population is in terms of minorities, women, Hispanics, everybody,” he said. “And then make sure that the distribution of contracts is consistent with that population. We are just looking for equity. You will have somebody whose job it will be to look at the disparities and then put programs and policy in place to fix it.”

The bill may be difficult to pass in a Republican-controlled legislature, but Bruce said he will do his best to get support from both sides of the aisle.

“I’m sure I’ll have resistance,” he said. “If I can get people to look at it objectively and people want to be fair-minded, hopefully they will support it. ... You have some that are the beneficiaries of the system as it is. They don’t want to change that.”

The 2017 session begins Monday, Jan. 9.

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