ACLU of Georgia supporters visited the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, as part of Lobby Day, which included a policy expert-led legislative workshop at Central Presbyterian Church before walking over to the Gold Dome. The group helped influence elected officials through lobbying on critical issues.

It’s possible to become more involved in Georgia’s legislative process, as the roughly two dozen people who participated in the ACLU of Georgia Lobby Day learned this week. 

Take Brad, of Marietta, for example. After quickly penning a message inside the Capitol asking to speak with Sen. Elena Parent, she emerged from the Senate chambers to greet him. He informed the senator of our organization’s recommendation that the state implement acquisition standards for surveillance tech purchased by school boards statewide. 

ACLU of Georgia Lobby Day participants speaking with Sen. Elena Parent about Student Surveillance Technology Acquisition Standards model bill.

The senator said she was unaware of our initiative, found it interesting, and offered to speak with several lawmakers who may be willing to take on the issue.

group of people talking
ACLU of Georgia Lobby Day participants speaking with Sen. Elena Parent about Student Surveillance Technology Acquisition Standards model bill.

“I’m just happy to be a part of the process and get involved beyond voting,” Brad said. “I like that this (Student Surveillance Technology Acquisition Standards model bill) requires companies to comply with standards showing their products actually help keep schools safe. My wife’s a teacher, so it would impact her.”

Technology and privacy was just one of the topics covered on Lobby Day, which began early Wednesday morning across the street from the Gold Dome at Central Presbyterian Church. Supporters enjoyed a light breakfast while ACLU of Georgia staff led a legislative workshop covering the ins and outs of citizen lobbying. Our attorneys also covered issue areas important to us such as voting, First Amendment, and LGBTQ+ rights.

Policy Advocate Sarah Hunt-Blackwell told participants that there are a lot of misconceptions about what the First Amendment protects. Simply put, in part, it protects citizens’ freedom of speech from government interference. A friend blocking you on Facebook for a snide comment is not violating that right; a government official banning you from their official social media webpage for writing an opposing opinion is a violation, she said. 

“These are the types of things we want to make clear, especially as the session gets underway. We’re not seeing a lot of legislation (related to First Amendment issues) so far, but that could quickly change. So we want you to be informed about your rights, whether it’s commenting on Facebook or protesting in the streets,” Hunt-Blackwell said.

Wrapping up the workshop, Policy & Advocacy Director Chris Bruce provided a lobbying rundown. Bruce explained the layout of the Capitol building, where citizens can and cannot go within the building, and filling out message forms to lawmakers, as Brad successfully did to get the ear of Sen. Parent.

people holding papers
Lobby Day participants with filled-out message notes to Georgia senators.

“We’re down here every day talking to lawmakers, telling them our stances, which they already know. When you show up, that makes a huge difference, and that’s why we have lobby days,” Bruce said. 

ACLU of Georgia will host additional lobby days this session. Stay tuned for more information on our website and social media channels (@ACLUofGA).

Jerzy Shedlock (he/him) is a communications strategist at the ACLU of Georgia.