Madeline Ryan Smith – Georgia – State House District 158
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am a native Georgian, born in Savannah. In 1997, I was adopted by my parents, along with my older brother. Raised in a politically and religiously diverse family, I was taught the value of honesty, communication, responsibility and above all, respect and love for your fellow human. As an adult, I became legally blind due to a genetic eye condition, and have been working to bring awareness to the disabled community and older adults since 2017. In 2020, I graduated from Georgia Southern University with a bachelors in Psychology, and continued on to be a double eagle by completing my Masters in 2022, focused on social science.
Today, I fight for my district to receive access to healthcare, quality education, and affordable housing.
Why are you running for office?
I am running for office to bring much needed change to our district. Through supporting small businesses and family owned farms, funding public education and expanding access to healthcare, I believe that we can make positive change in our communities for our future generations.
District 158 has the potential to be a strong economic area for rural Georgia, where we all have the resources to succeed. Job readiness, education and affordable cost-of-living is what can grow our district to reach its fullest potential, and where no one gets left behind.
What are the three biggest issues facing your community?
Agriculture/Sustainability, Public Education and Healthcare
How do you propose to solve those problems?
Working with legislators from all backgrounds to bring awareness to these issues and work to change them. Starting in 2014, states had the option to increase the income threshold for Medicaid to include more adults who make below or near the poverty line. However, Georgia has not expanded Medicaid to these levels, so adults between ages 19 and 64 without dependent children cannot get Medicaid coverage, and adults with dependents need to make below about $7,000 a year for a family of three. At the same time, Georgians with incomes below the poverty line (less than $12,769 a year for an individual or $21,720 a year for a family of three) and fall into the coverage gap often find themselves with no affordable health insurance options. Just the change of income threshold would open many doors for thousands of families in our district to be able to live healthy lives, receive health insurance, and allow for the opportunity for more private practices to open locally. This will cut costs of medical expenses for families, provide jobs for health workers, and bring better quality healthcare services to our area.
Currently, over 70% of Georgia farmers make less than $40,000 a year, while 1 in 10 farmers make over half a million per year. We often forget how much farms in Georgia are affected by the state economy – rising gas prices mean more expensive harvesting. Which leads to lost profits. In 2018 alone, GA farmers took a $3 billion loss from the hurricanes. In 2022, inflation and gas prices are taking their toll once again. Legislators need to be made aware of issues our farmers face from a financial standpoint and beyond. As your representative, I plan to work closely with these families and the Georgia Farm Bureau to bring about much needed reform and tax cuts to ensure Georgia’s agricultural industry remains strong for years to come.
Public Education is a necessity in our country. Children need access to quality education, and teachers need to be paid fairly for the work they do. Quality education includes teaching modern theory with the most updated materials and textbooks. Technology in classrooms, universal design within school structure, and productive learning environments are all part of the equation to have successful, high-achieving students that are prepared for higher education. To do this, we need to reallocate funding to boost teacher salaries, provide stipends for class materials to teachers, and invest in job-readiness programs in schools to allow students to be prepared for trade school, higher education and our work force.
What is your stance on environmental and climate concerns that are facing your community?
Sustainability and the environment go hand in hand with our agricultural industry. In 2018, Georgia Farmers took a $3 billion loss from hurricanes and tropical storms coming through the Southeast. With climate change causing warmer winters, Georgia blueberry and peach farmers lose yield in their crops. Georgia is the #1 supplier in the county for these fruits, and they’re slowly disappearing.
Aside from the larger issues, we can all do our part daily to make a larger collective difference. Georgia has the second largest infrastructure for “end-use” of recovered materials in the US. 120+ manufacturers in the state are using recovered materials in manufacturing. Additionally, Georgia has one of the largest pulp/paper industries in the nation! 15 mills use recycled content; 8 of those are 100% recycled. We have an obligation to make sure these industries are green and continue to contribute positive actions to fight climate change.
What commonsense gun safety measures would have the most impact on your community?
Gun violence is not new to America, but is increasing with every year. The solution to this issue is not to ban all guns. The Democratic Party does not have the goal of taking away the 2nd Amendment. Personally, my views are more in line with the majority of Americans and individuals who live inside our district.
Common sense gun laws are the more effective and practical ways to solve mass gun violence. This includes (but is not limited to)
– Universal Background Checks to purchase a firearm
– Raising the federal minimum age to 21 to own (not to use) a firearm.
– Supporting a new Automatic Rifle Ban with buyback programs
– Safe Storage Laws
– Implementation of Red Flag Laws
These laws would not be in place to prohibit law-abiding citizens from owning a gun, nor are they designed to suppress the control of the people. They are in place to protect our citizens from crime, violence, and injury.
How would criminal justice reforms impact your community?
Private prison companies across the nation have a long history of serious problems, including negligence, sexual and physical abuse, violent riots, and deaths. Turning our prison systems into a business is immoral. We should seek the shrinking of the justice system and our state’s corrections population, not its expansion. These private contracts provide a certain amount of taxpayer money from the government for each individual in their facility. Companies make more money for each bed that is full.
Private facilities also often use prison labor to generate revenue and provide little to no wages. The Georgia correctional system does not guarantee any compensation for prison labor. The minimum wage for prison labor is zero. We also need to address the lack of fair wages in state facilities. In this context, it means private companies are winning contracts for slave labor provided by the state.
Shrinking our prison population through law reform and reallocation of funds will decrease the amount of tax dollars going into our prison systems, without increasing the number of violent criminals that are released early due to overpopulation or understaffed facilities.
How would you work to protect a woman’s reproductive health?
Reproductive health is non-negotiable. Repealing our “heartbeat bill” and investing in healthcare and education will show a natural decrease in the rate of abortion. Educating women on sexual health and giving them resources to support them during pregnancy are positive steps to take. Banning bodily autonomy and supporting the lack of privacy has proven to end in catastrophic consequences for Georgia women and their families.
What measures would you advocate to ensure that your constituents have the right to vote?
Free and fair elections are the soul of our democracy. Making is more difficult for minorities to cast a ballot not only mid-represents the peoples voice, but it takes away our constitutional right to vote. Mail-in and absentee ballots are meant to make voting easier for citizens, but are currently the most difficult ways to vote. SB 202 needs to be repealed, and new, less extreme voter laws need to be put in place.
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