Asian American state lawmakers debut caucus with priorities for 2023 Georgia Legislature

Georgia’s AAPI caucus is one of the largest in the nation, with 11 voting members. Members laid out a 2023 legislative agenda at a Capitol press conference Tuesday. (Aaleah McConnell/Georgia Recorder)

Georgia’s first Asian American Pacific Islander caucus took to the podium Tuesday to roll out legislative priorities for the year. 

Included in the caucus’ legislative agenda are measures to increase AAPI voter engagement and outreach, to support legislation that enables students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival protections to immediately qualify for in-state tuition and to inspire younger generations of the AAPI community to pursue public office.  

Chair of the caucus, Democratic Rep. Michelle Au of Johns Creek said that the existence of Asian Americans in this state should not be treated as a novelty, but rather as a wake-up call urging lawmakers to recognize the needs of the AAPI community.

Voter participation by Asian Americans increased by 84% in the span of four years, and according to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing group of eligible voters in the U.S.

“As many of you know, we have tremendous growth in our Asian American communities. And let’s make sure that we have representatives that will be addressing those issues. One of those issues that we will be focusing on is voter engagement and outreach,” said Lawrenceville Democratic state Rep. Soo Hong, secretary of the AAPI Caucus.

The caucus has not endorsed any specific piece of legislation yet, but they too have plans regarding the allocation of the budget surplus. Au alluded to HB 1013, mental health parity legislation which passed the Senate last year. But Au said investments into mental health availability and outreach is a dire need in the Asian community.

“One thing that I’ve heard a lot from Asian communities that I work with and around the state is that there is an issue with mental health availability and outreach. Particularly for Asian patients who tend to underreport, tend to under-seek care in this arena for a number of reasons –  including some cultural reasons,” Au said, “And investment in culturally competent outreach and making sure that we have providers that are from these communities, who can speak the different languages that people need to access health care, is going to be a focus.”

“Three things come to mind. First, the governor’s proposal – will have a $2,000 teacher pay raise which will be something that we’ll be watching very, very closely. Second, the property tax exemption will also be something that will certainly impact all of our communities, but one that we’ll be following closely,” Lawrenceville Democratic state Rep. Sam Park said.

Additionally, Park said the caucus will focus on economic equity for Asian American businesses that bid for service contracts.  

Georgia’s AAPI caucus is one of the largest in the nation, with 11 voting members and three emeritus members: former U.S. Attorney and state Rep. BJay Pak, former state Sen. Zahra Karinshak and former state Rep. Bee Nguyen.

The caucus includes Democratic and Republican members from both the House and Senate chambers, with cross-cultural support from members of the Hispanic caucus and Black caucus.