Interview With Georgia State Representative Robert Ray

Zen: "First, I'd like to get your credentials on your political career?"
State Rep: "I had gotten elected at county commission when I was 23 years old. I served 8 years and I thought I had enough of politics, so I didn't run nomore. 6 months after I got out of that, I was grand jury appointed for education, and members at that time not elected, but they appointed by the grand jury then, and they came to me and asked me to serve for the board of education. I said, Don't think so, but then, they said why don't you think about it over night, and I had 2 daughters in school, and I said well, how can I complain if I have the opportunity to take a part in it, so that's what I did. I served time in Board of Education, and after that I was asked to be System Commision of Agriculture of Georgia. I served almost 8 years as Assistant Commision of Agriculture of the state, and I just wanted to get back and do nothing but farm, that's what I thought I wanted to do, and then I sort of missed the challenge, and in 1980 I ran for state representative. I wanted to make 2 promises, first was to listen when people had problems, when I could, and when I couldn't I'd tell them why not, instead of leaving them hanging. Next, was to stay available to meet with county, state, government, school, church group, civil organization and individual just try to stay fresh with their needs, and I would know the needs of my district and to put my legislation duties in head of my own, and I have."

Zen: "I want to ask you about the particular focus you've had for the disabled community, and I know that you've been involved with several bills with Frank and Long Smisson. If you could just comment about those particular things?"
State Rep: "What do I tell you? Let me just go through some of the bills, even the four that I've been involved in. The first year I was up there they had an ice storm, and this is nearly when the nursing homes is part of the disability people, because they wouldn't be in there if they weren't. They had an ice storm, and I was home that weekend, and they found out that all the lights went out and the heat went out, and the good semeritans thought they were doing good, and they carried tubs of charcoal in the nursing homes, tried to warm all the disabled people. They didn't have enough blankets, and so I went back , and on the other hand, about a week later 3 people died, and we don't know whether they were going to die anyway, or whatever, or the lobby being to cold, or the charcoal giving carbon dioxide. I introduced a bill called ____ facility disaster repair plan which is required to have a back up plan, and have generators accessible, and whether those generators would help those people in that place, and some of those people didn't like it to well in the nursing home, but we passed that bill first session I was up there.

I introduced a bill which made the minimum fine of $500 for all those people parking in the handicapped places. If you can get out and run in a place, you're not handicapped. I don't know whether they enforce it or not, but I got the law passed, introduced it and passed. If they can't afford to pay it, then they can't afford to park in the places."

Zen: "How do you feel about people with disabilities getting deputized to pass out parking tickets?"
State Rep: "Certainly needs to be because law enforcement doesn't seem to worry to much about it, in shopping centers, malls. I introduced the bill to create more handicapped seating, which too was passed."
Frank: "Alot of this is because of Earl Peavy, one of his good buddies that he travels with alot, they run into these problems. He gets it first hand."

Zen: "That's the only way for us to become aware."
State Rep: I am currently working on a Community trust for the handicapped. Frank and Lon are the ones who brought that to my attention.. Frank has worked all his life, and looked after Lon, and if he leaves anything, Lon has to spend every dime before they cut him off of disability. Now, they don't have to.

I have always supported bills of disabled people. I realized by my own personal experience that it sort of boiled my blood sometimes, watching people disrespect the disabled. People, they just don't realize that all people want is a little assistance. They want to do for themselves, and just need help doing what they can't do alone.

I see people with disabilities make use of their time, when able to do work, and they work harder than other people. That's good help. They appreciate their job, and they want it. I realize there's a need, and as long as I can I'll fight for it."

Zen: "How do you feel about the long term care situation in the state of Georgia? Because, currently, the way that it is, we send 85% of the elderly and the disabled population to pretty much die in institutions."
State Rep: "I think they ought to have some assistance living in the community. It may come a time when they go to a nursing home, but that should be the last resort. We ought to have other programs in assisted living, and that's certainly a big need in the state. Money is what nursing homes want, some don't care. I support assisted living. There might be a time and place for nursing homes but it's certainly not what they've been used for"

Zen: "There's a bill, House Bill 512-the Long Term Care Choice Act which at a state level is basically just like HR-20/20, which is a federal bill. But it would basically do the same thing ( house bill), it would re-direct current resources going to current nursing home organizations. We would like you to support us on that."
State Rep: "That bill would have to be reintroduced next year, any bill, the way the legislature works, every time, every other year." "Would you be interested in starting over with MiKasa HR-20/20?"
State Rep: "Yes!"

Zen: "I wanted to ask you about housing disability, you mentioned that you are in support of that."
State Rep: "I supported that for years, it's going to be a hard fight. They don't want to give up anything, we even tried to give them a volunteer, it may be that the building code has to be pushed, it may be tried to work that way too."

Zen: "How do you feel about inclusion involving the disabled in the education system? Because we support inclusion, we feel it's very important to educate the disabled from early on, including them with the educational system, that way when they are older they wont have to learn how to be included in society? Maybe not to have the same expectations as everyone else, but just the fact that they are there with the rest of the children, seeing and dealing with everyone, interacting."
State Rep: "I think that as long as they get the special attention that they need while they're included, I agree and understand what you're saying."

Zen: "The problem right now is that usually the parents aren't being educated with the legislation Section 504, they don't know that the laws are out there to help them to give their children in an inclusive atmosphere. We need to have a public awareness spot to show that the whole community. I just wanted to ask how you felt about it?"
State Rep: "I certainly think it would be better for the children with disabillities and for each other to understand the needs of disabled people, it might take a little extra effort and time, they want a future just like every other person."

Zen: "How do you feel about euthanasia and the whole not dead yet issue? In Oregon, they're allowing assistant suicide to disabled people. I, myself, at the time of my injury, would have probally have done it if I had had the option."
State Rep: "I really don't think that man should take into his hands something that God would or wouldn't do, that really should be left up to God."

Zen: "There is a group called Not Dead Yet, and they are fighting that bill, because it is already getting out of hand, because people, for example, in nursing homes are being assisted, and they don't have the ability to make the decision for themselves."
State Rep: "That's what I would be afraid of, it would get out of hand."
Zen: "Even me and Laun, we're costing the government something like $70,000; but the benefits of us being able to contribute to society, it makes it worth it, you just can't put a price on somebody's life."

State Rep:"I agree."