2017 Legislative Sessions Commence

Redistricting committees, voting locations, education reforms, preventing private colleges from adopting “sanctuary policies” and more are up for consideration as Georgia opened its 2017 Legislative Session on January 9th. Bills either prefiled or under consideration this cycle include the following topics of interest, as listed below. Some of these bills seem to be good, some of them are terrible, but regardless, we thought you should know what was going on under the Gold Dome.  Even on the good ones, we’re withholding final judgement until we’ve done more research. We’ll keep you updated.

The (Mostly) Good

SR 6, a proposed amendment to the Georgia State Constitution that would create an “independent bipartisan committee” for the purposes of legislative and congressional reapportionment (redistricting). Such a committee would have five members from each of the top two vote garnering parties for Governor (realistically just Republican and Democrat), as well as four “independent” members who are not affiliated with any political party (determined by exclusive voting in a party’s primary for three consecutive elections).

HB 7, a bill that would make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device that is not a hands-free device. A violation of HB 7 would result in a misdemeanor and $150 fine.

HB 9, a bill introduced as a direct result of last year’s state Court of Appeals ruling in July that taking photographs of a woman’s undergarments, or “upskirting,” was not illegal under any Georgia state laws. HB 9 would amend the Georgia statutes that pertain to “wiretapping, eavesdropping, surveillance, and related offenses” to include “upskirting” as a violation of state law.

HB 10, a bill that prohibits the ownership and sale of certain weapons and bullet types, notably armor piercing rounds and certain “assault weapons.”

HB 18, a bill that would make it illegal to smoke inside a vehicle that contains passengers under the age of 18, for safety and health related reasons.

HB 22, a bill that would allow for any elector to vote at any precinct of their choosing within the county of their voter registration for the purposes of primaries, elections, and runoffs (provided certain conditions are met, such as sufficient ballots and poll workers at these locations).

We’re Not Sure Yet

Several bills introduced regarding education reforms, including accountability requirements for charter schools, incentive pay for some qualifying teachers, and raising the age of mandatory education from 16 to 17 years of age. These don’t sound particularly bad, but it’s hard to trust the state government when it comes to education these days, unfortunately.

The Bad and the Ugly

HB 3, a bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime where “any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.” The language of this bill would not appear to allow for religious exemptions and applies to all public property.

HB 12, a bill aimed at taxing primarily immigrants and undocumented workers through fees imposed on money transmission; taxpaying residents are exempt from such fees in the form of credits.

HB 37, a bill that prohibits private colleges, universities, and institutions of higher education from adopting “sanctuary policies.” This bill is primarily in response to Emory University’s recent discussion on adopting policies that would protect “all members of the Emory community.”

HB 51, a bill that prohibits institutions of higher education from acting on cases of sexual assault until a verdict is rendered by the judicial system, in direct conflict with Title IX and federal law.

Across the nation

Several states are enacting or proposing bills that could either indirectly affect local Georgians, or may eventually show up as similar bills in the Georgia state legislature. Such bills include HB 2 in Kentucky, one of the most restrictive and invasive abortion bills in the nation; Arizona’s HB 2120, a bill that prohibits any and all classes or events on college campuses that discuss social justice; HR 490, a “heartbeat bill” introduced in Congress that essentially equates to a total ban on abortions; SB 6, the Texas “bathroom bill” that relegates a person’s bathroom usage to their biological sex; and SB 479 in Oregon, a bill that would ban “Sharia Law,” despite that fact that Sharia Law is superseded by the U.S. Constitution and state law already.

Avery Murdie
January 29, 2017

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