Those are strong words, but you know what? They’re warranted. We’re now in the part of the yearly legislative session when the text of bills that have already passed one chamber starts being swapped out with the text of other bills that didn’t or that everyone already knows exist and are bad. The newest examples are SB 202, yet another voter suppression omnibus bill, and HB 289, which now contains the language of HB 171, essentially prohibiting legal protest.
Barry Fleming tacked on 50 new sections to SB 202, prohibiting things like giving food and water to people in line to vote, and didn’t even give anyone time to review it before it came before committee. It would let Georgians challenge the qualifications unlimited times of any person trying to register to vote, gumming up our electoral system. Voting rights groups are angry at this transparent attempt to stop the people from exercising their power to choose their leaders, and so are we. HB 531 and SB 241, which are similarly awful, are also still alive. Call the members of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity and let them know you’re outraged at the latest attempts to stop us from voting. Want to contact big Georgia corporations like Coca-cola and Delta, too? Go for it. The legislators trying to pass these bills have proved that they don’t want to listen to the people, so maybe they’ll listen to money? You can read more about SB 202 here, in the AJC.
HB 289 infringes on our First Amendment rights to gather peaceably and protest, which is exactly the route we’ll have to take if our votes no longer count. The ACLU’s Chris Bruce said, “What makes House Bill 289 even more concerning is the fact that we know from history that the people who will suffer the most if this legislation were to become law are people of color, as they are most often the targets of drastic law enforcement responses.” While the bill’s sponsor is now acting like the Capitol Riots have anything at all to do with his legislation, it would make blocking a highway during an “unlawful assembly” a felony, carrying a punishment of one to five years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, and require people seeking to hold a protest, rally or other “assembly” to apply to their local government and receive approval before they could hold the event. Let your senators know you oppose this unconstitutional legislation.
There’s more, too! HB 286, Houston Gaines’ attempt to put Athens, which didn’t vote for him, under the thumb of the Georgia general assembly by taking away our power to make our own budget, is likely to pass the Senate as well as the house. Let your senators know you won’t stand for it.
A reminder: bills labeled HB started in the house but are now in the senate. Bills labeled SB started in the senate and are now in the house. You can see our full guide to the legislative session here.