This guide to the legislation discussed in the Georgia State Legislature in 2018 was compiled by A4E members Adam Newland and Hillary Brown, with A4E’s Policy and Elections Committee.
We actively supported the following legislation with our efforts both in-person at the capitol and via our legislative action network of phone calls and emails.
HB 669 – Medicaid Expansion
This bill would have the state of Georgia accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid, providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands more Georgians. We are very excited that this bill is co-sponsored by our own Deborah Gonzalez (D-117) and Jonathan Wallace (D-119), starting their first session in the Georgia Legislature off right! Read A4E’s brief about Medicaid Expansion. Did not cross over.
Georgia’s workers desperately need a $15/hour minimum wage, but it’s unlikely to happen with the Republicans’ large majorities in the General Assembly. In the meantime, Democrats are set to propose allowing cities to set their own minimum wage, as is allowed in most other states. Last year, A4E and our allies won a wage increase to at least $11.60/hr for all county employees, and we need to build on that momentum until all Athenians are paid a living wage. Read A4E’s brief about $15/Hour Minimum Wage. Did not cross over.
Gerrymandering is anti-Democratic, allowing legislators to choose their voters instead of voters choosing their representatives. Gerrymandering frequently targets black voters and other voters of color for disenfranchisement. Georgia needs to give redistricting powers to a non-partisan Independent Redistricting Commission. HR 2 and HR 3 are co-sponsored by our own Spencer Frye (D-118). Read A4E’s brief about an Independent Redistricting Commission. Did not pass.
The criminalization of marijuana has zero benefits and disproportionately harms black, latinx, and low-wealth communities. We need to legalize marijuana now. Legislation mirroring SR 614 should be introduced in the State House. HB 645 goes less far and would allow two businesses to cultivate, harvest and produce cannabis oil for medical marijuana use. HR 36 would allow a ballot initiative to legalize cultivation of medical marijuana in the state. And HB 764 adds post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain to the list of conditions the state recognizes as treatable by medical marijuana. Read A4E’s brief about Legalizing Marijuana. HB 764 passed the house. Governor Deal signed HB 65, which was essentially the same as HB 764.
SB 310 – Protecting Net Neutrality
A sweeping bill by Democrat Harold Jones II (Augusta) aimed at blunting some of the effects from the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. It gives the Public Service Commission exclusive power and authority to fine internet service providers either blocking or slowing down any lawful internet content. Did not cross over. Read A4E’s brief about SB 310.
Introduced by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, these bills would increase penalties for crimes like assault when victims are targeted due to their race, color, religion, sexual identity, gender identity or expression, disability, national origin, or ethnicity. These bills also provide for training for law enforcement officials regarding hate crimes. Shamefully, Georgia is one of only five states that does not yet have a hate crimes law. Did not cross over; SB 373, which accomplishes the same thing, did cross over but did not pass the house. Read A4E’s Brief about the Georgia Against Hate bill.
HB 970 – No Long Guns at Public Assemblies
This bill by Democrat David Dreyer (Atlanta) would ban carrying a long gun while knowingly participating in a public assembly of two or more people. Clearly a response to incidents like the ones in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the public display of weaponry impinges on freedom of speech. Rep. Spencer Frye, of Athens, was a co-sponsor. Did not cross over.
SB 407 – Cash Bail Reform
Gov. Nathan Deal is pushing this bill in his last year in office, as part of an overall emphasis on criminal justice reform. Even though all the sponsors are Republicans, and the bill does not go far enough, we still support it as a strong effort toward reform of an inhumane system. It would require judges to consider a defendant’s ability to pay in setting bail and give law enforcement officials flexibility to issue citations instead of criminal charges for some offenses. Governor Deal signed this legislation!
Athens for Everyone supports lawmakers who stand up and champion transformative progressive policies like these.
HB 205 – Restrict Fracking
Although this bill does not have a huge impact, it does restrict oil and gas exploration to some extent in Georgia.
Governor Deal signed this legislation.
HB 332 – Conservation Funding
A bill that creates a dedicated funding stream from an existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment for the purpose of protection and preservation of conservation land. There is currently no such dedicated funding stream for conservation in the state. Rep. Spencer Frye (Athens) is a co-sponsor. Governor Deal signed this legislation.
HB 650 – Local Control over Confederate Monuments
This bill would allow local governments to relocate, remove, conceal, obscure, or alter military and other monuments, including Confederate ones. Athens-Clarke County already has options at its disposal for moving the Confederate Memorial on Broad St, and they should do so immediately. However, this bill would make removals and relocations much easier throughout Georgia. Did not cross over.
HB 651 would ban bump-stocks, devices that make a non-automatic weapon fully automatic. They gained national attention when they were used in the Las Vegas shooting in October, but federal attempts to ban them have stalled. HB 10 would ban certain assault weapons, large-capacity magazines, armor-piercing bullets and incendiary .50 caliber bullets. HB 334 (also known as April’s Law) and HB 541 would prohibit people convicted of family violence from owning firearms. None of these crossed over.
These bills are virtually identical. They just have different sponsors. Both would let victims of domestic violence break leases early without penalty, removing the economic incentive to stay in an abusive relationship. Governor Deal signed HB 834!
SB 17 – Brunch Bill
Athens restaurants and others throughout the state have been trying to push back the start time at which they can serve alcohol on Sunday to 11 a.m. for a few years now. Unfortunately, Bill Cowsert (one of our two state senators) doesn’t support it. It seems to be making progress this year, though, as he said he wouldn’t stand in its way. Governor Deal signed this legislation.
Democrat-sponsored bills designed to define sexual harassment or misconduct as well as provide for regular classes on the subject for Assembly members and some state employees. These bills would be a step in the right direction for in the fight against patriarchy in Georgia. Did not cross over.
SB 320 – Voter Registration at Schools
This bill would make every primary and secondary school in the state a voter registration agency. Schools would help parents register to vote when enrolling their children. Did not cross over.
SB 355 – Restricting Georgia Power’s Profits
This bill restricts Georgia Power’s profits related to consumer surcharges on the construction of two new nuclear reactors. The company shouldn’t be profiting off of construction delays. Governor Deal signed this legislation.
SR 706 – No Drilling on the Coast
This resolution opposes drilling and exploration for oil and gas on the Georgia coast. Did not pass senate.
HB 51 – Rape Investigations
This bill, introduced last year, doesn’t seem to be moving forward this year, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on. It would prevent schools from investigating accusations of rape or sexual assault on campus unless police were also involved. Did not cross over this year.
HB 66 – Wire Wall Bill
This bill would raise fees on out-of-state wire transfers. This bill, which has stalled before but seems to be making a comeback, disproportionately targets immigrants sending money back to family and friends in other countries. Did not cross over.
These bills would add millions of dollars to “scholarship programs” (a.k.a., vouchers) and charter schools and divert those funds from public schools. These programs are not means tested, which means they can serve as a tax dodge for wealthy families who would send their children to private schools anyway. Read our LAN alert about this legislation here. Gov. Deal signed HB 217 and HB 787. HB 482 did not cross over.
HB 329 – Flat Tax
This bill would replace Georgia’s progressive income tax rate, which ranges from 6 percent for the highest earners to 1 percent for the lowest, with a flat 5.4 percent rate. This is a regressive bill that would hurt Georgians and turbo-boost inequality. Read A4E’s brief about HB 329. No movement this year.
HB 419 – Fireworks
This bill allows communities to vote on whether to subject fireworks to their local noise ordinances. Although in some lights it corrects a state-level overreach, it also seems likely to give people more reason to call the police on their black and brown neighbors, which is why we oppose it. Governor Deal signed this legislation.
HB 774 – Legalize Booting
This bill would make booting cars legal all across the state, ignoring local ordinances passed against it, and is backed by the Georgia Vehicle Immobilization Coalition (!). Thankfully, it seems to be getting a rough reception. Did not cross over.
HB 918 – Tax Cuts
This bill was the subject of a struggle between Delta and politicians beholden to the NRA, but that’s not why we oppose it. Our state could have had $5.2 billion extra in its coffers, enabling us not only to expand Medicaid but to fund any number of ambitious programs to address poverty in Georgia. Instead, it gives that money back to corporations and cuts the top tax rate from 6 percent to 5.5 percent. Governor Deal signed this legislation.
SB 74 – More Abortion Restrictions
It’s already extremely difficult for teenagers to get an abortion in Georgia without notifying their parents, but this bill adds to the existing requirement that they go before a judge to obtain a waiver that they must present “clear and convincing evidence” in doing so. Did not cross over.
SB 161 – Discriminatory Driver’s Licenses
The bill would add the term “noncitizen” in a prominent location on the driver’s licenses and ID cards now in use by non-citizen Georgians. Legislation like this is incredibly dangerous and is meant to stigmatize immigrants in Georgia. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute estimates that ID redesigns will waste $1 million in tax dollars. Athens’ Sen. Frank Ginn is an author and sponsor of this bill. Read A4E’s brief about SB 161 Did not cross over.
SB 233 – LGBTQ Discrimination Bill
This bill would allow Georgians to cite their faith-based beliefs in order to deny services to same-sex couples. Governor Deal has shown a willingness to veto such legislation (largely because he believes it would hurt business in the state), and we may need to pressure him to do so again in 2018. Did not cross over.
These bills allow the creation of a new city (Eagle’s Landing) out of the existing majority Black city of Stockbridge, destroying its tax base and diluting Black voting power. They are an extremely dangerous precedent. Read our LAN alert about these bills here. Governor Deal signed this legislation.
These Republican bills both make all polling places close at 7 p.m. (those in Atlanta are currently open until 8 p.m.). SB 309 also amends the requirements for filling state vacancies. If someone vacating an elected position has less than 1 year left on their term, the governor would appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term, rather than holding an election. We oppose any bill that makes it harder to vote or limits the ability of Georgians to elect their own representatives. Read our Legislative Action Alert about these bills here. Both of these bills passed the senate but not the house.
SB 315 – Cyber-snooping
This bill would make logging into a computer without permission illegal, even if no information is stolen, punishable by a fine of $5,000 and up to 12 months in jail. The problem is that companies could use the law against employees who do personal business on work computers, and even scraping public online information could be illegal. Read our LAN alert about SB 315. Gov. Deal vetoed this bill!
SB 339 – “Freedom of Speech” on College Campuses
This bill does get rid of “free speech zones” on college campuses, but it’s really designed to help out hate speech. It would impose fines and suspensions on students who disrupt others’ freedom of speech. The University System of Georgia opposes this bill as overreach by the General Assembly, and we oppose it because it only seems to protect some people’s freedom of speech. Read our Legislative Action Alert about it here. Governor Deal signed this legislation.
SB 375 – Anti-LGBTQ Adoption
This bill would allow adoption agencies receiving state funds to decline to place children with LGTBQ families based on the religious beliefs of those agencies. It is embarrassing, backwards and prejudiced. It passed the senate recently, with both our state senators (Bill Cowsert and Frank Ginn) voting in favor of it. Read our Legislative Action Alert about it here. This bill passed the senate but not the house.
SB 452 – Cooperation with ICE
This bill would require (among other things) that a sentencing court (not just felony, but also misdemeanor and ordinance violation) determine the immigration status of an offender and, if that person is undocumented, report them to the Department of Homeland Security and give ICE their last known address 72 hours before releasing them from custody. This bill passed the senate but not the house. We fought it alongside many comrades, including through LAN alerts like this one.
SR 587 – English-Only Georgia Bill
This resolution proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would declare English the official language of Georgia and prohibit requiring any language other than English in government documents. Sen. Bill Cowsert is a co-sponsor. Did not pass senate.