This guide to the legislation that was discussed in the Georgia State Legislature in 2019 was compiled by A4E member Hillary Brown, with A4E’s Policy and Elections Committee. The last day of the legislative session was April 2, 2019. The governor has 40 days after that to sign or veto legislation or let it pass without signing it. If the governor vetoes legislation, it requires a 2/3 majority of house and senate to pass it.
We are actively supporting the following legislation with our efforts both in-person at the capitol and via our legislative action network of phone calls and emails.
A4E supports the expansion of voting rights! HB 6 would get rid of automatic purges of “inactive” voters (i.e., those who have not voted or made contact in three years). HB 57 would mail all registered voters an absentee ballot for each primary, election and runoff in which they are eligible to vote. HB 117 would allow voters to vote at any precinct within their county. HB 176 requires state agencies that provide services or assistance to give voter registration applications to people. HR 2 would ratify the 24th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits poll taxes. Read our alert on HB 6 here. But wait! There are more! HB 248 and HB 251 expand the definition of who can help disabled voters prepare their absentee ballots. HB 249 requires prompt notification of the voter when an absentee ballot is rejected and time to correct errors. HB 250 makes it harder to reject legitimate voter registrations over a typo. HB 252 provides for same-day voter registration. And HB 255 (a bipartisan bill!) makes it easier for absentee ballots to be delivered to people who are incarcerated. None of these crossed over.
These bills would accept the federal dollars available through the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid and cover hundreds of thousands more Georgians, driving down health insurance costs for everyone. Gov. Brian Kemp is proposing a “waiver” instead, which would cover less and likely come with a work requirement. He’s budgeted $1 million to study this waiver, but the right choice is already clear. Read our alert on HB 37 here. Did not cross over.
Georgia’s workers desperately need a $15/hour minimum wage! Read A4E’s brief from 2018 on the issue. Did not cross over.
These bills would repeal campus carry, passed over the objections of a majority of Georgians. Spencer Frye (D-118) is a co-sponsor on the House version. Did not cross over.
HB 172 – Compensate the Wrongfully Imprisoned
This bill would have provided the wrongfully convicted and imprisoned with $50,000 for each year they spent in prison. Did not cross over.
HB 403 – Outlaw Private Prisons
This bill would get rid of privately owned prisons in Georgia, removing some of the profit motive for incarcerating people. Did not cross over.
HB 426 – Hate Crimes
This bipartisan (!) bill would create a hate crimes law in Georgia (one of five states that does not have any), providing protection to vulnerable populations. Passed the house, with Frye voting yes and Gaines and Wiedower voting no, despite the fact that many of their fellow Republicans supported this legislation, but did not come up for a vote in the senate.
SB 42 – National Popular Vote Compact
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s on our platform! Did not cross over.
SR 52 – An Independent Redistricting Commission
Gerrymandering is anti-Democratic, allowing legislators to choose their voters instead of voters choosing their representatives. It also frequently targets voters of color for disenfranchisement. Georgia needs to give redistricting powers to a non-partisan Independent Redistricting Commission. Read A4E’s brief from 2018 about an Independent Redistricting Commission. Did not cross over.
Athens for Everyone supports lawmakers who stand up and champion transformative progressive policies like these.
These bills prevent employers from asking potential employees about salary history. They equalize the playing field between labor and capital and help prevent gender discrimination based on past salary. Did not cross over.
HB 8 – Kill the Tampon Tax
This bill would have exempted menstrual products from state sales tax, given that they are a necessity, not a luxury for a large percentage of the population. Did not cross over.
HB 42 – Don’t Penalize Loan Defaults
This Republican(!)-sponsored bill would prevent some state licensing boards from revoking or refusing to grant licenses to professionals including realtors, foresters, pharmacists and insurance agents if those people are in default on their student loans. Its sponsor said, “this is not an effective way to collect debt,” and we agree. Did not cross over.
HB 20, HB 58, HB 137 (Frye is a co-sponsor), and SB 150 all prevent people convicted of family violence from owning firearms (here are some statistics on why that’s a good idea). HB 55 prohibits people from 3D-printing guns. SB 33 would prevent people from carrying firearms in government buildings. SB 34 would prevent people who have been involuntarily hospitalized for mental health issues within the past 10 years from purchasing guns. None of these crossed over.
HB 83 – Recess
This bill requires schools to schedule 30 minutes of recess a day for grades K–5. Spencer Frye (D-118) is a co-sponsor. Passed the house and the senate, with Cowsert, Frye, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower all voting yes, but was VETOED by Governor Kemp.
These bills 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 264, which is being pushed by the Georgia Ambulance Transparency Project, would ban ambulance vendors from serving on Department of Public Health hiring councils; require vendors to register with the state ethics commission and ban pay-to-play; require mandatory service reviews to ensure safety; and require that all ambulance service providers meet national safety standards and adhere to best-practices. Read our alert on HB 264 here. HB 236 would allow first responders of municipal fire departments to engage in emergency medical transportation of patients. Fire departments don’t have the same profit motives as private EMS companies. HB 264 passed the house, with Frye, Gaines and Wiedower all voting yes, and the senate, with Cowsert and Ginn voting yes, but changes were added in the senate that did not have anything to do with the bill and meant the house did not agree with the final version of the bill, so it’s not heading to the governor. Close, though! HB 236 did not cross over.
The criminalization of marijuana has zero benefits and disproportionately harms black, Latinx and low-wealth communities. We need to legalize marijuana now. SB 10 is a small step in the right direction, upping the amount designated as a misdemeanor from less than 1 oz to less than 2 oz and removing jail time for possession of 1/2 oz or less. It’s not transformative, but it will make people’s lives better. Similarly, SB 11 would mean that felony possession of marijuana would not result in a loss of voting rights, and HB 324 would legalize the production of low-THC oil (by private companies and universities) for medical purposes. Read A4E’s brief from 2018 about Legalizing Marijuana. HB 324 passed the house and senate, with Cowsert, Frye, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower all voting yes, and was signed by the governor. The other two bills did not cross over.
HB 2 (the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act) would expand carry rights considerably, removing even the requirement for a permit. HB 74 would keep ride-share companies (Lyft, Uber, etc.) from prohibiting a driver who has a state-issued license from carrying firearms in his or her vehicles while driving for the service. Neither of these crossed over! Yay!
HB 7 / HB 14 / HB 15 / HB 25 / HB 33 / HB 59 / HB 60 / HB 61/ HB 231 / HB 232 / SB 30 – Laws That Give Members of the Military Special Rights
This session includes many bills that set members of the military apart from their fellow citizens, as an elite class with special rights. We oppose those in principle, as another step along the road to fascism, even when we might support extending the rights they guarantee to all. HB 7 and HB 231 would have exempted military retirement benefits from state income tax. HB 14 would have created a new Georgia Lottery game specifically to benefit homeless military veterans. HB 15 would have given homeless veterans preference at housing authorities. HB 25 grants leeway to active-duty members of the military with regard to self-storage unit contracts and the like. HB 33 would give members of the military who are on active duty outside of the state a six-month extension on a weapons-carry permit. HB 59 would allow military students to enroll in a public school based on official military orders prior to physically establishing residency. HB 60 and HB 232 would have allowed college students with a parent on active duty in the military who is or was stationed in Georgia to pay in-state tuition if that parent was deployed outside of Georgia after the student was accepted by the school. HB 61 would have given car-insurance discounts to members of the military. SB 30 would have allowed active-duty members of the military deployed abroad to return absentee ballots via fax or email. HB 25, HB 33 and HB 59 passed the house and the senate, with Cowsert, Frye, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower voting yes on them; they were all signed by the governor.
HB 27 – Shortening Advance Voting
This bill would let towns with fewer than 2,500 people shorten advance voting periods for municipal elections and runoffs (if their electors so vote). It would not apply if there were bigger elections on the ballot, but it still suppresses votes. Did not cross over. Yay!
HB 53 – Student and Educator Faith Protection Act
When this bill said it provided for freedom of religious speech, what it really meant was that no student could be “rewarded or penalized on account of the religious content of their work.” In other words, if your religion doesn’t believe in science, you can turn in a biology assignment that ignores the theory of evolution. Did not cross over. Yay!
We oppose all bills designed to target and terrorize vulnerable immigrant populations, whether documented or undocumented. HB 202 would require the Commissioner of Corrections to post a report on the Department of Corrections (DOC) website of all the data on non-citizens under the authority of DOC, creating an opportunity for targeted violence and hate crimes. HB 270 would prevent some naturalized citizens from voting by changing the design of driver’s licenses and requiring the new version. It would also expand the E-Verify program in Georgia by using Georgia’s Department of Driver Services data. Did not cross over. Yay!
HB 301 – Vouchers
The “Georgia Educational Scholarship Act” (HB 301) is a voucher program, plain and simple. Recipients of the “scholarship” would get the amount of state funding tied to their local school district, to use toward private school, including religious schools. You can read more about the bill here. Did not cross over. Yay!
HB 316 – Hackable Voting Machines
Instead of opting for hand-marked paper ballots, despite the testimony of numerous experts in cybersecurity and the wishes of citizens, the house passed this bill that keeps touchscreen voting and prints a receipt to be scanned. You can read more about the issue here. Passed the house and the senate, with Cowsert, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower voting yes and Frye voting no, then was signed by the governor.
One of the few good things Gov. Nathan Deal did in office was support criminal justice reform. Now our local representatives are trying to roll back his advances. HB 340, co-sponsored by Houston Gaines (R-117) and Marcus Wiedower (R-119), would essentially outlaw own-recognizance (OR) bond, meaning that all bail would require cash or the services of a bondsman. It’s not hard to figure out who’s pushing for this law. All you have to do is follow the money. SB 164 is the same thing on the senate side, sponsored by (you guessed it) Bill Cowsert (R-46) and Frank Ginn (R-47). Read our alert here. Neither crossed over. Yay!
HB 445 – Coastline Development
This bill allows for more private development along Georgia’s coast, with a mere 25-foot buffer for dunes. Passed the house and the senate, with Cowsert, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower voting yes and Frye voting no, then was signed by the governor. Read more details in the Savannah Morning News.
HB 470 – Expand DNA Collection
This bill requires analysis and collection of DNA for individuals charged with a felony offense but sentenced as a first offender or under conditional discharge, expanding DNA collection by the state. Passed the house and the senate, with Cowsert, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower voting yes and Frye voting no on the final version, then was signed by the governor.
HB 481 (the Living Infants Fairness and Equality [LIFE] Act) would outlaw abortion at any point after a doctor is able to detect a heartbeat (i.e., as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy). HB 546 would have criminalized abortion. We support abortion rights! HB 481 passed the house, with Gaines and Wiedower voting for it (and against tabling it or reconsidering it, multiple times) and Frye voting against it, and passed the senate, with Cowsert and Ginn voting for it; then Governor Kemp signed it. It doesn’t become law until January 1, 2020. Note: any bill in the house requires 91 votes to pass, and this one passed 93-73 the first time and 92-78 the second time, meaning if Frye and Wiedower had just declined to vote on it it would not have passed the house. Their votes were crucial to its becoming law. HB 546 did not cross over.
HB 545 – Make It Harder to Sue Big Ag
This bill would have made it much harder to sue industrial agricultural operations. Passed the house, with Gaines and Wiedower voting yes and Frye voting no, but did not pass the senate. Read more about this bill here.
SB 15 – “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act”
This bill says it’s about increasing student safety, but the original version of it would have established new positions known as “school safety coaches” for public schools who were “members or former members of the armed forces of the United States, a law enforcement agency, or a fire department.” That sounds like a terrible idea, and it’s not in the final version of the bill! That said, the final version still has big problems because of the ways in which it requires coordination among local and state law enforcement agencies and schools. It requires schools to create a smartphone app for anonymous reporting of threats, the kind of thing that disproportionately affects students of color. More law enforcement in schools does not make them safer. You can read more about the final version of the bill in the AJC. Passed the house and the senate, with Cowsert, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower voting yes on it and Frye voting no; the governor VETOED it, which is a good thing.
SB 59 – Revise Wiretapping Laws
This bill would have changed Georgia from a one-party-consent state for wiretapping and recording (both audio and video) to an all-party-consent state, putting a damper on activism. You can read more about why it’s a bad idea here. Did not cross over.
SB 77 – Protect Confederate Monuments
This bill protects Confederate monuments (although not by name) and explicitly does not allow state or local governments to relocate, remove, conceal, obscure or alter them in any fashion. It also makes anyone who damages a monument on state land liable for up to three times the cost of its repair. Passed the house and the senate, with Cowsert, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower voting yes on it and Frye voting no; still needs to be signed by the governor.
These bills would have established a separate court for corporate interests, per amendment 2, which was on the ballot in the 2018 general election and was approved by voters. We opposed that amendment, and we oppose these bills. Neither of these passed both house and senate in its final format. Frye voted no on the final version of HB 239 and SB 110; Cowsert, Gaines, Ginn and Wiedower voted yes on all versions of both.
SR 12 – Use Education Sales Tax for Security
This resolution proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would allow education sales taxes to be used on school security projects, like those detailed in SB 15 (see above). Our schools need more money, not less. Did not pass. Yay!