(Monday, April 4 was the Final Day)
BILLS THAT PASSED:
Support: The Mental Health Parity Act
HB 1013, by Rep Todd Jones and Rep. Mary Margert Oliver, is a bill that seeks to do things such as expand insurance coverage for those with mental health issues, provide greater coordination, enhance workforce development (59 of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have mental health professionals), and take various steps to make it easier to get help for someone with mental health challenges. We agree that this is important and needed legislation with needed results. Some very good amendments were added by the Senate. The Senate removed from the bill coverage mandates, changed definitions, and added conscience protections that can be applied to churches and 501-C’s.
Support: Ban on Teaching Critical Race Theory in Public Schools (House and Senate Version)
HB 1084 was authored by Rep. Will Wade. It is important our children know that they are all “image bearers,” and they should not be made to feel ashamed of who they are and be distrustful of their neighbor. Children do not need to feel as though they are inherently oppressed or inherently oppressors based on their race. HB 1084 was also amended by the House on the 40th day to include language that would address the concerns of protecting girls’ sports from having biological males competing in their athletic events. The amendment empowers athletic associations like the Georgia High School Association to designate athletic competitions on the basis of gender and protect girls’ sports. This amendment does not fully implement SB 435 (The Save Girls Sports Act) sponsored by Senator Marty Harbin, it is a move in the right direction.
Support: The “Parents Bill of Rights” for Public Schools (House and Senate Version)
HB 1178 (Rep. Josh Bonner): This bill codifies parental rights when it comes to their child’s education into law, including the right to access instructional material. The bill starts out with a very basic principle: “The General Assembly finds that it is a fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children. The General Assembly further finds that important information relating to a minor child should not be withheld, either inadvertently or purposefully, from his or her parent, including information relating to the minor child’s education …” The bill affirms a parent’s ability to request information from a principal or superintendent and requires that they provide the requested information within three working days.
Support: The “Forum Act” (Forming Open and Robust University Minds)
HB 1 was introduced by Representative Josh Bonner. This bill protects students on our college campuses regarding their freedom of speech. It eliminates things like “free speech zones.” It protects the right of all people to engage in lawful expression and it requires that administrators, campus police, etc. understand their duties regarding free expression on campus.
Support: “The Maternity Supportive Housing” (Betsy’s Law)
SB 116 was authored by Sen. Randy Robertson. Building a culture of life means protecting life in the womb while promoting a society that empowers pregnant moms in crisis to confidently choose life for their unborn children as well as combating the high maternal mortality rate in our state. This legislation would allow non-profit organizations (churches) to provide free maternity supportive housing for up to six pregnant moms and their children not only during pregnancy but also up to 18 months postpartum. This would help on our focus of Pre/Post Natal Care with Mission Georgia.
Support: Appeals Process for School Library Obscenity
SB 226, authored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, makes sure that our children are protected from sexually explicit material. Georgia Baptists support legislation that allows a proper appeal process, when parents see material that is obscene. This legislation ensures that parents’ complaints about obscene materials can no longer be hid by administrators or school officials. It shines the spotlight of transparency on the public school system.
BILLS THAT FAILED:
Opposition: The Expansion of Gambling
There were approximately nine bills leftover from the 2021 session that are available to be acted upon that would expand gambling in the areas of Sports Betting, Horse Racing and Casinos. Horse Racing failed to pass in the Senate with 2/3 vote before crossover day and the possibility some type of gambling legislation (Constitutional Amendment and Enabling Legislation) failed to come out of a House Rules Committee to go to the floor for a vote in the House and Senate.
Support: “The Women’s Health and Safety Act” (Ban on Mailing Abortion Pills)
SB 466, Sen. Bruce Thompson, would reinstate the Obama/Trump era restrictions of delivering the abortion pill via telemedicine and direct mail in Georgia. It was voted out of the House Health and Human Services Committee and was voted out of the Rules Committee to the House floor but was never called up for a vote.
Support: “Saving Girls Sports Act”
SB 435, Sen. Marty Harbin, which would ban any biological males from participating in biological female sports. The Senate voted in favor of the bill, and it was sent to the House and assigned to a committee for a possible hearing. It never had a hearing in the House Health and Human Services Committee. It was not voted out of committee and on to the House floor for a vote. (A version of it was amended to HB 1084 and passed in the House and the Senate.)
Support: Increased Penalties for Pimping and Pandering
SB 381 is authored by Sen. Randy Robertson. This legislation increases penalties (felony) on pimping and pandering related to human trafficking. The bill had been voted out of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee and was in the Rules Committee but never came out for a vote on the House floor.
Support: “Student Technology Protection Act”
HB 1217 by Chris Erwin requires specifications for technology to filter obscenity from students in public schools. The bill passed the Senate Committee and was available for a floor vote in the Senate, but it never came out of the Rules Committee.
Support: Firearms Revision Bill
Rep. Rick Jasperse introduced HB 1378, a bill that allows churches the full authorty in determining the use of weapons. Churches under this provision would be treated as private property, so that they could determine what their use policy would be. This legislation coincides with the 2021 GBC Resolution on Church Safety and Security: https://gabaptist.egnyte.com/dl/pIO6wJbmxO. The bill did not make it to the floor for a vote before crossover day. However, the bill was amended onto a Senate Bill (SB 259) and voted out of the Rules Committee and was voted in favor of on the floor of the House, but the Senate did not take it up for a vote.
Support: Child Victim Protection Act
This legislation, sponsored by Representative Heath Clark (HB 109), is important because it allows survivors of child sexual abuse to file civil action upon entities that would have had a duty of care for them. As now the law reads, victims of child sexual abuse can only file civil suits up to the age of 23. Under the new legislation, the statute of limitations would be extended to 38 years old. The bill passed the House last year but did not receive a hearing in the Senate last year or this year. However, it was added to a Senate bill coming over to the House. The amended Senate bill was passed by the House and sent to the Senate, but it was never brought up for a vote.
Opposition: Adding SOGI’s to Workplace Laws
HB 1389 and HB 1390, introduced by Rep. Teri Anulewicz, added sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI’s) to workplace regulations. HB 1389 has to do with general employment and HB 1390 has to do with government. These bills would have a detrimental effect on individual and employer First Amendment Rights. Both bills received hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, but no vote was taken.
Opposition: Coin Operated Amusement Machines (COAM’s) Revision Bills
SB 536 (Rep. Alan Powell) and HB 1424 (Sen. Clint Dixon) are two examples of legislation they (among other things) are wanting to add $50 gift cards to the winnings. We are for tightening regulations on them but not for helping create any incentives to play them more. These (Class B) machines (while technically are not gambling) are viewed by many as gambling, and they can be very destructive and addictive to those who play them. The House version of the bill received a hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, but no vote was taken. Another hearing was held, and the bill was amended. It did not receive a vote on the Senate floor. The House amended a Senate bill and approved it with HB 1424 language, but the Senate did not take it up for a vote on the 40th day.
Support: Ban on Animal Fighting
SB 512, introduced by Sen. Chuck Payne, seeks to update the statute to include all animals, not just dogs. It was submitted to address the cock-fighting issue. It also makes it illegal to take a minor child to an animal fight. Animal fights are never just about the act of watching an animal fight to the death. They are always associated with other unsavory or illegal activities such as illegal gambling, drug trafficking, and other illicit crimes. No hearing was held in the House, and it did not make it to the floor for a vote.
Opposition: Exception to the 3-Tier System for Craft Breweries
SB 420, introduced by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, allows an exemption to the 3-Tier system on the sale of alcohol. Georgia Baptists categorically opposes any loosening of restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages. The 3-Tier system since prohibition has maintained standards of public health and safety in the sale of alcohol. A third hearing was held in the Regulated Industries Committee and the bill was tabled. It did not make it past crossover day.
Opposition: Recreational Marijuana Bills
The first week of February there were three bills considered in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee to expand marijuana legalization. In 2015, the Georgia Baptist Convention unanimously passed a resolution entitled, “The Dangers of Marijuana.” The resolution stated our opposition to the sale and use of recreational marijuana in Georgia. The bills received a hearing, but no vote was taken. Therefore, the bills were not approved before crossover day.