Georgia Baptist TOP Legislation Being Watched (3/29/23)
40th Day of the Legislative Session
Mike Griffin, Public Affairs Representative
- Opposition: Sports Betting and Horse Racing added to the Lottery
Senator Billy Hickman introduced SB 57 to legalize sports betting and horse racing in Georgia through the Georgia Lottery. This legislative bill does not require a constitutional amendment, but only a majority vote in the Senate to pass.
Status: It went on to the Senate floor for a vote and failed with 37 against and 19 in favor.
- Support: Increased Penalties for Pimping and Pandering
Sen. Randy Robertson authored SB 36 to increase penalties for pimping and pandering related to human trafficking. This legislation is in alignment with the Mission Georgia’s focus on combatting human trafficking.
Status: This legislation has been approved by the Senate. It has been assigned to the Judiciary Non-civil Committee in the House and passed out of committee to the full committee. It did not receive a vote on the Senate floor. It will be available next year for consideration.
- Support: Ban on Animal Fighting
Rep. Scott Hilton authored HB 217 to update the statute to include all cockfighting and make it illegal to take a minor child to an animal fight. This bill aims to address the cockfighting issue and prevent unsavory and illegal activities, such as illegal gambling, drug trafficking, and other illicit crimes associated with animal fights.
Status: It had a hearing in the subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. No vote was taken.
- Support: Expansion of Maternity Care
Rep. Soo Hung authored HB 129 to temporarily expand Medicaid assistance for needy families who meet the eligibility criteria for pregnant women. This legislation is crucial to help needy mothers during their pregnancy and relates to the Mission Georgia emphasis on Pre and Post-natal Care for mothers.
Status: It was passed out of the House and passed on the floor of the Senate (3/7/23). Now available to have the Governor sign it into law.
- Support: The Child Protection Act
Sen. Clint Dixon authored SB 141 to ban “gender reassignment” surgeries, chemicals and hormone treatment from being performed on minor children and prevents school officials from concealing from parents that a minor is “identifying” as a different gender than their biological sex.
Status: This bill had a hearing in the Health and Human Services Committee, but no vote was taken.
- Support: The Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)
Sen. Ed Setzler authored SB 180, and more than 25 other senators including Senate leadership introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This bill provides people of faith the same protections from state and local government actions that they currently have from federal government actions.
Status: It has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee but did not have a hearing before the 28th day. It is still available for next year.
- Opposition: Georgia Lottery Game of Sports Betting Act
Rep. Marcus Weidower authored HB 380 to add sports betting to the State Lottery without a constitutional amendment.
Status: It has been assigned to the Higher Education Committee, has received two hearings and was passed out to the Rules Committee. It passed out of the Rules Committee on the 28th day to go on to floor for a vote but was never called up. It is still available next year.
- Opposition: Constitutional Amendment and Enabling Legislation to Legalize Sports Betting
Sen. Bill Cowsert authored SR 140 and SB 172 to legalize sports betting through a Constitutional Amendment to be voted on by the people. It also includes enabling legislation to show how the law will be managed, and where the tax revenue will be applied.
Status: Both bills were voted out of the Rules Committee for a possible vote on the Senate floor on the 28th day. SR 140 was voted on and failed to get a constitutional majority 30 to 26. 38 votes were needed. SB 172 was not brought up for a vote.
- Opposition: Coin-Operated Amusement Machines (COAM Class B) Revision Bills
HB 353 (sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell) and SB 174 (sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon) are two examples of legislation that aim to allow gift cards to be awarded as winnings for these machines. While we support tighter regulations on COAM Class B machines, we do not support creating incentives to encourage more people to play them. Although these machines are technically not classified as gambling, they are often viewed as such and can be addictive and destructive to those who use them.
Status: HB 353 was passed out of the Rules Committee on to the House floor for a vote. It passed on the 28th and has now been sent to the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee. SB 174 got a hearing in and was passed out to the Rules Committee to be considered for floor. It was amended to remove the gift cards on the floor and voted back the House, but no vote was taken. It is still available for next year.
- Support: Child Obscenity Protection
HB 338 was authored by Rep. Chris Erwin. This bill is designed to include methods for promoting safe and appropriate use of technology devises used in education programs.
“Technology protection measure” means a technology that inspects and analyzes unencrypted internet traffic for malware and that blocks or filters electronic access to obscene materials, child pornography, or material that is harmful to minors.
Status: This bill passed out of the House and has been sent to the Senate Education and Youth Committee for a hearing and passed out of committee to the Rules Committee. It was placed on the calendar for consideration but was never voted on. It is still available for next year.
- Support: Removal of Library Exemption for Obscene Material to Minors
SB 154, authored by Sen. Greg Dolezal, aims to remove public school libraries from exemptions regarding laws regulating access to obscene materials by minors.
Status: This bill was sent to the Education and Youth Committee but did not have a hearing before crossover day (28th). It is still available for next year.
- Support: Foster Care Reform
SB 133, sponsored by Sen. Brian Strickland. This bill seeks to establish a more uniform process for assuming custody of foster children. This legislation aligns with the Mission Georgia emphasis on foster care and adoption.
Status: It was passed by the Senate and assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee. It had a couple of hearings and passed out to the Rules Committee for a possible vote on the House floor. No vote was taken but is still available for next year.
- Support: Stricter Requirements for Posting Human Trafficking Hotline Information Senator Brian Strickland authored SB 42 to create stronger incentives for businesses to post accurate and appropriate human trafficking hotline information on various platforms such as the internet. This legislation is in alignment with the Mission Georgia’s focus on combatting human trafficking.
Status: SB 42 has passed the Senate and the House and is sent to the Governor’s Desk and was signed into law.
- Opposition: Exception to the 3-Tier System for Craft Breweries Bills
Representative Tyler Smith authored HB 407 and Senator Chuck Hufstetler authored SB 163, which aims to exempt craft breweries from the 3-Tier system on the sale of alcoholic beverages. However, Georgia Baptists staunchly oppose any loosening of restrictions on the sale of alcohol and view the 3-Tier system as a crucial standard for public health and safety since the prohibition era.
Status: Both were assigned to the House and Senate Regulated Industries Committee. SB 163 did have a hearing, but not a vote. They can still be brought up again next year.
- Opposition: Extension of Delivery Distance for Alcoholic Beverages
HB 397, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter and SB 194, authored by Senator Shawn Still, proposes allowing the home delivery of malt beverages, wine, and distilled spirits up to 25 miles beyond from the business selling it. This excessively extends availability of alcohol into homes, where issues related to this product are going to be potentially made worse.
Status: These bills have been assigned to the House and Senate Regulated Industries Committee and did not get a hearing before Crossover Day (28th). The bill was amended in a Senate Committee on to HB 170 as a vehicle to be passed on the floor. The amended bill never made it out of the Rules Committee. Both bills are still available for next year.
- Support: Prohibiting Certain Surgical Procedures and Medical Treatments for Gender Dysphoria
SB 140 is authored by Senator Carden Summers. This legislation prohibits certain surgical procedures and certain medical treatment, including hormone replacement therapies and surgeries that have irreversible effects for gender dysphoria on minors. We supported the intention of the bill, but its wording is flawed. We opposed it on the Senate floor, but supported the amendment going forward in the House. Civil liability language was added. We supported the Senate approving the bill as it came over for an agreement.
Status: The bill made it to floor for a vote on Day 28 and passed over to the House and was assigned to the Public Health Committee and amended for adding civil liabilities. It passed the committee, was approved by the House as amended and has been sent to the Senate for an agreement. The Senate agreed and it was sent to the Governors desk. The Governor signed it into law before the close of the legislative session.
- Opposition: The Parents and Children Protection Act of 2023
SB 88 is authored by Senator Carden Summers. We appreciate the heart behind this legislation, and the work the Senator has put in, however, we have heard from many folks, including our legal partners and activists from around the state on the issues with this bill. We believe that this bill has dramatic unintended consequences for parental rights, and for children in public schools as well. Those concerns have not been addressed. As it stands, we are concerned with this bill though we certainly share the motivation of the sponsor. We opposed it as written.
Status: The bill had a hearing in the Education Committee and was tabled. It is still available to be heard and possibly amended next year.
- Support: Firearms Revision Bill
HB 560 is authored by Karen Mathiak. This is bill among other things, 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.
Status: This bill has been assigned to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and is awaiting a hearing. It is still available for next year.
- Support: The Georgia Early Literacy Act
HB 538 is authored by Bethany Ballard. This legislation requires such things as local boards of education to approve high-quality instructional materials for students in kindergarten through third grade and to administer universal reading screeners multiple times each school year to students in kindergarten through third grade. It also requires reports of the results of such screeners to parents of students and to the Department of Education for analysis, and requires reading intervention plans for students with significant reading deficiencies. This legislation is in alignment with the Mission Georgia’s focus on Childhood Literacy.
Status: This bill has passed the House and has been assigned to the Senate Education and Youth committee for a hearing. It passed the committee and was sent to the Senate floor for a vote. It passed and has been sent to the Governor’s desk for a signature.
- Support: The Georgia Council on Literacy Bill
SB 211 is authored by Senator Billy Hickman. This legislation is designed to establish the Georgia Council on Literacy. This council is responsible for conducting a comprehensive study of all state resources and activities, so that it can make recommendations regarding the priorities for future investments and strategies. The focus will be on goals for clearly defined measures for third, fifth, and eighth-grade reading outcomes. This legislation is an alignment with the Mission Georgia’s focus on Childhood Literacy.
Status: It has passed the Senate and has been assigned to a House Education Committee where it has been approved and passed a floor vote in the Senate and has been sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
- Opposition: Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby Bill as amended with Sports Betting
HB 237 was originally authored by Rep. Leesa Hagan and substitute language was amended to it by Sen. Derek Mallow with Sports Betting through the Lottery.
The Senate Committee on Economic Development and Tourism replaced HB 237 which would establish the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the official soap box derby of the State of Georgia with language that now makes it a Sports Betting bill. Rep. Hagan was not in favor of the substitute language, but the committee still did it. She had her language removed from the bill.
Status: It passed the Economic Development and Tourism Committee and was sent to the Rules Committee with a recommendation to be voted on by the Senate. It was placed on the calendar for consideration on the 39th or 40th day. The bill was not brought up for a vote.
- Support: Protecting Minors from Sexually Explicit Performances
HB 840 is authored by Rep. Tim Fleming. This bill protects children from harmful, overtly sexualized material in public settings such as Drag Shows and Drag Queen Story Times. More and more footage is emerging constantly from events – billed as “Family-friendly” – of behavior which, by any standard, is entirely inappropriate for children. HB 840 requires that anyone hosting an event with obscene behavior, sexually provocative dancing, or overtly sexual reading material limit the event to 18 years or older, opening a civil cause of action for any who allow minors to be harmed by breaking this law.
Status: This legislation has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and available for a hearing during the next legislative session.
- Support: Providing School Privacy Protection for Boys and Girls
HB 836 is authored by Rep. Mitchell Scoggins. This bill recognizes the God-given biological distinction between male and female, and protects the privacy of boys and girls throughout Georgia school systems. It requires that areas of privacy – bathrooms, locker rooms, changing & shower rooms – be restricted to members of the same biological sex. This bill also protects the sleeping quarters of school children who are taken on school-supervised overnight trips, and if this law is violated, HB 836 provides the parents of harmed children a cause of action against the school.
Status: This bill has been assigned to the House Education Committee and is available for hearing during the next legislative session.