Georgia Baptists Capitol Report from 2022 Legislative Session

Working at the Georgia State Capitol can be a very challenging time when it comes to standing up for social and moral issues. However, this was a very good year for Georgia Baptists and our work at the Capitol. We were a part of two great events, and we supported some good legislation that passed this year!

Annual Pastors Day: Best Pastors Day at the Capitol Ever

What an awesome day it was at the 8th Annual Georgia Baptist Pastors Day at the State Capitol. Nearly 160 pastors, ministry leaders, laypeople, and legislators gathered on Feb. 27 to be inspired and encouraged to understand the political process from a Christian perspective.

The event included inspirational speakers such as Jeff Struecker, Bob McEwen, Harrison Smith, and Dean Nelson.

“I was encouraged and challenged to say the least,” said Pastor Chris Pritchett, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. “The speakers from the front lines gave us a wealth of knowledge. This day at the Capitol is a worthy investment of your time as a pastor.”

Gambling Press Conference: Coalition of legislators and leaders speak out against gambling expansion

Citizens and leaders expressed their concerns about gambling expansion during a press conference organized by Citizen Impact, Frontline Policy Council and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. It took place March 9 at the State Capitol. It was entitled: “Protecting Georgians from Gambling Expansion,” and its intent was to share how that out-of-state and well-funded special interests are once again lobbying to usher in gambling expansion in Georgia.

The speakers indicated that this kind of failed policy has proven to have devastating effects on states that opt to put the demands of the industry ahead of the interests of the citizenry.

Attendees and news organizations heard from a coalition of legislators and community leaders who spoke on the need to protect our state from gambling expansion.

Speakers: Mike Griffin (Public Affairs Rep. for the Georgia Baptists); Cole Muzio, (Executive Director of Frontline Policy Council); Rep. Wes Cantrell; Kasey McClure (Founder and Executive Director of 4SARAH); Rep. Todd Jones; Rep. Jodi Lott; Retired Professor, John Kindt (University of Illinois); Sen. Marty Harbin; Rep. Josh Bonner; Steven Cook(Professional Horse Communicator, 369 Equus); Paul Smith(Executive Director, Citizen Impact); Mark McElreath (Pastor, City Baptist Church, Atlanta); Joy Creasman (Marketing Director, Faith and Freedom Coalition) and Rep. Ed Setzler.

Legislative Wrap-up: Georgia legislative session concludes as one of the best

Having served at the Georgia State Capitol is a lobbyist for 15 years, I believe this was the best year ever for getting good legislation across the finish line.

One of things that Georgia Baptists want to be known for is not what we are against, but what we are for! This year we were for more legislation than we were against!

We monitored at least 27 bills covering 18 legislative subjects. Out of those 18 subjects, we were supporting 13 of those areas of legislation. I think with all that has been going on in the past two years that this is BIG news!

Here are some examples of the top bills that were passed and supported by Georgia Baptists:

Maternity Supportive Housing

This bill SB 116, known as “Betsy’s Law,” was authored by Sen. Randy Robertson. This law allows non-profit organizations (including churches) to offer maternity supportive housing to pregnant and new mothers over the age of 18.It would provide free maternity supportive housing for up to six pregnant moms and up to 18 months postpartum. This will help on our focus of Pre/Post Natal Care with Mission Georgia.

Appeals Process for School Library Obscenity

SB 226, authored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, ensures that our children are protected from sexually explicit material. This allows a proper appeal process when parents see material that is obscene. We must have laws that provide more transparency for and power to parents while at the same time ridding our schools of obscene materials.

Parents Bill of Rights

SB 449 was one of two pieces of legislation that reinforced the rights of parents to inquire about activities in our public schools. Rep. Josh Bonner’s bill was passed during the legislative session. This bill codifies parental rights when it comes to their child’s education. The bill affirms a parent’s ability to request information from a principal or superintendent.

Ban on Teaching Divisive Concepts

HB 1084 by Rep. Will Wade was one of two bills that was introduced to the legislature to ban the teaching on such things as Critical Race Theory in public schools. Children do not need to feel as though they are inherently oppressed or inherently oppressors based on their race. We cannot allow indoctrination that divides our country, produces more racial strife, and teaches an anti-American worldview to our children.

Save Girls Sports

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.

Free Speech on College Campuses 

HB 1, known as the “Forum Act” (Forming Open and Robust University Minds), was introduced by Rep. 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.

Mental Health Legislation

HB 1013, initiated by Speaker David Ralston and sponsored by Rep. Todd Jones and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, is a bill that seeks to do things like, expand insurance coverage for those with mental health issues. The Senate removed from the bill coverage mandates, changed definitions, and added conscience protections that can be applied to churches and 501-C’s.

NO Expansion of Gambling

Last, but not least, there was a BIG WIN for something that did NOT pass this year at the Capitol – gambling legislation! There were approx. nine bills leftover from the 2021 session that were available to be acted upon: Sports Betting, Horse Racing and Casinos. An attempt to pass two of the Horse Racing bills failed in the Senate and Sports Betting failed in House Rules Committee. Bottomline: For at least eight years in a row, we have been able to stop ALL gambling expansion legislation in the Georgia General Assembly! This can only be attributed to God’s convection power and grace! 

I want to thank the Georgia Baptists who played a part in praying and contacting their legislators!

Published April 29, 2022