*Monday, April 4 is the final day of the session.
Monitoring: The Mental Health Parity Act
HB 1013, by Rep Todd Jones, is bill that seeks to do things like, 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. Georgia Baptists have not taken a public position on the bill, but we are working with stakeholders to help make improvements in a Senate version. We categorically agree that this is important and needed legislation with great intentions.
Status: The bill is presently in the Senate Health and Human Services Sub-Committee and has received three hearings. It is being moved to the Regular Full Committee to be improved with amendments. The next hearing is scheduled for today (Mar. 28). It must be voted out of the committee by Wednesday to make it on the Floor of the Senate before the final day on Apr. 4.
Opposition: The Expansion of Gambling
There are approximately nine bills leftover from the 2021 session that are available to be passed expanding gambling on Sports, Horse Racing, and Casinos.
Status: Weeks ago, two of the four Senate Horse Racing Bills were passed out of the Regulated Industries Committee. The two bills that were passed out of the committee are authored by Sen. Jeff Mullis. SR 131 is a constitutional ballot measure that would only allow parimutuel betting to take place at the racing track without any machines or off-track betting sites. SB 212 is the enabling legislation that describes how the resolution will be implemented. Both bills were put on the Senate calendar for a vote last week on crossover day. SB 131 was defeated and not brought up for a second vote. SB 131 was tabled. There is still the possibility that the House could pass something out committee for a floor vote before the 40th day! UPDATE: There is the possibility some type of gambling legislation could be coming out of a House Committee today (Mar. 28).
Support: Ban on Teaching Critical Race Theory in Public Schools
SB 377 by Sen. Bo Hatchett; HB 1084 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.
Status: HB 1084 was approved by the House (92-63) and has been sent to the Senate. It is scheduled for a hearing today (Mar. 28) in the Senate Education and Youth Committee. SB 377 received a Senate floor vote and was approved (32-20) and has been sent to the House to be assigned to a committee.
Support: The “Parents Bill of Rights” for Public Schools
SB 449 (Sen. Clint Dixon)/HB 1178 (Rep. Josh Bonner): These bills codify parental rights when it comes to their child’s education into law, including the right to access instructional material. The bills affirm a parent’s ability to request information from a principal or superintendent and requires that they provide the requested information within three working days.
Status: SB 449 was approved by the Senate and has been sent to the House for a committee hearing. HB 1178 was approved by the House and been sent to the Senate for a committee hearing.
Support: The “Forum Act” (Forming Open and Robust University Minds)
HB 1 was introduced by Representative Josh Bonner, and it protects students on our college campuses regarding their freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Status: The bill has been approved by the House (93-62) and sent over to the Senate for a committee hearing. The bill received a favorable vote and made it on to the House floor for a vote. HB 1 was approved by the House and sent to the Senate. It was approved in Senate Judiciary Committee and has been sent to the Rules Committee to be available to go to the Senate floor for a vote.
Support: “The Women’s Health and Safety Act” (Ban on Mailing Abortion Pills)
SB 466, (Sen. Bruce Thompson): We fully support this legislation, which would reinstate the Obama/Trump era restrictions of delivering the abortion pill via telemedicine and direct mail in Georgia.
Status: The Senate has voted in favor of the bill (31-22) and it has been sent to the House for consideration in a committee. It is still waiting for a hearing in the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Support: “Saving Girls Sports Act”
We support SB 435 (Sen. Marty Harbin), which would ban any biological males from participating in biological female sports.
Status: The Senate has voted in favor of the bill, and it has been sent to the House and assigned to a committee for a possible hearing. It is still waiting for a hearing in the House Health and Human Services Committee.
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.
Status: The bill has been voted on and approved by the Senate and has been sent over to the House for a committee assignment and a possible hearing.
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.
Status: 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 that add incentives to play the machines more. For example, the bills would add, amongst other things, $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.
Status: Both bills received hearings in the Senate and House Regulated Industries committee. The House version passed on to the Rules Committee for the consideration of a floor vote. HB 1424 did pass the House on crossover day and has been assigned to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee for a hearing. The Senate version was amended (removing the $50 gift card and increasing divisions of income) and passed out to the Rules Committee for the consideration of a floor vote. It did not receive a vote in the Senate. The House version of the bill received a hearing this past week in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, but no vote was taken. Another hearing is scheduled for this week.
Support: The Maternity Supportive Housing
SB 116, authored by Sen. Randy Robertson, would allow non-profit organizations (churches) to provide free maternity supportive housing for up to 6 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. The bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Rick Williams.
Status: The bill passed the Senate in 2021. It received a hearing in the House Human Services Committee, but no vote was taken. Another hearing may happen this week.
Support: Appeals Process for School Library Obscenity
SB 226 (Sen. Jason Anavitarte) makes sure 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.
Status: Voted out of subcommittee to the full committee for a vote. It passed the full committee and received a favorable vote last week on the House floor. It is being sent back to the Senate to agree with some changes and will be available to go to the Governor’s Desk for his signature.
Support: “Student Technology Protection Act”
HB 1217 (Chris Erwin) requires specifications for technology to filter obscenity from students in public schools.
Status: It was voted out of a subcommittee and on to the full committee for a vote. The full committee voted in favor of the bill. This bill was voted on in the House and passed. It has been sent to the Senate for a possible committee hearing.
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.
Status: The bill was heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee and it was passed out of committee in a second hearing. It made it to the Senate for a vote and passed on crossover day. It has been sent to the House for a committee assignment and a possible hearing.
Opposition: Recreational Marijuana Bills
The first week of February there were (3) 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.
Status: The bills received a hearing, but no vote was taken. Therefore, the bill was not approved before crossover day.
Support: Firearms Revision Bill
Rep. Rick Jasperse introduced HB 1378, a bill that allows churches the full authority in determining the use of weapons. Churches under this provision would be treated as private property, so they can determine what their own use of weapons policies. This legislation coincides with the 2021 GBC Resolution on Church Safety and Security: https://gabaptist.egnyte.com/dl/pIO6wJbmxO.
Status: The bill received hearings and passed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and was sent to the Rules Committee as a potential bill to go to the House floor for a vote. It did not make it to the floor for a vote before crossover day.
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.
Status: A second hearing was held with no vote taken. A third hearing was held and the bill was tabled. It did not make it past crossover day.