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Recapping the 2017 Georgia Legislative Session

The 2017 Georgia General Assembly Session ended at 12:57 a.m. April 1. Technically, the session is to end at the stroke of midnight on March 31. But, we’ll let that one slide.

Huge shout out to our progressive legislators who kept us informed and alerted to when they needed our help. Because of their assistance and your diligence, we made a difference this session.

Georgia legislators celebrate the end of the 2017 session on Sine Die, March 31. 

Georgia legislators celebrate the end of the 2017 session on Sine Die, March 31. 

Here’s a recap of where things stand on the issues we are following:

Where we made a difference

  • HB515 Redistricting: When this bill dropped late on Feb. 27 in the House, it redrew nine districts and moved minority voters to Democratic districts to save the seats of two Republican legislators who were at risk. The House allowed no public input. If passed as written the measure was headed to court wasting taxpayer dollors. After public outcry and packed hearings, the measure was made less extreme and less obviously racial in the Senate committee, but it still favored the GOP. In fact, the Senate committee apologized to minority voters and the Democratic representatives affected by the measure who were not consulted. On the schedule for Sine Die, the public rallied and watched all day. Rumor has it the measure was not called because of the public opposition.
  • HB51/SB71 Campus Rape bill: This bill, championed by Rep. Earl Ehrhart, stripped sexual assault survivors of protections and recourse, was defeated in Senate committee on March 27. On March 28, Rep. Ehrhart gutted SB71, a bankruptcy bill, and pushed it back into Senate and House committees. The Senate, however, stalled forming their committee, and SB71 did not come up for a vote before final adjournment. The students and others who opposed this bill were awesome. Rep Ehrhart's behavior, which included telling a hearing full of sexual assault survivors to "go trigger somewhere else," was disgraceful. We need to watch for this bill next year. Rep. Ehrhart says he will try again.
  • HB257: A religious liberty mandate was slipped into this bill by the Senate on March 28. It never came to a vote.
  • HB65 Medical Marijuana Bill: This measure will expand the list of illnesses and conditions eligible for treatment with marijuana to include AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, HIV, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. The bill also allows people who have registration cards from other states that allow cannabis oil to possess the oil here. 
  • HB217 Private Schools Bill: This measure would have raised Georgia’s tax credit for private school scholarships from $58 million to $100 million over the next 10 years. That’s $42 million dollars that could be invested in things like need-based financial aid, child care, and services at high-poverty schools. Public dollars should go toward our already underfunded public schools, not expensive scholarships for private school tuition. The measure passed the House but failed the Senate. Your calls made a difference.

Where work still remains

Can still be vetoed by the governor so call and email: 404-656-1776 or gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form

  • HB280 Campus Carry: On Sine Die, after House passage and conference committees, it ultimately passed the final Senate after midnight and does include some of Gov. Deal's required amendments. This bill endangers the lives of students, faculty and staff at our state universities and colleges. It does not afford enough exemptions. Guns with alcohol and developing brains have no place on college campuses. We must keep pressure on Gov. Deal to do the right thing and veto the measure. He has until May 9.
  • HB159/SB130 The Adoption Bill: This measure was designed to modernize/improve the adoption code with bipartisan support in the Senate a poison pill (anti LGBTQ amendment) was addded, which refused to change it back when the measure was returned to it. The House then attached an untainted version of the adoption bill to SB130 & passed it. Proponents spoke passionately in its favor in the Senate. It was recommitted as the Senate adjourned, and thus dies for the 2017 session. Georgia does not need to legislate hate or discrimination. Georgia foster care kids and families need this bill. Georgia deserves better.
  •  HB268: Voter ID Matching Bill: This measure allows the use of voter ID exact matching to federal or state records, down to the letter/hyphen/space, to determine voter eligibility, a procedure that disproportionately throws out the votes of minorities. A section of the bill undermines the outcome of a Federal Voting Rights lawsuit against Secretary of State Brian Kemp, requiring the end of this practice in Georgia. This bill is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Call and ask that it be vetoed.

Call or email your state senators, openstates.org/ga/

  • HB 273 Recess Bill: This measure would require public schools to have recess daily for grades K-5. It passed House but remains in Senate committee. We need to continue to call ask for senators to get behind this bill. Active kids are better learners.

Where we came up short despite the good fight

  • HB452 and SB1 Noncitizen felony registry/Domestic Terriosm bill: This bill, requires public reporting of all noncitizen felonies and provides identifying information. Parts of SB1, the Domestic Terrorism bill, were attached, eventually with the state-level Department of Homeland Security and anti-protest language largely removed. This measure is discriminatory and will be expensive but it's popular with Trump supporters. It may be signed by Gov Deal.
  • HB37 Sanctuary Campuses: This bill punishes universities for enacting sanctuary policies by withholding funding (including scholarship money). Passed. This unnecessary bill is in line with the Trump Administration anti-immigration efforts.
  • SB160 Back the Badge: This measure originally contained a section increasing criminal penalties for obstruction of sidewalks, roads, etc., that targeted protesters. It was removed after public pressure. Subsequent attempts to add back parts of the obstruction section were defeated.
  • HB338 School Takeover Bill: Gov. Deal’s school takeover would silence parents and teachers by gutting local control and handling over power to unelected, unaccountable political appointees and out-of-state, for-profit corporations. The final version of the bill limits Gov. Deal’s control and will likely shorten the list of potential takeover schools by half but that doesn’t mean it is a good bill.

For a full recap of the bills in the 2017 Georgia Legislature, visit legislativenavigator.myajc.com/#bills