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GA Legislative Watch 2024 | Week Twelve


GA Legislative Watch

By Molly Mcloughlin & Rebecca Wallace ● March 30, 2024
Smart Brevity™ count: 5 mins…1,331 words

🕐 The 2024 General Assembly ended just before 1am on (actually past) Sine Die.

40 days down, 40 more to go for Gov. Kemp to decide which bills to sign into law and which to veto.

  • Yes, but: If he neither signs nor vetoes a bill, it still becomes law.

😢 Big picture: It was an emotional Sine Die with lawmakers commemorating colleagues who won’t return to the Gold Dome – especially those who’ve served nearly a decade or more.

1 big thing: House vs. Senate

🏓 Playing hard ball. Election year politics came to a head on Day 40 – especially after midnight – with the House blocking almost all of the Senate’s culture war priorities and the Senate disagreeing on mostly money with the House.

  • Leadership at odds. Speaker Jon Burns ended the session simply noting, “Some folks choose politics, the House chooses results.
  • The other side: Lt. Gov. Burt Jones touted, “I’m proud of all that the Senate accomplished this session, promoting an agenda to help Georgia families, expand access to health care, support HBCUs, crack down on sanctuary policies, and protect women’s sports.”

💲The money. Although finding consensus on most of each chamber’s budget adjustments,

  • the House did not agree to the Senate’s proposal to pay teachers to carry firearms,
  • and the Senate did not agree to fund the House plan to give state judges big pay bumps.

💥 The culture wars. Despite passing out of the Senate, the House did not take up

  • transgender youth and education issues, like the break from the American Library Association;
  • a Justice Clarence Thomas monument or an “America First” license plate;
  • or the storied religious freedom measure, RFRA.

There’s more. Despite full backing from the House, the Senate did not take up

  • a popular wrongfully convicted compensation fund;
  • mining restrictions on the Okefenokee Swamp;
  • or anything about access to IVF treatment.

Why it matters: With the Speaker likely to stay put in his job, the Lt. Gov. is eyeing a 2026 run for higher office and therefore prioritized issues that appeal to the party’s base.

  • Yes and. House members have more competitive races in swing districts compared to Senate members.

✌ As for Gov. Kemp, without a pending election (yet), he kept it cool on Sine Die – thanking both chambers for getting his main priorities across the finish line and letting the House vs. Senate dynamics play out on their own.

2. What passed ✅

💵 The final rendition of the FY25 budget. Gov. Kemp made a last-minute addition to increase the state revenue estimate by $48.4M to invest more in pre-K to lower class sizes, increase teacher pay, and fund new schools.

  • State employee pay increases remain, plus more money for law enforcement, education and mental health programs.
  • $200M dedicated to school districts for transporting kids and $100M for school security upgrades.
  • More funding for Medicaid, like pay increases for some providers.

🏘 Property tax relief on the way. 

  • HB 581, caps how much home assessments can go up each year at the rate of inflation and allows local governments to use revenue from a 1-cent sales tax hike to lower property taxes.
  • HB 1019, increases the state homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000.

🗳 The highly debated elections mash-up bills received the final ok.

  • SB 189 will make it easier to challenge a voter’s eligibility, no longer count ballots with QR codes, require stricter rules for handling ballots, and make it easier for third-party candidates to get on the ballot.
  • HB 974 will allow fewer voting machines on election day, allow candidates to proof ballots, and guarantee closer access for poll watchers.

Data informed decisions. To gain a better understanding of how to address rising insurance rates with tort litigation reform, a priority of Gov. Kemp’s,

  • HB 1114 will allow the Dept. of Insurance to collect additional data from certain insurers, rating organizations, and state agencies from July 2024 to Nov. 2029.

Immigration enforcement. HB 1105 will require local law enforcement to check an inmate’s immigration status and impose financial sanctions on agencies that don’t comply with federal immigration officials.

💧 Addressing workforce needs. To prepare for the nearly 8.5K Hyundai workers moving to an under developed part of Savannah, HB 1146 will allow private water systems to service new homes without local government approval.

Preserving history and the economy. HB 496 extends the sunset on the residential historic rehabilitation tax credit from from 2027 to 2029.

📲 Protecting kids on social media. SB351 will require kids under 16 to get parental permission to create social media accounts and task local school boards with adopting and implementing social media policies to be enforced in schools.

3. What didn’t, but likely to return

⚾ A swing and a miss… again. Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) put his heart and soul into legalizing sports betting with SB386, but after passing out of the House Higher Education Committee Sine Die morning, it never made it to a floor vote.

  • The friction point was determining where the tax revenue should be dedicated, from the HOPE scholarship and HBCUs to problem gambling and pre-K.

🎞 Keep the cameras rolling. After initially posing a massive change to the state’s lucrative film tax incentive program, the proposal’s ferocity withered and wasn’t brought up for a final vote.

  • Yes, and. At the last minute, the film tax credit language was combined with a slew of other tax bills, sealing its fate for this year.

Not so low. HB 1182 aimed to limit the state’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program to a 50% federal match, which would’ve been a change from the past 20 years providing a 100% match. Viewed by some as just enforcing current immigration law and others as a “lawsuit bill”,

  • HB 301, would’ve allowed any residents in the state to sue a local government if they’re believed to be violating the state’s ban on sanctuary city policies.

⚖ Stand down. The proposal that put the business and legal community at odds, HB 1371 – dealing with a property owners’ liability for third party crimes that occur on their property – failed to be taken up in either chamber after significant changes passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee.

HBCU economic development districts failed to receive a committee vote in the final House Higher Education Committee after passing the Senate with the backing of the Lt. Gov.

🎶 We thought you’d ask. No, HB 1048 didn’t pass, so cornbread will not be designated the state bread and a statewide music office won’t be created just yet.

4. See you in the off season!

🔬 These study committees and more are now tasked with providing recommendations to be considered during the 2025-26 General Assembly. (But remember some study committees could be left on the table if they don’t receive the necessary funding.)

  • With the passage of certificate of need reform, HB 1339, a “Comprehensive Health Coverage” study commission will review access to health care for low-income and uninsured people.
  • HR 1135 will bring the business and financial industries together to study the ins-and-outs of credit card swipe fees
  • SR37 will study property owners’, homeowners’, and condominium associations to assess their needs, conditions, and problems.
  • SR476 will gather academic, legal and business experts to investigate the concerns and usage of artificial intelligence.

5. What’s next

💰 Campaign fundraising will commence as elections come front and center.

  • All 56 Senate and 180 House seats are on the ballot in November and primary elections in less than 2 months.

What we’ll be watching. Who will take the mantle from departing minority leaders, Sen. Gloria Butler and Rep. James Beverly.

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