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GA Legislative Watch 2024 | Week Three


GA Legislative Watch

By Molly Mcloughlin & Rebecca Wallace ● Jan 26, 2024
Smart Brevity™ count: 4 mins…896 words

10 legislative days down, 30 more to go. See the legislative calendar here.

✍🏽 Antisemitism bill passes. The highly debated bill to define antisemitism in state law so it can be prosecuted as a hate crime is the first bill this session to head to the Gov.’s desk for his signature.

1 big thing: Sports betting out of the gate

A bipartisan coalition of Senators – including its Minority Leader and one of Gov. Kemp’s floor leaders – introduced a bill to allow sports betting.

  • SB 386 is co-sponsored by Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain) and Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia).
  • It’s also backed by Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and some of Atlanta’s professional sports teams.

It doesn’t hurt that the bill directs betting proceeds to the HOPE college scholarship, pre-k, and needs-based student aid as part of the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

  • Just last year, legislators approved for the popular HOPE to cover 100% of recipients’ tuition (previously it paid up to 90% on average).
  • What they’re saying: the state could gain from $30M to $100M in revenue from sports betting.

2. Notable legislation

💲 A plan to ramp up tax cuts and deductions was introduced by House leadership. It will:

  • raise the state income tax deduction for children from $3K to $4K a year; and
  • double the standard state homestead exemption on property from $2K to $4K a year.
  • Big picture: House staffers say these two provisions would save Georgians about $250M a year.
  • The plan also makes deposits into the state’s “rainy day” fund limitless, removing the current 15% cap on the amount of the prior year’s reserves that can go into the fund.
  • The other side: Budget analysts say that the plan will cost $349M annually and impact higher income households most. They say middle class Georgians will barely feel the impact.
  • Go deeper.

“This is the intersection of free speech and election integrity,” said Rep. Brad Thomas (R-Holly Springs), sponsor of HB 986.

  • The bill attempts to define AI and criminalize established election interference with a deep fake.
  • To begin the larger conversation, the House Technology and Innovation and Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing to discuss a potential framework for regulating AI.
  • What’s next: This is the first step in a long and complicated effort for the government to wrap its head around AI’s monumental impact on our future.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a pharmacist and former state lawmaker, swung by the Gold Dome to voice his support for HB 343, a measure that would require pharmacy benefit managers to share at least half of their negotiated discounts with consumers.

  • Yes, but: After passing in the House, the bill was voted down again in a Senate committee despite the support of the GOP Congressman.
  • “Come on guys,” said Rep. Carter, pointing out that these companies are and should be making money, but aren’t putting any into R&D, let alone sharing significant cost savings with consumers.

Enabling prosecuting attorney oversight. The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee approved HB 881, removing the Georgia Supreme Court from reviewing the rules for the new Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission.

  • Since the commission was created, the court has not looked at the rules for the investigatory and hearing panels, stalling the commission’s ability to review complaints.
  • Taking the court out of the picture will mean the Republican-appointed commission may move forward with punishing and even removing local prosecutors across the state.

Coming after Raffensperger. A Senate committee passed SB 358 allowing the State Elections Board to investigate the Secretary of State, and removing him from the Board.

3. Leadership changes

The Atlanta Housing Board of Commissioners unanimously appointed Terri Lee as its new president and CEO.

Georgia’s longest-serving Latino legislator, Rep. Pedro Marin, has announced he’s retiring.

4. In other political news

💰 Holiday spending. The U.S. economy grew in the last quarter of 2023 at an unexpected 3.3% rate, showing that Americans are continuing to spend despite the continued high cost of goods and services.

  • It was the sixth straight quarter in which the GDP grew at an annual pace of 2% or more.

“She didn’t win,” former president Trump reiterated during his victory speech when the New Hampshire primary was called in his favor.

  • Though she lost by 11 percentage points, contender Nikki Haley gave a positive, upbeat speech of her own, claiming she’s staying in to compete next in her home state of South Carolina.
  • Even still, many Republican holdouts quickly fell in line behind Trump.
  • Georgia House Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Rome) and Mike Collins (R-Jackson) both headed to SC to stump for Trump.

From wood to jet fuel. The U.S. Dept. of Energy has granted $80M to AVAPCO LLC, a biofuel, biochemical and biomaterials company in Thomaston.

  • The grant is the largest in this round of DOE awards across the U.S.
  • The Georgia plant will turn wood residue into jet fuel, helping airlines and other industries reduce their carbon footprint.

5. What’s next?

Committee meetings are Monday through Thursday, legislative days 11-14.

See the legislative calendar here.

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