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GA Legislative Watch 2024 | Week Four


GA Legislative Watch

By Molly Mcloughlin & Rebecca Wallace ● Feb 02, 2024
Smart Brevity™ count: 4 mins…1,097 words

There goes legislative days 11-14. Session will be canceled Monday and made up on Friday, Feb 16. See the schedule.

Situational awareness: The free Monday allows lawmakers to attend the funeral of long time, Columbus-area lawmaker and House Rules Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus). Condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.1 big thing: Social media crackdown

1 big thing: Social media crackdown

A rare, unifying issue has emerged: cracking down on the harms of social media, and 2024 could be the year that lawmakers at all levels of government finally come to an agreement on regulation.

“A product that’s killing people.” In a packed U.S. Senate hearing this week, chief execs from Meta, X, Snapchat, and TikTok answered emotionally and politically charged questions about their lack of transparency on cyber bullying, drug sales, and foreign interference on their platforms.

“Until these people can be sued for the damage they’re doing, it is all talk,” summed up Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Zoom out: State legislatures across the country – including Georgia’s – are introducing a variety of bills aiming to protect children from the harmful effects of social media.

  • SB 351, which is backed by the Lt. Gov., would update cyberbullying definitions, require that kids get permission from their parents before they can log on to social media, and restrict platforms’ ability to collect information from and advertise to users under 16.
  • In a similar vein, HB 986 would attempt to define AI and criminalize posting deep fakes on the internet to interfere with elections.

Yes, but: Should Congress or states lead the effort?

🥊 Big picture: Technology companies have dedicated $ billions to this fight, and lawmakers may need to finally step up to the ring.

2. Notable legislation

Pulse check. The Senate passed SB 386 35-15 to legalize sports betting but with a significant change to its original form – requiring a constitutional amendment (a.k.a. ask the voters).
  • What’s next. The new version is headed to the House where its fate is unknown.

A controversial Cobb County school board map was approved by Gov. Kemp, and now it’s headed to the U.S. District Court for review – to the same judge who ruled that the previous map was gerrymandered.

  • According to Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna), the problem is not just the map, but how it made its way to the governor.

“Because we are a majority Democratic delegation in a majority Republican General Assembly, precedent was discarded.” she said.

Reversing overdosing. HB 1035 would protect pharmacists from criminal liability for filling vending machines that will dispense opioid-related overdose reversal drugs, such as naloxone.

  • It was passed unanimously by the House Public Health Committee.

🗳 Ensuring it’s official. Ballots could be printed with a watermark for this year’s presidential election under HB 976, which passed out of the House.

  • Adding official watermarks to ballots will come with a one-time cost of $110K.

What they’re saying: “It’s a lot of upside for a very low cost and a lot of bang for the buck,” said Gabriel Sterling, COO for the SOS.

The union stops here. The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee passed SB 362 to keep new businesses from receiving state incentives if they don’t allow employees to vote via secret ballot to decide whether they want union representation.

  • It’s backed by Gov. Kemp and wouldn’t change anything for unions already in Georgia.

💰Judges’ pay overhaul. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved HB 947 allowing for raises for state judges from $27K to nearly $60K.

  • Raises would have to be approved by the General Assembly in a separate budget bill.
  • Why it matters: Low salaries for members of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Superior Courts make it hard to compete with big law firms and fill vacancies.

3. In other political news

Welcome home. The City of Atlanta announced a new affordable housing permitting process called “Welcome H.O.M.E.” (Housing Opportunity Moves for Everyone).

  • It will launch during “Affordable Housing Week” – Feb. 12-16 – with information sessions, permit issuance for eligible applications, and pre-scheduled consultations for existing applications or potential projects.
  • Residential and multi-family additions and demolitions, plus site work that meets certain criteria will be reviewed.
  • The bottom line: “This … will allow us to move forward critical affordable housing developments addressing Atlanta’s affordable housing demand,” said City Planning Commissioner Jahnee Prince.
  • Go deeper.

💰 HUD increasing funding for the unhoused. Georgia agencies that work to house the homeless will get an additional 16% over last year which was announced with a visit to Savannah from HUD Sec. Marcia Fudge.

  • The state will receive $58.2M for housing and supportive services, the largest amount ever to go to the federal Continuum of Care Program.

🎬 “I’ve seen the good that film tax credits have done here,” said former Gov. Nathan Deal in an opinion piece in the AJC asserting his stance on the incentives, pointing out:

  • More than 15K Georgia businesses support our film industry, ranging from electricians and construction workers to caterers and truck drivers amounting in tens of thousands of jobs.
  • Why it’s important: After recently evaluating the program, some lawmakers are ready to yell “cut” on film and TV tax incentives.

🏥 There’s $1.2B sitting there, reminded U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock during his first official visit to the state Capitol, referring to funds available in the American Rescue Plan Act for expanded Medicaid coverage.

Movement on the Child Tax Credit. The U.S. House voted 357-70 to pass a $78B tax package called the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024.

  • It would increase the child tax credit and includes new low-income housing tax credits.
  • Its fate is unknown in the Senate, but if it passes, the credits will be in effect through 2025 when previous Republican tax cuts expire.

4. Election Countdown

5. What’s next?

President Joe Biden is up to his first primary in South Carolina this weekend, where he solidified his candidacy four years ago.
  • The big picture: He’s expected to secure an easy victory, but who turns out will uncover key insights for the remainder of the race. Survey says

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