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GA Legislative Watch 2024 | Week Nine


GA Legislative Watch

By Molly Mcloughlin & Rebecca Wallace ● March 9, 2024
Smart Brevity™ count: 4.5 mins…1,222 words

🐌 Slow rollin’ this week coming off of Crossover Day.

Legislative days 33-35 are next week with a Committee Work Day on Tuesday. See the schedule here.

🤔 Situational awareness: The ousted New York Congressman George Santos revealed a curious address for his campaign HQ as he registered to get his seat back — Alpharetta.

1 big thing: Changing of the guard

🗳 With longtime lawmakers retiring, new districts at play and surprising primaries popping up, qualifying week brought the buzz. What will the primaries look like?

  • 92 out of 180 House races will be contested with 23 Republican and 26 Democratic primaries.
  • 22 of the 56 Senate races will be contested with 8 Republican and 11 Democratic primaries.
  • Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) will face a primary challenger in addition to enduring a more competitive general election in a redrawn district.
  • Reps. Saira Draper (D-Atlanta) and Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) will duke it out as a result of their districts being combined.
  • Sens. Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta), Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), and Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) will fight to hold their seats against Democratic challengers.
  • Rep. Meisha Mainor (R-Atlanta) won’t face any Republican opposition in the primary but 5 Democrats are running for the right to face her in the general election.

🎩 Several former state reps are throwing their hats back in the ring.

  • Dee Dawkins-Haigler will challenge Rep. Angela Moore (R-Stonecrest).
  • Nadine Thomas will challenge Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta).
  • Randall Mangham will run to replace Sen. Gloria Butler. (D-Stone Mountain).

Fulton DA Fani Willis drew a Republican opponent and a repeat Democrat challenger.

And at the federal level:

  • Rep. Lucy McBath will face state Rep. Mandisha Thomas (D-South Fulton) and Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson in a primary for the newly drawn 6th Congressional District.
  • Rep. David Scott will face 6 primary opponents in a significantly reshaped 13th.
  • Rep. Drew Ferguson’s departure from the 3rd Congressional District has drawn a 7-candidate field and the latest addition, longtime Trump aide Brian Jack, is sure to muddy the waters even further.

❌ Who won’t be having elections? The Public Service Commission, as court battles continue over whether the PSC’s electoral map dilutes Black voting power in violation of federal law.

  • The SOS confirmed the election is indefinitely delayed.

2. Notable legislation

💰 Taking care of state employees. The House passed a record spending plan with the FY25 budget, continuing to address state employee recruitment and retention with pay increases:

  • $2,500 for teachers
  • $3,000 for state law enforcement – in addition to the $6K approved last session
  • $3,000 for DFACS child protection and placement services caseworkers
  • $13K for assistant district attorneys
  • 4% for all others, up to about the first $70K

…But not DAs. The House passed SB 332, enabling the new district attorney oversight panel to get started by removing the need for the state Supreme Court to sign off on the commission’s rules.

“Once this bill is passed, that commission will be able to get to its real work — bringing accountability to those rogue prosecuting attorneys who abuse their office, sexually harass their employees and do not show up for work,” said its sponsor, Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Acworth).

Enforcing the sanctuary cities ban. HB 301, which passed the House last year and originally tightened punishments for passing school buses, now tightens punishments for municipalities after passing out of the Senate Public Safety committee.

  • It allows any Georgia resident to ask a judge to determine if any municipality is in violation of the state sanctuary city laws,
  • and if the judge agrees, all state and state-administered federal funding – except money for emergencies and health services – will be withheld until they repeal said policies.
  • Go deeper.

💻 If you’re a data center and you want a tax break, you better locate before June 30.

  • The Senate Finance Committee passed HB 1192 giving data centers until then to apply for the sales tax exemption.
  • Then the program will go on pause until June 30, 2026 to provide time to study the issue further.

Protecting Georgia’s Children on Social Media Act, SB 351, passed out of a House Education Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Scott Hilton who sponsored a similar bill that didn’t make it out of his chamber. Several amendments are expected to be negotiated when it gets to the full committee.

Keeping kids in school. SB 169 was resurrected from last session and quickly passed out of another House Education Subcommittee.

  • ⌛ It revises the Public School Disciplinary Tribunal Act to require timely disciplinary hearings and provide course materials to the expelled students waiting for them to be scheduled.

3. Other political news

🔁 Let the campaigning (really) begin. With Super Tuesday behind us, President Biden launched his re-election campaign with his State of the Union address and a planned visit to Georgia Saturday.

  • His opponent, former President Trump, will be here as well.
  • (In case anyone was wondering if Georgia is a swing state.)

Wait, Congress passed something. President Biden is set to sign a broadly bipartisan $468B spending package.

  • It covers past spending for this fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.
  • Lawmakers have until March 22 to pass another six spending bills and avert another partial shutdown.

🚘 Let’s recharge later. EV automaker Rivian has “paused” its plans to build a $5B vehicle and battery plant east of Atlanta.

  • A major incentive package was offered by the state in exchange for a commitment of 7,500 jobs.
  • It was poised to be Georgia’s largest ever economic development project and stood as one of Gov. Kemp’s top wins.
  • The company is citing supply chain issues and manufacturing challenges overall as the reason for the pause.
  • What they’re saying: According to the CEO, the company needs prep time in Illinois to get two new models ready to launch in Georgia in 2026.
  • The other side:

“It is disappointing news to hear Rivian is wavering on its commitments to the local community and the entire state of Georgia,” Lt. Gov. Jones told the AJC. “Nonetheless, we now have a great mega site available to offer a willing, interested, and trusted future partner.”

🙅‍♂ Nope, not us. The Fulton County Board of Ethics decided it doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear two complaints filed against DA Fani Willis because she is a state constitutional officer.

  • Yes, but: A State Senate special investigation panel questioned a Trump co-defendant’s defense attorney under oath: three hours taken up by the Rs compared to 30 minutes by the Ds.
  • The committee can recommend changes to state law based on their findings, but like the county ethics board, has no jurisdiction over Willis or the election interference case.

4. Riding off into the sunset

👏 To all those who are parting ways with the General Assembly, thank you for your service!

5. What’s next

📝 It’ll be a packed week of committee hearings as the 2023-2024 General Assembly wraps up their business in the next three weeks.

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