Sine Die 2020: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sine Die 2020: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sine Die FINALLY happened on Friday, and wow do we have doozy of a summary to tell you!

First, the good news:

The General Assembly has passed, and Brian Kemp has signed, HB 426, Georgia’s first hate crimes law in 16 years. Georgia will now join the 46 other states which have hate crimes laws, and this bill also includes “sex, sexual orientation [and] gender”. The bill will also mandate data collection on hate crimes. 

We are disappointed that it took 16 years and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery for Republicans to finally take some sort of action, and we thank the Georgia NAACP, ADL Southeast and Georgia Equality for fighting for this bill. 

Other good bills passed with Democratic support:

  • HB 1114, which extends Medicaid eligibility to pregnant mothers-to-be from 60 days to 6 months postpartum.
  • SB 408: allows workers to continue to use earned sick days to care for immediate families; allows the Georgia Department of Labor to increase weeks for UI to 26 weeks when unemployment is high, increase the earnings disregard for UI benefits to 300$/week, and enact a work-sharing program
  • HR 1023: a proposed constitutional amendment to allow residents to sue state and local government over illegal acts
  • HB 987: High training and safety requirements for assisted living and personal care homes, as well as increased fines for abuse and neglect
  • HB 823: let trafficking victims get crimes expunged from their records and to revoke commercial driver’s licenses for those convicted of human trafficking
  • SB 367: bill will cut four of eight standardized exams in high school and one exam in middle school.
  • HB 888: require insurers in many cases to pay for care by a doctor or at a hospital not within their network of providers, and also would limit patient liability for costs.
  • HB 879: will legalize liquor home delivery
  • HB 105: 50-cent-per-ride tax on ride-hailing services, taxis and limousines
  • SB 288, which will expand restriction and sealing of non-violent convictions for those who have been pardoned

Fortunately, a bunch of other bad bills died before they got to the governor’s desk:

  • a bill which would have again cut Georgia’s top income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.5%
  • HB 994, an “anti-gang” bill which would have further criminalized younger people
  • a so-called “right to farm” bill which would have made it harder for neighbors to sue farming operations for problems like offensive smells or runoff from animal waste

And now for the bad and ugly news:

Because they’re a rotten, cowardly bunch, the Republican majority in the General Assembly pushed several bad bills to the governor’s desk:

  • HB 444, which caps the number of college courses that the state would pay for high school students to take at 30 hours of college credit
  • SB 838, which would classify first responders, including police, as a protected class with increased immunity from legal prosecution but with greater powers to sue those accused of “bias motivated intimidation when such person maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate, harass, or terrorize another person because of that person’s actual or perceived employment as a first responder.”
  • SB 402drafted by our own Senator Randy Robertson (and supported by our own Representative Richard Smith) on behalf of the cash bail industryeliminates signature bonds and mandates cash bail for several offenses, meaning that more people will be held in jail longer for lack of money rather than evidence of guilt
  • HB 793, the budget bill which contains $1 billion in cuts to K-12 (while leaving subsidies for private schools untouched), massive cuts to mental health, behavioral health, and social services, no Medicaid expansion, and still $127M to private prisons.
  • SB 359, which would give immunity to employers from employees regarding Covid 19 that they can not sue because of it

The Appellate Division portion of the budget bill was removed, but the threat compelled the GPDC to eliminate the Appellate Division and fire its public defenders, placing the lives of countless Georgians at risk. 

But worse, there were several Democrat-supported bills in this session which did not make it to the governor’s desk:

  • repeals of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law and stand-your-ground law and to require changes to policing
  • Plans to give teachers additional pay raises of up to $2,000
  • plans to give paid parental leave to 250,000 state employees and teachers
  • increases of Georgia’s cigarette taxes
  • SB 423, which would have raised criminal penalties for members of fraternities, sororities and other college student groups that engage in hazing and require colleges to publicly report on hazing investigations twice a year
  • a constitutional amendment which would have allowed voters to decide a constitutional amendment on legalizing casinos and horse racing
  • HB 636, which would have created a police use-of-force database to which police departments would have been required to contribute reports

All of these developments in this tumultuous session, every bad bill passed by the General Assembly, and especially Randy Robertson and both Richard and Vance Smith, every missed opportunity for justice under law, and every misstep taken by the Secretary of State’s office regarding the voting machines in the June 9 primary, should motivate us to vote harder and prepare to take our state and our country back!

And if you want to voice your displeasure at the bad bills passed with the help of our county’s Republican delegation, here’s where you can let them know:

  • Richard Smith – richard.smith@house.ga.gov, Office Phone: 404.656.5141, Mailing address: PO Box 2122, Columbus, GA 31902
  • Vance Smith – vance.smith@house.ga.gov, Office Phone: 404.656.0254, Mailing address: P.O. Box 171, Pine Mountain, GA 31822
  • Randy Robertson – Email: randy.robertson@senate.ga.gov, Office Phone: (404) 463-3931, Mailing address: P.O. Box 62, Cataula, GA 31804

And, of course, please support Carl Sprayberry for State House District 134!

Harry is the webmaster for the MCDP.

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