The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
Thursday was Day 28 in the Georgia legislature which means bills had to pass out of their respective chambers to move on to the opposite legislative chamber to have a chance at final passage this year and the consideration of a signature by Governor Kemp. The House has already voted on more than 180 pieces of legislation and the Senate is not far behind with more than 120.
So what are the worst of the worst that came out of the House by Day 28? I break them down here.
The bills are in no particular order of importance. None of the bills are set to become law yet and must first go through the opposite legislative chamber before receiving the stamp of approval from Governor Kemp.
Hate crimes sentencing provisions – HB 426 – Chuck Efstration
This legislation permits for increases sentencing for crimes against persons in protected classes — race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability of such.” The crimes need be real or perceived in intent before they carry extended prison terms. With this measure, two people can be charged with the same crime but face two entirely different sentences, placing different burdens of proof on the defendants, one whom must only defend himself against the allegations and another who must also defend against the ‘intent.’
The passage was met with a thunderous applause of the legislature, which is the soundtrack echoed every time liberty dies.
The hospital bed tax – HB 321 – Jodi Lott
In 2017, the GA House renewed the hospital bed tax (which helps “draw down federal dollars” and sends about $1 billion to Medicaid every year) for 3 years. It was sponsored by some heavy lifters, met push back, and brought the usual principled “NO” votes.
This year, instead of renewing the tax for the usual 3 years, it’s set to be renewed for 5 years, it’s sponsored by all of the Governor’s floor leaders in the House, and Rep. Jodi Lott is calling it “the Medicaid financing bill”…instead of what it is…
The hospital bed tax.
Also, when I say ‘tax,’ I mean hospitals pay a percentage of their total revenue to help prop up the state’s Medicaid program for the poor. Remind yourselves where “hospital revenue” comes from.
Regulation of landlord-tenant relationships – HB 346 – Sharon Cooper
This bill supersedes the premise of landlord-tenant contracts and prohibits landlords from taking certain actions if the tenant files complaints against the landlord.
Hemp cultivation bill – HB 213 – John Corbett
I really wanted to be in a position to support this bill, but the overly regulatory nature of legislation not only interjects the state in the day-to-day operations of farmers and business owners, it requires growers surrender their 4th Amendment right, creates barriers to entry to protect big business, and limits the market to in-state manufacturing and production.
Reducing the number of cities subject to annual financial audits – HB 456 – Jan Tankersley
This bill allow cities with a population of 1,500 people or less & expenditures of less than $550,000 annually to be exempt from having an annual financial audit. Currently, the threshold is $300,000. This will exempt more small cities from the imperative audit process, but still allow them to get the perks of state and federal funds.
In my own experience of covering local governments, the cities with 1,500 people or less & low level expenditures are the ones that need audits THE MOST. Arguably, the any city, county or hybrid of the two that spends tax dollars on an annual basis should be subject to a financial audit – for transparency and accountability reasons.
The Dual Enrollment Overhaul – HB 444 – Bert Reeves
This legislation changes the ‘Move On When Ready Act’ to ‘Dual Enrollment Act’ adjusts the funding formula for free college for kids in high school at 30 hours before enrolling in college for a total of 157 per student in Georgia schools. It also eliminates dual enrollment for 9th grades and limits the opportunity for 10th graders.
This is actually driving up the cost of education because you’re allowing all of these high school students to attend for free. The public schools they attend are getting the FTE money for them and the college/tech school is getting the tuition coverage and we just approved more hours.
The Outdoor Stewardship Act Tweaking – HB 382 – Jon Burns
This legislation altered the terms of the constitutional amendment passed by voters in November – Amendment 1 – to change who is eligible for the grants. Local governments, nongovernmental entities and state agencies are all included, but strikes the opportunity for individuals to apply for grants. It also authorizes DNR to use 5% of the collections for admin fees.
I think it’s wrong to allow voters to approve a measure and then change the conditions after the fact.
Scooter Regulation – HB 454 – Kevin Tanner
This bill gives local governments the authority to regulate and require registration of scooters.
Tanner told Rules that ACCG & GMA approve of the legislation — of course they do, it gives them control and relieves of liability
DNA collection for those only under the First Offender Act — HB 470 – Steven Sainz
This bill adds DNA collection to those who have been charged with a felony and the sentence has been imposed under first offender status. The whole point of first offender status to KEEP PEOPLE OUT OF THE SYSTEM and give them another chance. This bill requires that DNA files must be destroyed within 30 days of the receipt of a certified copy of a: court order reversing the conviction together with a court order from the prosecuting attorney stating that the charges were dismissed; judgement of acquittal; sentencing order showing that all of the felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors; or court order showing successful completion of a sentence imposed under first offender status. DNA is also accessible by GBI while serving the sentence
This is total garbage. The first offender status is not supposed to have this kind of 4th amendment infringement.
1. The Georgia LIFE Act – HB 481 – Ed Setzler
This piece of legislation ‘terribleness’ has little to do with the policy position of abortion and everything to do with the constitutionality of it and what it will mean for our state if it is signed into law. The bill seeks to move the prohibition of abortion from the current state provision of 20 weeks to 6 weeks, but this measure is in direct conflict with the Roe. v Wade ruling which prohibits the regulation of abortion at the state level during the first trimester. SCOTUS did say second and third trimester regulation is permitted by the state for viability and personhood reasons.
Most people don’t know that Roe v. Wade did not ‘legalize abortion’ in the terms of a ‘constitutional right’ to have one in the terms we discuss it today, but rather what rights were violated when states made it a crime to obtain one.
Roe. v. Wade was a privacy-related issue which claimed state laws violated the 1st, 4th, 9th and 14th Amendments. One of the many contentions was the state’s interjection into (and criminalization of) a healthcare decision performed by a physician. SCOTUS said in the ruling back in 1973 that the justices all had different beliefs but agreed on the privacy aspect of medical decision…”with limitations.”
All of that is to say that the constitutional challenge – which will undoubtedly come – is going to cost Georgia hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, if not millions, to defend and precedent tells us that the courts will not rule in the state’s favor. Without Roe. v Wade being overturned in its entirety, the bill is unconstitutional on face value. It will cost millions.
So as not to crush your spirit and in an effort to conclude this article on a somewhat positive note, here are some less terrible things moved by the House.
The House passed:
- HB 345 to prohibit the shackling of female inmates in jails and prisons while those women are giving birth and immediately postpartum
- HB 83 to require recess every day in grads K-5
- HB 324 to allow in-state cultivation of marijuana for the purposes of manufacturing low-THC CBD oil for the 8,500 families on the GA registry
- HB 282 which requires rape kits to be kept for the duration of time the sexual assault is unsolved
- HB 311 which allows citizens to bring court cases against local and state government for constitutional concerns.
Every bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.