It’s always good to look back on advocacy from the legislative session to see if we are making an impact.
Final disposition of bills taken up in the 2019/2020 Georgia legislature that were on Lynn’s List:
Protection of the Environment
SB 123 - increases landfill fee for disposing of coal ash in GA; this discourages shipping coal ash into Georgia from other states; our rate had previously incentivized dumping; GW SUPPORTED AND IT PASSED!
HB 756/SB297 - requires coal ash be disposed of in lined ponds; GW SUPPORTED, BUT IT DID NOT PASS
HB 93 - requires public notice when dewatering coal ash ponds; GW SUPPORTED, BUT IT DID NOT PASS
HB 929 - codifies some practices in existing federal and state regulations that call for long-term monitoring of groundwater around closed coal ash ponds. This bill never got traction. GW SUPPORTED, BUT IT DID NOT PASS
HB 545 - “Right to Farm” Bill makes it more difficult to sue big agriculture for sludge, pollutants, or offensive smells; GW OPPOSED AND IT DID NOT PASS!
HR 164 - Allows for a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall that will allow the General Assembly to require government collected fees - like the $1/scrap tire fee - be used for their stated purpose. GW SUPPORTED AND IT PASSED! The ballot question will read: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended?"
Protection of Civil Liberties
House Bill 426, provides enhanced sentencing penalties for hate crimes against “victim's or group of victims' actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability;” This is the first law in Georgia to include sexual orientation and gender identity! GW SUPPORTED; IT PASSED AND HAS ALREADY BEEN SIGNED BY GOVERNOR!
SB 288 - allows restriction and sealing of certain convictions (sometimes called expungement) allowing Georgians a second chance for employment, housing and more. (The House version of this bill was HB528.) GW SUPPORTED AND IT PASSED!
SB 368 - gives adoption agencies, including taxpayer funded ones, the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBTQ youth. GW OPPOSED AND IT DID NOT PASS!
HB 915 - also known as the Georgia Anti-Sanctuary Act; GW OPPOSED AND IT DID NOT PASS!
HB 994 - the anti-gang initiative, opens the death penalty further and requires teens to be tried in Superior Court if charges are gang related; GW OPPOSED AND IT DID NOT PASS!
HB 1060 - makes it a felony for medical professionals to help a minor with gender transition; GW OPPOSED AND IT DID NOT PASS!
HB 896 - allows in-state tuition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients; GW SUPPORTED, BUT IT DID NOT PASS
Fair and Representative Elections
SB 463 - moves much of the responsibility for elections from the SOS office to local counties without necessary funding to complete the state mandates. A last minute amendment prohibited the Secretary of State and county elections officials from sending out absentee applications without a specific request for one. GW OPPOSED AND IT DID NOT PASS!
SB 52 and HB 369 - creates an independent redistricting commission of five Republicans, 5 Democrats and 4 Independents with transparent proceedings and input from the public as they draw district lines; GW SUPPORTED, BUT NEITHER PASSED
Access to Affordable Healthcare
HB 1114 - Republican sponsored bill, increases the length of time for postpartum care from 2 months to 6 months; PASSED. Interestingly, HB 693, a Democrat sponsored bill increasing the length of time Medicaid covers postpartum from 2 mo to 1 yr; DID NOT PASS. GW SUPPORTED BOTH OF THESE BILLS AT DIFFERENT TIMES IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
Georgia Women also spoke out on several budgetary items with mixed results.
Although we advocated for an increase as a way to generate more income and decrease cuts to needed programs and services, there will NOT be an increase in the tobacco tax, BUT, for the first time, e-cigarettes and associated products will be subject to a 7% tax.
Georgia will begin collecting tax on online purchases in an effort to increase revenues.
In one of the biggest blows this year, budget cuts in 2020 result in only $300,000 of the $1M allocated for students at schools remaining in the state budget. The Department of Public Health line item was ZEROED, meaning the entire $500k allocation was eliminated. An 11% cut was asked of all departments. What happened was an 80% cut to funding for period poverty in Georgia! This is especially egregious in that the amount of funding was so small related to other items in the state budget -- only 0.002% of the budget! The near elimination of this funding did VERY LITTLE to help the budget crisis, but disproportionately, primarily hurts young women at a time when research shows, women are bearing the greatest financial hardships resulting from the pandemic.
NOW...ONE VERY IMPORTANT ACTION ITEM!!!
Our advocacy list is VERY short but the one item is urgent and vital! EVERY ONE NEEDS TO CALL AND EMAIL THE GOVERNOR!
All bills passing out of the legislature, require a signature by the Governor in order to become law. The Governor has forty days to sign legislation.
When the Hate Crimes Bill was debated -- and struggling to get passage -- political deal making resulted in a new section being added to existing bill HB 838. The new section, #5, mandates penalties for crimes targeting police and other first responders.
The law is unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous.
The law is ambiguous, because it gives the officer a cause of action against any “person, group of persons, organization, or corporation, or the head of an organization corporation” for “damages . . . suffered during the officer’s performance of official duties” without any requirement that the officer prove that the person or entity being sued caused the damages, or acted wrongfully when causing the damages.
The law is flawed because it gives peace officers a cause of action if the officer’s “civil rights” have been violated. The law does not define “civil rights.” If the law is simply referencing civil rights that already exist by virtue of other statutes, the law is superfluous and unneeded. If the use of “civil rights” means that new civil rights are being created, the law is vague, because it does not define what constitutes a civil right and what conduct could subject an individual or entity to liability.
The provision establishing a cause of action for filing a “false” complaint, unconstitutionally infringes one’s constitutional right to speak out on a matter of public importance. As written, the statute authorizes a cause of action if any portion of a complaint may be false, even if the majority of the complaint was factually correct.
Contact Governor Brian Kemp with the suggested script:
My name is ----- and I am from -----.
VETO HB 838!!!
At a time when the majority of the voting public is demanding greater accountability for law enforcement, HB838 gives more power to suppress the voices for reform. The law gives vague rights to peace officers. In contrast, peace officers continue to be shielded from responsibility for their own misconduct by qualified immunity. The law is vague, ambiguous and instead of protecting “civil rights” for officers, impinges on civil rights of the public.
Governor Brian Kemp (404) 656-1776
To email Governor Kemp, go to the constituent services tab on his website. https://gov.georgia.gov/contact-us
Don’t forget to complete the 2020 census!!!
For the first time, you can complete the census online at https://my2020census.gov/
If you prefer, call 844-330-2020.
The link to your legislators is here
There are 18 weeks until the November 2020 election.
Make sure you stay safe.
Due to the holiday weekend, there will be no Lynn’s List next Monday, July 6, 2020.