APN Capitol Journal: 2016, Week Four

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week 4(APN) ATLANTA — This installment of Capitol Journal covers Week Four of the 2016 year of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

 

Legislative Session Day 13 (Monday, Feb. 01, 2016)

 

HB 768, ABLE, which creates special savings accounts for persons with disabilities, passed by substitute out of subcommittee.  The bill was stripped of provisions giving these savings accounts tax exempt status, similar to a college savings plan.

 

Spaceports had a hearing! http://onlineathens.com/mobile/2016-02-01/georgia-spaceport-bill-hits-turbulence

 

Legislation to expand MARTA introduced, SB 313 http://macpolicy.com/2016/02/legislation-to-expand-marta-has-been-dropped-in-the-georgia-senate/

 

Legislative Session Day 14 (Tuesday, Feb. 02, 2016)

 

Three back-to-back press conferences were held on the various pieces of religious freedom legislation, including RFRA.

 

Georgia Baptists testified that Christians are, indeed, discriminated against, but also that they love everybody and this is not about refusing services to LGBTQI people.

 

Many people in attendance had a copy of this delightful guide, provided by the Georgia Baptists, “Protecting your ministry from sexual orientation and gender identity lawsuits.”

 

https://gabaptist.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ERLC-protecting-your-ministry-legal-guide1.pdf

 

An interfaith group spoke against RFRA, as did the Georgia Republicans for the Future people:

 

http://georgiarepublicansforthefuture.org/

 

www.projectq.us/atlanta/fight_over_anti_gay_bills_heats_up_at_capitol?gid=17558

 

SB 278 passed out of Senate Judiciary non-civil committee and went to Rules.  This bill increases penalties for pimping and pandering, and is part of the bipartisan supported anti-trafficking agenda.  Unfortunately, these bills also tend to come with strong anti-sex work mentalities.

 

SB 311, anti-environmental regulations couched as freedom, of course, has been introduced.

http://senatepress.net/sen-charlie-bethel-files-interstate-power-compact-legislation.html

 

HB 870, on the religious liberty of public school athletes, is moved from House Judiciary to House Education.

 

SB 193 passed Senate 51-0; this bill makes updates to family violence battery laws.

 

HB 813, allowing expedited partner therapy (important tool for controlling spread of STDs), received ‘do pass’ from House Health and Human Services committee!

 

Legislative Session Day 15 (Wednesday, Feb. 03, 2016)

 

NEW LEGISLATION

 

SB 323 “Public disclosure not required for documents related to economic development projects by any agency.”  Oh, dear… http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/SB/323

 

SB 327, legislation calling for state contractors to certify that they do not ban business with Israel, was introduced.  This is part of a national push for such legislation. www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/SB/327

 

CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULT

 

The issue of campus sexual assault got a hearing from the Joint Senate Higher Ed and Health and Human Services committee, including testimony from various university lobbyist groups and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

 

Chairwoman Renee Unterman (R-Buford) says there will likely be legislation creating some kind of oversight board, made up of legislators and the people who testified.

 

While there appears to be a genuine interest on the part of some of the legislators around this issue, there was a real inability to make sure survivors’ voices were present in the room.

 

“Maybe a better word is complainant,” instead of victim/survivor, one person testified.

 

TRANSPARENCY

 

The Senate Rules committee had a hearing on SR 683, a constitutional amendment requiring that conference committee reports be made available overnight before voting can occur.

 

When the House and Senate vote on different versions of a bill, it goes to a very not public conference committee process.  The resulting legislation, which can be substantially different, and often is, only has to be out for two hours before voting can occur during the last few days of session.

 

Heath presented the bill, and both Mullis (the Chairman of Rules) and Cowsert pushed back, citing the recently created Senate Study Committee on Legislative Process, SR 842.

 

http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/2016/01/24/sen-mckoon-seeks-more-transparency-in-legislature-with-new-bills/

 

TRAFFICKING AND SEX CRIMES

 

HB 770 also had a hearing.  It is meant to increase protections for developmentally disabled people and close a loophole around child sex trafficking.

 

It is still in State Rep. Ed Setzler’s (R-Acworth) subcommittee over concerns the language does not do what it’s intended to do.

 

Setzler’s HB 845, a law to make people are “immune from criminal liability” for having otherwise illegal pornography, including child pornography, if it is for the purpose of “reporting such violation.”  It passed out of his subcommittee.

 

IMMIGRATION/XENOPHOBIA

 

HB 781, making citizenship a requirement to serve on volunteer advisory boards, sponsored by State Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) finally got its hearing; and a substitute passed out of committee.

 

EDUCATION

 

Democrats are pushing back on the upcoming Opportunity School District referendum.

 

SR 828 has been introduced by State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), with support of House and Senate Democrats at a press conference, to change language of the constitutional amendment that will go before voters this fall.

 

Religious freedom for student athletes, HB 870, passed out of committee.  It threatens school funding for non-compliance.

 

HB 739 also passed out of committee; it makes state review of educational materials optional.

 

Legislative Session Day 16 (Thursday, Feb. 04, 2016)

 

HB 827, “Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act,” passed out of committee, with support from the GBI, advocacy groups, and hospitals.

 

HB 757, informally dubbed the Pastor Protection Act, passed out of subcommittee.  There are concerns about the scope being much broader than same-sex marriage, as language of bill includes “purposes which are objectionable”.

 

An amendment by State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), to limit the scope to marriage ceremonies, was withdrawn, with an apparent good faith promise to work on language and add it in full committee.

 

(END/2016)

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