The Parent Press: “Sine Die” Legislative Overview

Elena Parent
State Senator Elena Parent
  Yesterday was “Sine Die,” the last day of the Legislative Session, and the last chance for a bill to pass in 2021. Although Republicans in the Legislature had already passed many of their most controversial bills – including SB 202, their anti-democratic effort to suppress the vote – Sine Die was still a long and eventful day. See below for a look at “the good, the bad and the ugly” of what happened!Sine Die:

Recap & Review!Bills that PassedThese bills passed both chambers & will become law if the Governor signs themHouse

Bill 479Citizen’s Arrest RepealThe Senate passed HB 479 on a 51-1 vote earlier this week. On Wednesday, the overhaul of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law was passed unanimously by the House, which sent the repeal of the 1863 law to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. Georgia becomes the first state in the country to remove this antiquated provision from our laws.

House Bill 81Fiscal Year 2021-22 BudgetThe $27.2 billion budget will fund state operations, beginning on July 1. Additional funds were included for schools, rural broadband, and mental health services. However, many of our priorities remain woefully underfunded, particularly considering the number of Georgians who are continuing to struggle in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.  The funds from the American Rescue Plan in Washington will help a lot this year, but have not closed all funding gaps in our state budget.  When those funds are gone, we will need to keep advocating strongly for public priorities.

House Bill 286Preventing Meaningful Police ReformHB 286 will prevent local Georgia governments from reducing police budgets by more than 5%. I strongly opposed this bill. It will prohibit and penalize local governments that, in accordance with the wishes of the people who elected them, choose to enact a meaningful and effective method of police reform. It sets a dangerous precedent, which threatens local control and local voices. Counties and cities have limited funds, and in moments of crisis, they must decide what services can and cannot be adjusted to meet the needs of the moment. Limiting the ability for local governments to enact meaningful reform to the operation of public safety is irresponsible, dangerous, and out of touch.

Senate Bill 100Permanent Daylight Savings TimeThis bill says that Georgia will observe daylight saving time year-round, if Congress authorizes it. Federal law currently prohibits states from making daylight saving time permanent.Senate Bill 47: School VouchersSB 47 was passed by the House. However, its potential for disruption was weakened by adding stronger requirements, including the requirement that a student with a Section 504 plan would have to attend public school for a year and establish a legitimate need for a section 504 plan. I am still opposed to vouchers: private school vouchers undermine our public schools by diverting desperately needed resources away from the public school system, to fund the education of the select few students whose families can afford to pay the extra costs of private schooling. However, the amended version is less easily abused, which is a positive development.

Bills that Did NOT PassThese bills didn’t pass both chambers & will NOT become law this year 

Senate Resolution 135 and Senate Bill 142Legalized Sports Betting Despite last-minute chatter that Republicans could strike a deal for the extra Democratic support the measure needed, the effort to legalize online wagers for sports will have to wait another year.

House Bill 333: Ethics & Campaign Finance CleanupHB 333 would have given state investigators more tools to make ethics cases and made clear that some uses for leftover campaign money are illegal. Because we did not pass this bill, new “leadership committees” will be able to fundraise, even during the legislative session. In order to ensure transparency, accountability and a fair process, we should have passed HB 333.

 House Bill 218: Concealed Carry Reciprocity + MoreThe proposal to loosen gun restrictions passed the Senate, with amendments, but the House did not vote to “agree” or “disagree” to the amended version, therefore it did not pass – thankfully! HB 218 would have granted universal recognition to conceal carry permits held by non-Georgia residents and prohibited government officials from suspending or restricting Second Amendment rights during declared states of emergency. The latter provision would have nonsensically limited the ability of state leaders and public health officials to protect their citizens and prevent the spread of a deadly virus, such as COVID-19. It also required auctions by local governments of illegally seized weapons (this asinine law is already on the books, but it would have strengthened its requirements). It could also have contributed to the epidemic of gun violence in our streets.

 House Bill 290: Forcing Medical Facilities to Allow Visitation During EmergenciesHB 290 would have required hospitals and nursing homes to allow visitation, even during infectious disease outbreaks. The bill does not take into consideration federal regulations as it pertains to ensuring the safety of patients. Push-back from health care providers and last-minute amendments ensured that the bill did not pass. 

Senate Bill 115: Implementing Police Interaction “Education”This bill would have given new Georgia drivers instructions about interacting with police during a traffic stop – a problematic idea, based upon the notion that it is the responsibility of citizens to ensure that police do not overreact or use excessive and sometimes fatal force, rather than the responsibility of law enforcement to behave in a responsible and just way, and face consequences when they do not. This bill failed in the Senate 23-26 – but not solely because of the police provisions. A bill regarding cameras in school zones was tacked on that generated opposition from Republicans as well. 

House Bill 289: Placing Unconstitutional Limits on ProtestsHB 289 was a dangerous bill that would have chilled speech, discouraged lawful protest, and limited the constitutional rights of Georgia citizens. (It started off as SB 171.) The bill clearly dehumanized protestors and incentivized governments and police forces to harshly crack down on protests before, during, and after, they happen. It did NOT come up for a vote in the Senate, and therefore did not pass – thankfully!

House Bill 605: Restricting the Use of Cameras to Keep Elderly People SafeThis bill would have banned residents and families from installing hidden cameras in long-term care homes. If the facility and workers were notified, and the cameras were displayed publicly, cameras would have been authorized. In recent years, hidden cameras captured instances of extreme abuse of elderly residents in long-term care homes. This bill would have placed limits on the ability of loved ones to keep their elderly relatives safe and secure by disallowing footage from use in criminal or civil proceedings. 

House Bill 334: Allowing for Remote Online NotarizationThis bill would have made permanent a pandemic-related action allowing Georgians to have documents notarized remotely. It would have helped Georgians continue to conduct their daily lives and business in a safe, remote way. 

Protecting Our Kids From Gun ViolenceOn Wednesday, I spoke to my fellow Senators and urged them to take action on SB 146, a bill I sponsored earlier this year. This simple piece of legislation, which would allow for the owner of a gun to be charged with a crime if a minor gains access to a gun that the owner failed to secure, would save countless lives, and keep our children safe.Every day, children gain access to unsecured deadly weapons, typically in their own home, and every day, children and adults alike are injured or even killed because of it. Children, as young as 2 and as old as 17, have shot their siblings, their friends, their parents, neighbors, classmates and, thousands of times, themselves. ​Watch me urge the Senate to take action on gun violence!

Nearly 3,000 children die by firearm suicide each year, and the rate of firearm suicides among young people has increased 42% over the past decade. Firearm accidents – often the result of the careless or negligent storage of firearms in a child’s home – also lead to an increasing number of fatalities and injuries each year. Last year, in Georgia alone, there were 22 firearm accidents involving children, 11 of which were fatal. Researchers estimate that if every gun owner in the nation securely locked and stored their weapons today, the number of gun-related accidental deaths and suicides among children and teenagers could, and likely would, drop by as much as a one third.If we fail to take action, unsecured firearms in the hands of children will continue to wreak havoc on families, communities and our kids. SB 146 is a concrete action we can take to stem the violence. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND THE HONOR OF REPRESENTING YOU IN THE GEORGIA SENATE!

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