Georgia lawmakers face final day rush on gambling, immigration,

Georgia lawmakers are preparing for a last-minute legislative battle as the 2024 session enters its final day. According to WABE, Capitol staff are preparing for a long night on Thursday and expect debates to drag on until the traditional paper throwing at midnight. The upcoming primaries add urgency as lawmakers eye re-election bids and deal not only with party divisions but also tensions between the House and Senate.

Among the measures still up for debate is the contentious issue of online sports betting, a proposal mired in conflict between lawmakers and religious groups opposed to gambling. The bills in question, SB 386 and SR 579, are still awaiting a vote in the House and could require a Senate nod given recent changes. Meanwhile, immigration legislation is on the radar after Republicans made an urgent push following a high-profile murder case involving an undocumented immigrant. The House is expected to give final approval to HB 1105, which would require local government coordination with federal immigration authorities.

Election laws are also under scrutiny, and several bills require approval from the House or Senate. These include measures to adapt voting booths on election day and rules for access for election observers. A notable bill, HB 986, that would criminalize the publication of “deep fake” media by political entities before an election is still awaiting Senate passage. As the primaries approach, close races reinforce the importance of these election-related laws, with each party advancing their respective agendas.

The “culture wars” continue to play an important role in the final legislative process as the future of LGBTQ youth and education bills remains uncertain. SB 1170, which targets puberty blockers for minors, and HB 1104, which places restrictions on sex education and transgender students' participation in school sports, are particularly polarizing and could have lasting impacts on Georgia's political landscape. And on the environmental front, the proposed titanium mine near the Okefenokee Swamp faces potential obstacles as lawmakers have proposed a three-year construction moratorium via SB 132, although some critics argue the bill doesn't go far enough.

Finally, lawmakers are also grappling with economic considerations, with several key tax credit proposals pending. These include HB 1019 and HB 1021, which seek to increase the homestead tax exemption and child tax credit, respectively. Not to be overlooked is SB 429, a bill to streamline compensation for the wrongfully convicted, which is still awaiting a green light from the Senate after passing in the House.