Georgia lawmakers pass crackdown on immigration and religious freedom protections on Crossover Day deadline – WABE

This story has been updated to FFriday, March 1, 12:05 a.m

Georgia lawmakers pushed through dozens of bills ahead of a key deadline on Thursday, the last day for legislation to be passed in either the House or Senate and sent to the other legislative chamber for consideration this year.

Lawmakers backed plans to tighten rules on how law enforcement cooperates with immigration officials and introduce government protections for religious freedoms.

Some key proposals advanced earlier, including a constitutional amendment that could allow a statewide vote on legalizing sports betting and a plan to cut the income tax. Proposals that would have limited automatic voter registration and restricted the way private schools could speak to students failed to advance.

Proposals not adopted by the end of Thursday could be revisited later this year, but it will be more difficult.

Lawmakers on Crossover Day at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 29, 2024. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

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Progressive

IMMIGRATION: House Bill 1105 would require local law enforcement agencies to apply to help federal officials enforce immigration laws and impose criminal penalties on sheriffs who do not contact federal officials to check the immigration status of detainees .

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Supporters say Senate Bill 180 would protect religious freedom from being trampled on by state and local governments, while opponents say it is a carte blanche for people and groups to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the name of religion.

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION: Senate Bill 390 prohibits state and local governments from donating money to the American Library Association. The sponsor says the group's ideology is harmful. Valdosta State University could still use private funds to maintain accreditation of its library science degree.

Film Tax Credit: House Bill 1180 would require greater use of Georgia-based employees and contractors to receive the top 30% of the income tax credit on film productions and would limit credits that may be sold to third parties to 2.5% of the state's annual budget State limit or about $900 million.

SPORTS BETTING: Georgians could get a chance to vote on a state constitutional amendment allowing sports gambling in November after the Senate passed Senate Resolution 579.

PROPERTY TAXES: Senators want to limit future increases in the taxable value of a home to 3% per year under Senate Bill 349, while House members want to increase the statewide homestead tax exemption from $2,000 to $4,000 under House Bill 1019. School districts could reduce property tax rates and still receive state aid under House Bill 987.

INCOME TAXES: A previously planned state income tax cut would be accelerated under House Bill 1015, giving the state a flat 5.39% income tax rate retroactive to Jan. 1.

Lawmakers on Crossover Day at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 29, 2024. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Senate Bill 351 would require social media companies to obtain parental permission before allowing children under 16 to create accounts. It will also ban the use of social media via school computers and the internet and introduce new anti-bullying rules.

CASH BAIL: Senate Bill 63 would require cash bail for 30 additional crimes, including some misdemeanors, and establish new rules for nonprofit bail funds. It awaits Gov. Brian Kemp's signature.

ANTISEMITISM: Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 30 in January, which defines anti-Semitism for use in hate crimes and anti-discrimination cases. Opponents warn that it is being used to censor free speech and equate criticism of Israel with hatred of the Jewish people.

GUN TAX RAISES: Senate Bill 344 would allow people to purchase guns, ammunition and gun safes without paying sales tax for five days each fall, while House Bill 971 would allow people to purchase gun safes, gun locks or take firearm safety training , would provide a $300 tax credit.

ELECTIONS: Senate Bill 358 would give the state-appointed elections board authority to investigate Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's handling of elections. Senate Bill 189 would require barcodes not to be used to count ballots, and House Bill 976 would require watermarks on ballots. Senate Bill 355 would ban ranked-choice voting in Georgia.

DISCIPLINE FOR PROSECUTORS: House Bill 881 and Senate Bill 332 would revive a commission with the authority to discipline and fire prosecutors. Democrats warn that the move is aimed at Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' prosecution of former President Donald Trump.

JUDGES' COMPENSATION: House Bill 947 would establish guidelines to increase and standardize judges' salaries.

LAWSUIT LIMITS: Senate Bill 426 would limit the ability to sue an insurance company immediately after a truck accident, while House Bill 1114 would collect data for a future push to limit lawsuits.

UNION ORGANIZATION: Companies that receive federal economic incentives would be prohibited from recognizing unions without a secret ballot under Senate Bill 362.

HEALTH CARE APPROVAL: Some additional health care expansions would be allowed without state approvals under House Bill 1339, but that bill would not go as far as the Senate's proposal to eliminate certificate of need rules.

WATER RIGHTS: House Bill 1172 would amend the law governing the use of Georgia's waterways for boating, fishing and hunting. Proponents say it strikes a balance between public use and private property rights.

Lawmakers on Crossover Day at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 29, 2024. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

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Didn't get any further

MEDICAID: House leaders had discussed expanding Medicaid to lower-income adults, but instead want to address the issue.

SEX EDUCATION: School districts could have foregone sex education and students would only have been enrolled if parents specifically opted in under Senate Bill 532. The measure would have banned all sex education in fifth grade and below.

SCHOOL LIBRARIES: Senate Bill 394 sought to restrict materials depicting sexual acts in school libraries, while Senate Bill 154 would have prosecuted K-12 librarians if they violated state obscenity laws.

GENDER IDENTITY IN SCHOOLS: Senate Bill 88 would have limited the way public and private schools could talk to students about gender identity.

Lawmakers on Crossover Day at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 29, 2024. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

CHALLENGES FOR VOTERS: Senate Bill 221 would have halted Georgia's automatic voter registration system and made it easier to challenge people's eligibility based on residency issues.

OKEFENOKEE MINING: Georgia would have suspended future permits for a mine expansion near the Okefenokee Swamp for three years under House Bill 1338, although opponents who want an outright ban on any expansion said the moratorium would have been ineffective.

FOREIGN FARMLAND: Individuals and companies from certain countries would have been prohibited from purchasing farmland within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of a military base under Senate Bill 420 and House Bill 452.

SCHOOL WITNESS: House Bill 1186 would have required state education officials to once again assign a single 100-point score to describe a school's academic performance.

Speeding cameras: House Bill 1126 would have repealed authorization for automatic cameras to issue speeding tickets in school zones.