State legislatures worked well into the morning as they ended the 2022 legislative session.
ATLANTA — From an income tax break to measures that affect what children can be taught in public schools, Gov. Brian Kemp now has dozens of bills on his desk that could affect Georgia families and their bank accounts. The bills only need Kemp’s signature to become law.
One of the measures that will affect students had a surprising change, and Democrats said they couldn’t read it before voting on it.
On Monday, lawmakers passed House Bill 1084. It will ban nine divisive concepts from teaching in Georgia schools, including teaching “one race is inherently superior to another race” and “the United States of America is fundamentally racist.”
After midnight, Senate Republicans held another vote on the law after it was changed. Democrats asked to print the amendment so they could read it, but a vote on the motion failed.
Democrats on social media responded.
State Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) tweeted, “Without even having a ground debate, Republicans pull a last-minute stunt…” and State Senator Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) tweeted, “We didn’t have that billed.” on our desks, no one knew what was written on them…”
The amended version of the passed bill, with added language, states that the Georgia High School Association can ban transgender girls from competing against other girls.
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House Speaker David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge) called it a compromise as it halts at an outright ban which he had previously blocked.
“Basically, he adopted the NCAA model by turning it over to the GHSA,” Ralston said.
A less controversial education bill that has passed is the so-called “Recess Bill”. It stipulates that kindergarten through fifth graders have a 30-minute break every day. In 2019, Kemp vetoed a similar bill and it’s not clear if he will support the move now.
On Tuesday, 11Alive finance expert Andrew Poulos spoke about the income tax cut that lawmakers approved on Monday.
“This is a big step to make us much more competitive, especially against our neighboring states of Tennessee and Florida, which are zero-income tax states,” Poulos said.
Currently, the state income tax rate is 5.75%. Lawmakers on the bill approved calls to lower it to 5.49% by 2024 and then to 4.49% by 2029.
“Just assume that an average family with a household income of $100,000 and two children is likely to see about a $14 to $16 difference in tax liability,” Poulos said.
Several bills not sent to the governor’s desk could be returned during the next legislative session. These include proposals to address the state’s medical marijuana program and restrictions on obtaining abortion pills. Both bills were much discussed during the session but did not receive final votes on Monday.
“I’m at a loss,” Ralston said when asked why medical marijuana proposals weren’t accepted.
“I hope the Georgia families know we did our best,” he added.
Proposals discussed during the session were aimed at resolving issues related to licensing for medical marijuana production. Currently, the state program has not got off the ground due to legal challenges in the licensing process.
The House approved a proposal on the matter on Monday, but the Senate voted 28-27 to bring the matter to the table and then never came back to it. That led to Ralston blaming the Senate for the inaction.
“As far as I’m concerned, the blame is over there. I know it’s a little strong, but we’ve been trying to do this in Georgia for seven, eight years now,” he said.
The Senate recently passed the Women’s Health and Safety Act. It called for a ban on women receiving pro-abortion drugs in the mail and would have required them to see a doctor and have an ultrasound before a prescription could be issued.
“Basically, we want to make sure that the woman is a good candidate to be able to take these drugs,” State Senator Bruce Thompson said during a recent House Committee hearing on the bill. “We want to make sure we’re not preventing her from making the choice, but we want to make sure that somewhere in this state, we’re not putting this woman’s life at risk with the choice she’s making.”
However, during the same hearing, several doctors testified that the plan would not increase a woman’s safety. Ralston said the House did not vote on the bill because he had other bills to prioritize.
“I just didn’t have the time. You can’t achieve everything,” he said.