2019 Georgia Legislative Session

Bob Andres / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The state of Georgia — and the country — is divided over so-called "heartbeat" bills and other new state laws restricting abortion. Many are confused about who could be prosecuted and what, exactly, constitutes a violation of the law.

On Second Thought leaves the flashpoints of politics behind and attempts to get some clarity on the legal questions raised by HB 481.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

A newly-signed abortion law in Georgia has some district attorneys saying women who have abortions could face criminal charges for their actions. But, others say it's not possible to file charges because of existing statutes and case law, or won't because of prosecutorial discretion.  

A survey of Georgia's 49 elected district attorneys shows a range of reactions to the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, which would ban nearly all abortions once cardiac activity is detected in an embryo, usually around six weeks into pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.  

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Holding signs reading “Stop the bans,” "Our bodies, our choice" and “You, yes you: run for office!” several hundred people spilled out from the steps to the street outside the Gold Dome Tuesday afternoon.

They chanted, "Abortion is a human right, and we won't go without a fight," and "Hey hey, ho ho, abortion bans have got to go," while speakers from groups such as Sister Song and the American Civil Liberties of Georgia reminded the crowd abortion is still legal in Georgia and urged them to stay involved in their calls for expanded reproductive rights.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) spoke against a slew of abortion restrictions passed in states across the country Thursday at the Georgia state Capitol.

“Right now, entirely too much of the conversation about what women can do with our own bodies is being driven by a group of right-wing male politicians,” Gillibrand said, flanked by female state lawmakers, health providers and abortion rights supporters. “It’s time for that conversation to be led by the actual experts: women and doctors.”

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Holding ceremonies everywhere from Cairo to Camilla to his ceremonial office in the Capitol, Gov. Brian Kemp signed more than 300 bills from the 2019 legislative session in the last three months.

GPB

The busy season for Georgia state lawmakers is now over.  Yes, the legislative session wrapped up April 2, but Sunday marked the final close to the 2019 lawmaking season.  Gov. Brian Kemp had 40 days after Sine Die to publicly sign or veto bills.  Now, everything that hasn’t seen his pen automatically becomes law.


Ross Terrell / Georgia Public Broadcasting

Editor's note: This story was updated on Tuesday, at 10:45 am to include a statement from Decatur City Schools. 

DeKalb County’s legislative delegation wants to meet with Gov. Brian Kemp after his veto of Senate Bill 53.

The bill would’ve protected the county’s school district from losing students as part of the Emory annexation. In his veto statement, the governor said the bill would’ve led to more legislative review and increased lawsuits.


The dust has now settled on bills sent to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk from this year’s legislative session.

Kemp had 40 days from Sine Die to weigh in on more than bills and resolutions passed by the state House and Senate during the 40-day legislative session.

The governor vetoed 14 measures plus several line items in the record-setting $27.5 billion FY2020 budget, including mandatory recess for some elementary school students, a study committee to revisit the state’s border with Tennessee and North Carolina and some tightened school safety measures.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Gov. Brian Kemp has signed the record-breaking $27.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1.

This year's budget includes a 2% pay raise for state employees and a $3,000 raise for teachers and other certified school employees, and fully funds the state's education formula for the second year in a row. Kemp has called the raise a "down payment" on his campaign promise of $5,000 for teachers.

Stephen Fowler / GPB News

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a series of education-focused bills Thursday at Wheeler High School in Marietta. 

One bill, SB 48, gives Georgia its first dyslexia mandate. Starting in 2024, all elementary schools in the state must screen kindergarten students for dyslexia, and students in first through third grade who have been identified as having dyslexic traits. 


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

It’s been 100 days since Gov. Brian Kemp was sworn into office, and he says those days have been filled with keeping promises he made on the campaign trail.

In between the whir and whine of planes taking off at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport Wednesday, Kemp said his administration has been strengthening rural communities, reforming state government and investing in education throughout his first legislative session.


Kemp Signs Multiple Sex Trafficking Bills

Apr 18, 2019
Gov. Brian Kemp poses with a red X on his hand to raise awareness for the "End It Movement" aimed at combating sex trafficking.
Office of The Governor

Gov. Brian Kemp signed three bills into law this Thursday morning aimed at curbing human trafficking and safeguarding victims in the state.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds announced on Monday the head of a new anti-gang task force.

The anti-gang task force is part of Kemp’s campaign pledge to “stop and dismantle criminal gangs,” and will be used as a tool to help local prosecutors build cases against alleged street gangs across Georgia.


GPB

Sine Die is over and so is the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Lawmakers considered almost a hundred bills over a period of 14 hours on Tuesday.

GPB politics reporter Stephen Fowler was there for the whole 40 days of the session, and he gave continuing updates to On Second Thought listeners throughout those weeks. Lawmakers capitol correspondent Donna Lowry provided ongoing coverage for GPB television viewers. They both stopped by the show after Sine Die to recap the closing hours of the session.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

SINE DIE. 12:00 a.m. April 3. Sine Die! The House and the Senate are done with the 2019 legislative session, using the final minutes to pass a medical marijuana cultivation bill years in the making. 

All bills not passed by both chambers today will be on hold until next session begins January of 2020.

One notable set of measures that did not pass? A jet fuel tax break for Delta and other airlines, a rural transportation plan and a proposal for the state to take over Atlanta's airport. 

Medical Marijuana Clears Senate

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

On the final day of the legislative session, actress Alyssa Milano and several local film and television workers held a press conference in opposition to a bill that would effectively end abortion in Georgia around 6 weeks into pregnancy.

Host Bill Nigut speaks with Greg Bluestein, Rep. Calvin Smyre and Sen. Nikema Williams at the Georgia State Capitol.
GPB

On this edition of Political Rewind, lawmakers, lobbyists and citizens here to promote favored legislation or just soak in the spectacle have all gathered under the gold dome today as the 2019 session rushes to a close.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

It's Sine Die, the final day of the legislative session in the Georgia House and Senate. If a bill does not pass both chambers and head to Gov. Brian Kemp's desk by the end of the day, it has to wait until next legislative session to continue its progress since this is the first year of a biennium. So while the stakes aren't quiet as do-or-die as Crossover Day or next year's Sine Die, today will be filled with last-minute efforts to pass policy changes large and small. 


State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, asks questions during a committe hearing at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.
David Goldman / AP Photo

Georgia is on track to have the toughest abortion laws in the country – and to have that law challenged in court.

Followed by a smattering of “Shame!” from the gallery, the Georgia House gave final passage to HB 481, which would effectively ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected, around six weeks into pregnancy and before most women know they are pregnant.

GPB

The penultimate day of the 2019 legislative session brings discussion of medical marijuana cultivation, a controversial ban on most abortions and a proposed takeover of the airport. Next week marks Sine Die, the last day for a bill to pass both chambers and head to Gov. Brian Kemp for approval. Otherwise, the legislation will have to wait to pass until January 2020.

GPB reporter Stephen Fowler joined On Second Thought to discuss the ins and outs of the legislative session.


Creative Commons

Georgia's teachers are getting a pay raise as part of Georgia's record-setting $27.5 billion budget. 

Lawmakers approved a conference committee's report on HB 31 Thursday that worked out differences between the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, beginning July 1.

Stephen Fowler / GPB

The last Monday of the 2019 legislative session was a busy day for health-related measures. 

A bill that would allow Georgia to sidestep some federal health care rules associated with the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid is now on the governor’s desk after passing the state House.

Donna Lowry

Families seeking help using medical marijuana in Georgia are frustrated about a bill that would make it legal for them to obtain it. They expressed their frustration at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“This medicine (cannabis oil) saved my life,” said Kyle White, who has used the oil to treat post-traumatic stress disorder he developed from his stint in Afghanistan medically. His step-daughter also takes medicine for autism and monoconidial disease.

Wikimedia Commons

Public high schools in Georgia could soon have greater freedom to offer courses on Christianity under legislation approved by the state House.

Passed by a vote of 122-44 Tuesday, the proposal would allow schools to teach electives on the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

Donna Lowry

It looks like Georgia’s certified teachers could get the full $3,000 pay raise Gov. Brian Kemp promised.

Early Thursday morning the Senate Appropriations added back the $225 taken away in the House version – and still made sure librarians and counselors will get the hike.

“I think it’s time. I think it’s time that to do the pay raise just as the governor has promised,” said Chairman of Senate Appropriations Sen. Jack Hill.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

By the end of the week, the Georgia Senate could join the ranks of other state legislatures when they vote on a so-called “heartbeat bill” that would effectively ban abortions about six weeks into pregnancy.

While the proposed restrictions grab headlines, abortion rights opponents say the aim of this type of bill isn’t only to limit access to the procedure, but also to trigger a Supreme Court challenge to federal protections for abortion.

Both abortion rights advocates and opponents say language in Georgia’s bill could make the case.

 


Donna Lowry / GPB

The Georgia House has a new representative who will only be on the job for the last nine days of the 2019 session.

James Burchett (R-Waycross) was sworn into House seat 176 Monday morning before work in the chamber got underway.

Burchett won a runoff election last week to fill the seat vacated by Jason Shaw.  Governor Nathan Deal appointed Shaw to the Public Service Commission.

David Goldman / AP Photo

The Secretary of State's Office has released its Request for Proposals (RFP) to upgrade Georgia's 27,000 touchscreen direct-recording electronic voting machines. 

Gov. Brian Kemp still has to sign HB 316, which would make Georgia the only state in the country to conduct elections solely on touchscreen ballot-marking devices.

Stephen Fowler / GPB News

The controversial bill that would prevent doctors from performing abortion once a heartbeat is detected passed out of committee Monday morning. 

Three Republican men voted for HB 481 and were greeted by a chorus of "Shame!" from dozens of protestors as they left the Science and Technology committee room. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) was also urged to "trust women" as he entered the Capitol this morning from women dressed in red cloaks like characters from the book and television series "The Handmaid's Tale."

The state Senate has approved HB 316, an omnibus voting bill that would tweak state election code and would make Georgia the only state in the country to solely use ballot-marking devices to conduct elections.

Lawmakers debated for about three hours on the measure, which was passed 35-21 along party lines.

Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) carried the bill in the Senate. He said the $150 million price tag in the budget has been thoroughly vetted by lawmakers and the state.

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