2019 Georgia Legislative Session

There’s a new report from the federal government that has some surprising data about last fall’s election.

According to the latest Election Administration and Voting Survey, Georgia led the nation in automated voter registration and accepted a higher percentage of absentee and provisional ballots than previous years.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office says that’s proof that voter suppression does not exist in Georgia, but those numbers are only part of the story.

Political reporter Stephen Fowler joined GPB’s Rickey Bevington in the studio to explain.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Georgia has awarded a massive contract to replace its outdated touchscreen direct-recording electronic voting machines to a new company offering ballot-marking devices with a paper component.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Monday that Dominion Voting Systems will be the state's new vendor for elections, ditching current vendor Elections Systems & Software. 

Grant Blankenship/GPB

A federal judge who said Georgia officials allowed its election system to “grow way too old and archaic” will soon decide if hundreds of county and municipal elections in 2019 must be conducted on hand-marked paper ballots.

The first day of July marks the beginning of the new fiscal year and when many laws take effect. The record-setting $27.5 billion state operating budget also kicks in, complete with money for a new voting system and pay raises for teachers, school staff and state employees. 

Stephen Fowler, GPB's political reporter, joined On Second Thought to talk about new laws taking effect.


(L) Georgia State Senate/ (R) ShaferforGeorgia.com

The state legislature may be in its post-session off season, but the political landscape in Georgia is far from quiet.

While the 2020 elections are over a year away, political parties are hard at work on strategies to reach Georgians who did not vote last year and maintain the energy of those who did.

Democratic Party of Georgia chair Sen. Nikema Williams and Georgia Republican Party chair David Shafer sat down with GPB News to discuss their plans to emerge victorious next November.

GPB political reporter Stephen Fowler sat down with On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott to share what that means for Georgia voters in the coming months.

    

Elaine Thompson / AP

The first day of July marks the beginning of the new fiscal year and when many laws take effect.

We are midway through a whirlwind 2019 that has been full of political news, ranging from the nationwide conversation on abortion and reproductive rights to electoral integrity to numerous visits from the two dozen or so candidates running for president.

July 1 is when the record-setting $27.5 billion state operating budget kicks in, complete with money for a new voting system and pay raises for teachers, school staff and state employees.

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 News

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.

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