March 19, 2021

There are five days left in the 2021 legislative session and these days will be spread over the next two weeks.  The legislature adjourned yesterday and will reconvene Monday, March 22, and be in session on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday next week.

Some bills that are still being worked on are the FY ’22 budget, election reform, repeal of the state’s “citizen’s arrest” law, and sports betting.

This week, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation authorizing a monument on the Capitol grounds to honor north Georgia native Zell Miller who served the state for over three decades as a state Senator, Lt. Governor, Governor, and U.S. Senator (SB 140).  The House also passed legislation that allows courts to suspend statutory speedy trial deadlines during the COVID emergency (SB 163), and a bill that allows creation of political “leadership committees” that would be required to disclose donors, but could take donations during the legislative session and would have no limit on the contribution amounts they can receive (SB 221).

Yesterday, the House Special Committee on Election Integrity held a hearing that lasted several hours on an election reform bill (SB 202).  The original bill would prohibit third-parties from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who had already requested one or who had already voted.  Chairman Fleming presented a substitute to the bill that includes many other election reform measures. The committee did not take any action on it and Chairman Fleming indicated another meeting will be scheduled.

The Senate passed the bill to extend COVID immunity from liability claims for another year, until July 2022 (HB 112) and the bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.  The Senate passed the governor-backed bill that calls for fees collected to be used for their stated purpose rather than go into the state’s general fund (HB 511).  They also passed legislation along party lines that calls for an increase in standard deductions which would mean a modest income tax reduction for some Georgians  (HB 593).  Democrats have opposed the bill because they say it will jeopardize the state’s $1.9B in federal COVID relief funding since the federal relief bill prohibits money being used for tax cuts.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed legislation to repeal the state’s citizen’s arrest law (HB 479).  The bill would allow people to intervene if they witness a crime in action and detain suspects until the police arrive, but they would not be allowed to take the law into their own hands.  While all 50 states have a citizen’s arrest law, Georgia would be the first to repeal, and it has been one of Governor Kemp’s priorities.

On Tuesday, Ga. Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton spoke to a socially-distanced House and Senate.  He reflected on how the pandemic has impacted the state’s court system and commended the resiliency and creativity of the courts in continuing to operate during the pandemic.  He noted that it was March 14, 2020, a full year ago, that he declared a statewide judicial emergency and called for suspending jury trials, and it was just last week that he ordered jury trials to resume.  He noted that it may take two or three years to work through the backlog of cases. This was his final State of the Judiciary speech because he will retire on July 1.  He announced the new Chief Justice will be David Nahmias and the new Presiding Justice will be Michael Boggs.

The newest member of the Ga. House was sworn-in this week, Rep. Angela Moore, who won a special election run-off for House District 90.

Comments are closed.