April 7, 2021

The final two days of the 2021 session were hectic and intense.  In both the House and Senate, Day 40 lasted more than 14 hours.

Two of Governor Kemp’s legislative initiatives that passed this session with bipartisan support were the repeal of the state’s “citizen’s arrest” law (HB 479) and legislation creating trust funds so that fees collected for specific reasons will be used for those purposes (HB 511).

Some of Governor Kemp’s other initiatives focused on the state’s foster care, child welfare, and adoption systems.  Four bills were carried by the governor’s floor leaders on these issues and all were passed with bipartisan support:  increasing tax credits for families adopting a child from foster care (HB 114), allowing individuals 21 years of age to adopt (HB 154), allowing the court to consider testimony of secondhand information in child protective hearings (SB 28), and a waiver of tuition and fees for qualifying foster and adopted students by the state’s university system and technical college system (SB 107).

First Lady Marty Kemp has backed legislation to help victims of human trafficking.  Two bills dealing with this issue both passed with bipartisan support: SB 33 would allow victims or state officials to file civil lawsuits for money damages against traffickers and SB 34 allows for victims to change their names under seal.

Other bills that passed include an extension of business protection from COVID 19 claims to July 14, 2022 (HB 112), automatic enrollment of kids into the Medicaid program if they receive food stamps (HB 163), a state income tax reduction due to an increase in the standard deduction amount (HB 593), and a combination of business tax breaks/credits and a study to determine if these incentives are living up to their promised job creation and/or revenue generation (SB 6).  Two bills were passed honoring long-serving Georgians: HR 119 would name a bridge near the port in Savannah for U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and SB 140 would establish a committee to approve a monument of former Governor Zell Miller at the state capitol.

Some sources have said as many as 80 election bills were filed during this session.  Provisions from some of these bills were included in the election bill (SB 202) that passed along party lines on Day 38 and was signed by Governor Kemp that evening.  No other bill passed this session, or in recent sessions, has garnered this much attention or caused this much division within the legislative chambers.  While the Republican legislators said election reforms were needed to improve the integrity of the system, Democrats claimed no changes were needed.  Four lawsuits have been filed regarding this legislation and it will be up to the courts to decide.

Governor Kemp has until May 10 to sign or veto bills.

Some bills that did not pass include the distracted driving bill (HB 247) that would set definite fines and close a first-offense exception, allowance of disclosed cameras in long-term care homes (HB 605), and a bill that would allow visitation by “legal representatives” in hospitals and nursing homes during a public health emergency (HB 290).  Gambling legislation gained press attention but the none of these bills were passed, including sports betting bills that were supported by the state’s four major league sports teams (HB 86, SB 142 & SR 135), horse racing bills that were promoted as rural development (HB 538, SB 30 & SB 212), and casinos (HR 30).

Bills that did not pass in the 2021 session will remain in the committees they were in when the session ended.  If they were on the Rules or General Calendars of the House or Senate, they will return to the committee from which they were last reported.  All unpassed bills are alive for consideration in the 2022 session.

The legislature will convene this fall to consider only the issues specified by Governor Kemp in his charge calling for the special session.  We expect the only item to be considered will be redistricting.

 

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