March 26, 2021

The legislature convened three days this week so there are now only two remaining days in this 2021 legislative session.  These two final days are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday next week.

The Senate unanimously passed their version of the $27.2B FY ’22 budget.  A conference committee will now work out a compromise between the House and Senate versions.  The Senate version of the budget substantially agrees with the Governor’s and House’s proposed budgets. They all support $40M for a rural innovation fund and $10M to extend internet into rural areas.  Other budget items include more money for nursing homes, funds for additional staff at DCH, Ethics Commission, DOR and Secretary of State’s office, and $1B for construction projects for new schools, college buildings, roads and bridges, and a convention center in Savannah.

The Senate also unanimously passed a resolution (HR 119) to name a bridge near the Savannah Port in honor of long-serving U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired due to health issues.

The House unanimously passed SR 134 that will put a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot calling for public officials’ pay to be suspended while they go through the legal process when they are indicted on charges related to their actions in office.  If these officials are exonerated, they would return to office and receive back pay. This bill is in response to the indictment of Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck who was charged a few months after taking office but has continued collecting a salary and benefits, which will amount to almost $400,000 by June 30, as reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. This amendment would not be retroactive to the Beck case, but will affect scenarios like this in the future.

Yesterday, after debate lasting several hours, the House passed election reform measures along party lines (SB 202) which was then immediately transmitted to the Senate.  The Senate debated then passed this bill with the House changes and sent it to the Governor who signed it last night.  Election reform has been an emotional and time consuming issue this session with both House and Senate committees hearing many hours of testimony.  Republicans have claimed that changes were needed to restore voter confidence in the election process while Democrats have said no changes were needed.

The House originally had the sports betting legislation (SB 142/SR 135) on the calendar for action yesterday, but they were pulled and sent back to the Rules committee.

Governor Kemp signed the income tax reduction bill (HB 593) on Monday.  This bill would increase standard deduction amounts thus reducing the state income tax owed by some Georgians.  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 Governor also signed a bill that for five years will increase tax credits for families who adopt children from the foster care system from $2000 to $6000 (HB 114).

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice has announced his intention to challenge incumbent Brad Raffensperger in the 2022 race for Secretary of State.

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