Dear House District 78,
These last few weeks have been eventFUL. We started this month debating voter suppression, and last week we sent over 60 bills and resolutions to the Senate. This past Monday was day 28, also known as Crossover Day. This is a decisive deadline for the House and Senate as this is the last day for bills to pass out of the legislative chamber from which they originated to remain eligible to be signed into law this year. The House convened at 10 am and adjourned at 11 pm.
Not to worry about the hundreds of bills that have not yet passed. There are many options available to them. One can add them to a bill in the same code section moving through the process as an amendment. Or, we can wait until 2022. At this point in the session, we as legislators are diligently watching because you never know what will be added.
Elections and Voting Update
There have been a lot of voting bills moving through both chambers. Some seek to lessen the hours of early voting. Others require copies of licenses sent in with absentee applications and then again with the ballots. Initially, all of these bills were separate, but now, they have all been wrapped up into an omnibus bill, HB 531. This bill makes changes to just about every aspect of the way we vote. As a member of the Special Committee on Election Integrity, it is essential to note that this bill went through the committee process in 6 days, which makes me question the phrase election integrity.
Integrity is, as defined by Merriam-Webster:
- Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility
- An unimpaired condition: soundness
- The quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness
How is HB 531’s sponsor also the Chair of the Special Committee to which it was assigned incorruptible? How is a measure that will affect every Georgian rushed through the committee process without due diligence legally sound? How is it complete if we voted on this bill every time the vote was split amongst party line? If we only use this standard at looking at this bill, not even the language, you can see that this does not pass the test.
On Monday, March 1, we debated the bill on the House Floor. It passed along party lines without my support. I asked my colleagues before the vote to ask themselves if what they were doing was the moral, Christian thing to do.
To paraphrase Rep. Al Williams, we will beat you at your (the Republicans) own game just like we did in 2020.
We have passed some good legislation in regards to healthcare.
HB 117 adds ulcerative colitis to the list of conditions people can use THC oil for treatment.
HB 163 enrolls children who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAPs) into Medicaid.
HB 307 gives more protection for insurance consumers to pay for telemedicine services. Some insurance companies were charging different fees for these services and requiring in-person visits before virtual ones.
Preempting Local Control
HB 286 prevents local governments from reducing their police forces budget by more than 5%. It takes away local government’s flexibility when dealing with their government services.
HB 146 passed the House and gave 3 weeks of paid leave for births, adoptions, and foster placements. This will affect 423,000 parents, both mothers, and fathers.
HB 109, the “Child Victim Protection Act of 2021,” extends the amount of time that a victim of childhood sexual abuse can file civil action from 2 to 4 years if the abuse occurred after July 1, 2015, and has proved to have caused physical or psychological harm. Survivors between the ages of 23 and 38 years old would also be able to bring a civil action for recovery of damages because of childhood sexual abuse that occurred under an entity’s supervision, such as a non-profit or religious organization.
HB 231 creates a new temporary protective order (TPO) specifically for dating violence that a TPO does not currently cover for family violence. These TPOs would cover felonies, simple battery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and stalking between two people who have had a pregnancy together or who are in a romantic dating relationship, but it would not require sexual involvement in order to be considered a dating relationship. Additionally, this bill would ensure that victims in abusive dating relationships have access to immediate relief and allow judges to order the abuser to seek counseling or participate in educational programs. Within 10 days of a petition being filed, a hearing would be held where the petitioner must prove the allegations with an abundance of evidence. The presiding judge would consider different factors shown to confirm the existence of a dating relationship.
HB 236 to increase police monitoring after a TPO for family violence is issued. This bill would allow victims granted a TPO to request periodic safety checks from local law enforcement officers. These checks would include observations of the outside of the victim’s residence and an officer’s presence nearby the victim’s residence. These safety checks would last 60 days, and the frequency of the safety checks would be at the discretion of the local police agency. The victim could withdraw his or her request before the 60-day period ends, or the local police agency could determine that the victim no longer appears to require the safety checks.
HB 255 passed unanimously. It is called the “Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2021” and makes many changes in favor of victims and survivors. It would create a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system to give survivors the ability to track and receive updates on evidence’s status in their case. The measure requires sexual assault protocol committees to submit an annual certification to ensure statewide compliance, update state laws to reflect instances where the victim does not want to report immediately and require law enforcement to retain physical evidence for at least 12 months. Additionally, the bill would direct all law enforcement agencies in our state to submit information to the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, a national database responsible for analyzing serial violent and sexual crimes across the country.
HB 272, the “Raise the Age Act,” which would increase the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to include children under the age of 18 and establish an implementation committee of 10 members for conferring with appropriate agencies and interested parties regarding standards and practices
HB 479 is the Governor’s Bill to repeal the citizen’s arrest law that has been in our code since the Civil War. This is the law that emboldened Ahmaud Arbery’s killers. It does provide the opportunity for employees at a business, security officers, private investigators, and inspectors at truck scales to detain those they believe have committed a crime, as well as off-duty police officers to make arrests outside their jurisdictions. This bill passed unanimously.
I am double masking. Are you?
Again, I ask each of you to continue to stay safe and home as much as possible. I am also ready to be a part of social gatherings as much as the next person, but we must remain cautious. We need to remember with newer variants surfacing, we MUST continue to practice social distancing, hand washing, and wearing a mask or two. Many of us at the Capitol are wearing multiple masks daily.
If you need a test, you can visit the DPH website HERE to find a testing location near you.