Georgia Lawmakers Support Immigration Crackdown, Religious Liberty Protections At Deadline

FILE - The gold dome of the Georgia Capitol gleams in the sunlight in Atlanta, Aug. 28, 2022. Under a $392 million plan agreed to on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, the state Capitol would get a renovation while the state would build a new legislative office building for lawmakers on the north side of the complex, to the right of the Capitol. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE - The gold dome of the Georgia Capitol gleams in the sunlight in Atlanta, Aug. 28, 2022. Under a $392 million plan agreed to on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, the state Capitol would get a renovation while the state would build a new legislative office building for lawmakers on the north side of the complex, to the right of the Capitol. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
View All (2)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers pushed through dozens of bills before a key deadline Thursday, the last day for legislation to pass either the House or Senate and advance to the other legislative chamber for consideration this year.

Lawmakers supported plans to tighten rules on law enforcement cooperation with immigration officials and enact state protections for religious liberties.

Some key proposals moved forward earlier, including a constitutional amendment that could allow a statewide vote on legalizing sports betting and a plan to cut income taxes. Proposals that would have curtailed automatic voter registration and limited how private schools could talk to students did not advance.

Proposals that don’t pass by the end of Thursday could still be resurrected later this year, but it becomes more difficult.

___

ADVANCED

IMMIGRATION: House Bill 1105 would require local law enforcement to apply to help federal agents enforce immigration laws and enact criminal penalties for sheriffs who don’t contact federal officials to check prisoners’ immigration status.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: Proponents say Senate Bill 180 would protect religious liberty from being trampled by state and local governments, while opponents say it’s a license for people and groups to discriminate against LGBTQ+ in the name of religion.

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION: Senate Bill 390 bars state and local governments from giving money to the American Library Association. The sponsor says the group’s ideology is harmful. Valdosta State University could still use private money to maintain accreditation for its library science degree.

FILM TAX CREDIT: House Bill 1180 would require more use of Georgia-based employees and contractors to get the top 30% income tax credit on film production, and would cap credits eligible to be sold to third parties at 2.5% of the state’s annual budget, or about $900 million.

SPORTS BETTING: Georgians could get a chance in November to vote on a state constitutional amendment authorizing sports gambling after the Senate passed Senate Resolution 579.

PROPERTY TAXES: Senators want to limit future increases in a home's taxable value to 3% a year under Senate Bill 349, while House members want to increase the statewide homestead tax exemption from $2,000 to $4,000 under House Bill 1019. School districts could cut property tax rates and still get state aid under House Bill 987.

INCOME TAXES: An already-planned state income tax cut would be accelerated under House Bill 1015, giving the state a flat 5.39% income tax rate retroactive to Jan. 1.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Senate Bill 351 seeks to require social media companies to get parental permission before letting children younger than 16 create accounts. It also bans the use of social media using school computers and internet and creates new anti-bullying rules.

CASH BAIL: Senate Bill 63 would require cash bail for 30 additional crimes, including some misdemeanors, and would impose new rules on nonprofit bail funds. It awaits Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.

ANTISEMITISM: Gov. Brian Kemp in January signed House Bill 30 defining antisemitism for use in hate crimes and anti-discrimination cases. Opponents warn it will be used to censor free speech and equate criticism of Israel to hatred of Jewish people.

GUN TAX BREAKS: Senate Bill 344 would let people buy guns, ammunition and gun safes without paying sales taxes for five days each fall, while House Bill 971 would give a $300 tax credit to people buying gun safes, gun locks or taking firearms safety training.

ELECTIONS: Senate Bill 358 would give the state’s appointed election board the power to investigate Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s handling of elections. Senate Bill 189 would mandate that barcodes can’t be used to count ballots and House Bill 976 would require watermarks on ballots. Senate Bill 355 would ban ranked-choice voting in Georgia.

PROSECUTOR DISCIPLINE: House Bill 881 and Senate Bill 332 would revive a commission with powers to discipline and remove prosecutors, a move Democrats warn is aimed at Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ prosecution of former President Donald Trump.

JUDGE PAY: House Bill 947 would create guidelines to raise and standardize pay for judges.

LAWSUIT LIMITS: Senate Bill 426 would limit the ability to sue an insurance company directly after a truck wreck, while House Bill 1114 would seek data for a future push to limit lawsuits.

UNION ORGANIZING: Companies receiving state economic incentives would be barred from recognizing labor unions without a secret ballot election under Senate Bill 362.

HEALTHCARE PERMITTING: Some additional healthcare expansions would be allowed without state permits under House Bill 1339, but that bill wouldn’t go as far as the Senate proposal to remove certificate of need rules.

WATER RIGHTS: House Bill 1172 would alter law about using Georgia's waterways for boating, fishing and hunting. Proponents say it balances public use and private property rights.

___

DID NOT ADVANCE

MEDICAID: House leaders had discussed expanding Medicaid to more lower-income adults, but instead want to study the issue.

SEX EDUCATION: School districts could have dropped sex education and students would have only been enrolled if parents specifically opted in under Senate Bill 532. The measure would have banned all sex education in fifth grade and below.

SCHOOL LIBRARIES: Senate Bill 394 sought to restrict materials depicting sex acts in school libraries while Senate Bill 154 would have subjected K-12 librarians to criminal penalties if they violated state obscenity laws.

GENDER IDENTITY IN SCHOOLS: Senate Bill 88 would have limited how public and private schools could talk to students about gender identity.

VOTER CHALLENGES: Senate Bill 221 would have stopped Georgia's system of automatic voter registration and made it easier to challenge whether people are qualified to vote because of residency issues.

OKEFENOKEE MINING: Georgia would have paused future permits allowing an expansion of a mine near the Okefenokee Swamp for three years under House Bill 1338, although opponents who want an outright ban on any expansion said the moratorium would have been ineffective.

FOREIGN-OWNED FARMLAND: People and companies from certain foreign countries would have been barred from buying farmland within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of any military base under Senate Bill 420 and House Bill 452.

SCHOOL REPORT CARDS: House Bill 1186 would have required state education officials to resume assigning a single 100-point score to describe a school’s academic performance.

SPEEDING TICKET CAMERAS: House Bill 1126 would have repealed authorization for automated cameras to issue speeding tickets in school zones.