It was an eerily quiet morning and afternoon at the Georgia Capitol by Sine Die standards, with few of the major remaining bills receiving consideration by the time the House and Senate came back to order at around 8:00pm.  That meant it was going to be a hectic sprint to the finish, and one where a lot of legislation was at risk of dying as time ticked off the clock, (though that ticking wasn’t as loud as it once was as both chambers went well past what once was a firm midnight cutoff).

There was too much action to fully cover here – but look for total coverage of everything happened on the 2024 edition of Sine Die to come; here’s a look at the highlights:

House and Senate leaders came to terms on the fiscal year 2025 budget, which clocked in at a record $36.1 billion.  Beginning with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st, the budget is packed with raises for teachers, law enforcement and other state employees, as well as finding room for all the other transportation, healthcare, prisons and economic development projects that require state funding.

SB 390 was shelved in the House Higher Education Committee without receiving a vote, ending its chances of making it to the House floor later in the day.  The bill would have severed state ties with the American Library Association, a controversial organization that some state Republicans had said was pushing a “radical agenda,” and whose president, Emily Drabinski, made waves when she characterized herself as a “Marxist lesbian.”  But educators had pushed back on the bill, pointing out that ALA accreditation is still important for aspiring librarians and that the group donates and helps organize educational programs for many libraries around the state.

SR 579 and SB 386 were this year’s attempt to legalize sports betting in Georgia, and both pieces of legislation passed out of the House Higher Education Committee early Thursday.  But observers were bearish on their odds of passing in the House with the needed 2/3 majority required for a constitutional amendment.  A contingent of Republican lawmakers continue to object to the legalization of gambling on moral grounds, and House Democrats disagreed with how the tax proceeds from gambling would be spent.  The bills never made it to the House floor and another frustrating year for sports betting supporters is in the books.

Supporters of school choice picked up a win with the Senate giving final approval to HB 1122, which provides additional funding for charter schools and requires the state Department of Education to calculate and publish a  “single score” for all public schools in the state.  These aggregate performance ratings will allow parents to compare schools and districts and track academic performance.

HB 1170 would ban doctors from prescribing puberty blockers to transgender minors.  It passed the Senate Thursday evening but got stuck in the House and didn’t make it to a vote.

HB 1105, dealing with illegal immigration and sanctuary cities, went through several changes but eventually passed the House for good and heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.  The bill mandates cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, effectively getting rid of sanctuary cities in the state.

SB 139 was this year’s major elections bill.  It passed late Thursday and will strengthen ballot security requirements, make it easier for Independent candidates to get on the ballot, and strengthen challenges against voter (in)eligibility.  Democrats pushed back hard against the bill, saying it will be used for “baseless mass voter challenges” and vowing to challenge it in court should Kemp sign it into law.

HB 1253 sought to put a statue of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the grounds of a new courthouse complex near the Capitol.  It passed the Senate along party lines but stalled out in the House.



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