Local lawmakers were in the Capitol past midnight early Tuesday morning, April 5, voting on the final bills of the 2022 legislative session, including legislation that would allow for permitless carry of firearms, ban teaching of certain divisive concepts in schools and legislation to increase medical transparency.
Education issues have been key topics this session, driven by parents’ and legislators’ fears of educators teaching critical race theory in K-12 public schools.
Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, is the chair of the House Committee on Education, and he co-sponsored HB 1178, often referred to as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which would give parents the right to review all classroom materials, and HB 1084, which prohibits teaching certain divisive concepts in the classroom related to race. Both were approved Friday, April 1.
An amendment to HB 1084 was passed Monday with a provision that could keep transgender female students from playing sports with girls. The bill creates an executive oversight committee through the Georgia High School Association with the authority to prohibit students whose gender is male from participating in women’s sports.
“It’s about keeping biological boys in boys sports and keeping biological girls in girls’ sports,” Dubnik said. “It’s about fairness and it’s … about a level playing field.”
The passage of these bills will hopefully quell some of the recent fears about what’s being taught in schools, Dubnik said. Critics of these bills have said many of the provisions in the Parents’ Bill of Rights already exist and legislation referring to “divisive concepts” could dissuade teachers from talking about difficult subjects in the classroom.
“No child should be taught that they’re better or worse based on the way they are born,” Dubnik said. “Meaning, socio-economic, geographic, gender, race. Let’s teach children reading, writing, and arithmetic. … We’re going to continue to teach history, but we don’t need to bring divisiveness into teaching.”
Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, has long been a proponent of constitutional carry and said he was happy to see a version of the legislation passed last Friday, April 1. SB 319 would allow Georgians to carry a handgun in public without a gun permit or background check.
“I really do think we came out with a good bill that the governor will sign,” Dunahoo said. “I’m glad that we have open carry that’s passed, but I’m going to conceal carry, just because the bad guy’s going to pick off the person that he can see has a gun or a weapon.”
He said the bill would not increase gun violence, because legislation to allow open carry on college campuses has not led to an increase in school shootings.
A bill that would change how local governments could object to annexations also passed late Monday. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, co-sponsored HB 1461 in response to concerns from Hall County and Hall County Schools officials that cities were too easily annexing land and substantially changing the land’s use. County and school officials have said the legislation is a first step, but doesn’t go far enough to give them more authority over land use decisions during annexation.
Hawkins authored HB 1276, which passed Monday, requiring the Department of Community Health to make statistical reports of state health information available on its website. Hawkins said it would give consumers more information and provide more transparency.
DCA will have to post reports every six months showing the number and type of medical providers in the state, hospital costs and data related to level of admissions, prescription drug spending and other medical reports.
“We’re going to be able to get a good handle on exactly what’s going on with the insurance in this state,” Hawkins said. “Then we can start asking the critical questions that we need to ask and see it coming before the bomb has already blown up.”
HB 1304, sponsored by Hawkins, would require hospitals to provide patients the opportunity to identify a lay caregiver, creating a plan for assistance after a patient is discharged. The bill passed on Friday, April 1.
MENTAL HEALTH: House Bill 1013 aims to force insurers to pay for mental health and substance abuse treatment in the same way they pay for other health care. The measure also allows a police officer to take someone for evaluation after getting permission from a physician, instead of arresting them for a crime.
GAS TAX HOLIDAY: House Bill 304, signed into law, suspended the state’s motor fuel taxes through May 31, including a levy of 29.1 cents per gallon for gasoline and 32.6 cents per gallon for diesel. Suspending collections could subtract more than $400 million from road building. The governor plans to use part of last year's surplus to replace the money.
INCOME TAX CUT: The House and Senate agreed to create what would be an eventual flat 4.99% state income tax in House Bill 1437. The rate would be implemented in steps over a number of years, depending on revenue.
TRANSGENDER ATHLETES: The Georgia High School Association would be allowed to ban transgender boys and girls from playing on the public school sports teams matching their gender identity under House Bill 1084.
CRITICAL RACE THEORY: House Bill 1084 would ban the teaching of certain racial concepts that Republicans say are divisive. Opponents say the measure would frighten teachers away from an honest classroom discussion of race in history and the present.
INCOME TAX REFUNDS: House Bill 1302, signed into law, gives $1.1 billion of income tax refunds including $250 to single filers, $375 to single adults who head a household with dependents and $500 to married couples filing jointly.
VACCINE MANDATES: Senate Bill 345 would prevent state agencies and local governments from requiring COVID-19 vaccines.
GUNS IN PUBLIC: Senate Bill 319 would abolish Georgia's requirement for a background check and license to carry a handgun in public. Republicans say it infringes on Second Amendment gun rights for people to have to apply for a permit and pay a fee, usually about $75.
VOTING: Senate Bill 441 would allow the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to inquire into election fraud.
PARENT BILL OF RIGHTS: House Bill 1178 would put into one law a number of parental rights that already exist, including saying parents have the right to review all classroom materials.
MASKS IN SCHOOLS: Senate Bill 514, already signed into law, will allow parents to exclude their children from mask mandates.
SCHOLARSHIP TAX CREDITS: House Bill 517 would increase the tax credits available for private school scholarship organizations from $100 million to $120 million.
RIGHT TO FARM: House Bill 1150 would enhance protections for farmers against nuisance lawsuits by neighbors over problems such as odors, giving them protection from most suits after two years of operation.
SCHOOL RECESS: House Bill 1283 would require daily recess for all public school children in grades K-5.
LAWMAKER PENSIONS: Lawmaker pensions would increase by about 40% under House Bill 824.
GAMBLING: Senate Resolution 135 would have legalized all forms of gambling — including sports betting, horse racing and casinos — if voters approved a constitutional amendment. Senate Bill 142 would have regulated sports betting. The resolution was amended to instead lower timber taxes.
ABORTION PILLS: Senate Bill 456 would have required a woman to have an in-person physician exam and ultrasound before she could be prescribed abortion pills.
LAWMAKER PAY: Pay for Georgia’s 180 House members and 56 senators would have risen to 50% of the state median household income, up to about $30,000, under a constitutional amendment proposed by House Resolution 842.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: House Bill 1425 would have changed how licenses are granted under the state’s medical marijuana program in an attempt to jump-start a licensing process tied into knots by legal challenges.
FELONY BAIL: Senate Bill 504 would have required cash bail for a judge to release from jail anyone charged with any felony.
PROTESTS: Senate Bill 171 would have required a permit for any assembly, increased criminal penalties for protests, made it a felony to block a highway or deface a monument, let people sue local governments if protests turn violent, and made it legal for someone to run over someone else while fleeing a protest if the person fleeing believed their life was in danger.
SOCIAL MEDIA REGULATION: Senate Bill 393 sought to prohibit social media platforms from removing or censoring content.