ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers faced multiple key decisions on the final scheduled day of their 2022 session. Most importantly, the General Assembly must still pass a budget. But senators and representatives must also try to reach agreement on a tax cut that could be worth more than $1 billion. Additional debates could loom on legalizing more forms of gambling, requiring physical exams before a woman could be prescribed abortion pills and further changes to state election laws. Some key proposals have already passed, including a mental health reform measure, a loosening of gun laws and a bill letting parents opt their children out of school mask mandates. Other measures appear dead, including a bill that would raise penalties for illegal acts during protests and an attempt to regulate social media. But bills can come back to life on the General Assembly’s last day.
VOTING: The Senate gutted a voting bill that would have made a number of changes, including allowing the Georgia Bureau of Investigation start election fraud inquiries without an invitation, letting people inspect paper ballots after an election and imposing extensive new chain-of-custody requirements . But the House could revive some of the proposals in a new version of Senate Bill 89.
INCOME TAX CUT: The House and Senate are trying to reach an agreement on a tax cut in House Bill 1437. The House earlier proposed a quick move to a 5.25% flat tax, removing some deductions. The Senate has proposed moving to a 4.99% rate over a number of years, keeping current deductions.
GAMBLING: Senate Resolution 135 would legalize all forms of gambling including sports betting, horse racing and casinos, if voters approved a constitutional amendment. Senate Bill 142 would regulate sports betting
ABORTION: Senate Bill 456 would require a woman to get an in-person exam from a physician before the doctor could prescribe her abortion pills, and bar delivery of abortion pills by mail without such an exam.
LAWMAKER PAY AND PENSIONS: Pay for Georgia’s 180 House members and 56 senators would rise to 50% of the state median household income, up to about $30,000, if voters approved a constitutional amendment proposed by House Resolution 842. Lawmaker pensions would increase by about 40 % under House Bill 824.
FELONY BAIL: Senate Bill 504 would require cash bail for a judge to release from jail anyone charged with any felony.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: House Bill 1425 would change 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.
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.
TRANSGENDER ATHLETES: Transgender boys and girls would be banned from playing on the school sports teams matching their gender identity under Senate Bill 435.
VACCINE MANDATES: Senate Bill 345 would prevent state agencies and local governments from requiring COVID-19 vaccines.
SCHOLARSHIP TAX CREDITS: House Bill 517 would increase the tax credits available for private school scholarship organizations from $100 million to $200 million
RIGHT TO FARM: House Bill 1150 would enhance protections for farmers against nuisance lawsuits by neighbors over problems such as odors.
SCHOOL RECESS: House Bill 1283 would require daily recess for all public school children in grades K-5.
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.
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.
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.
PROTESTS: Senate Bill 171 would have required a permit for any assembly, increases criminal penalties for protests, makes it a felony to block a highway or deface a monument, lets people sue local governments if protests turn violent, and makes 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.
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