A Historic Session – A Brief Rundown of What Happened Under the Gold Dome

GA State Capitol Photo
Last year, we announced our Save Our Students Agenda and set out to do just that – stop the indoctrination of kids and put parents back in charge. This session, our focus has been on the crisis in our schools while continuing to advocate for our values across our biblically-based issue profile.

And, by God’s grace, we are proud of a legislative session that brought arguably the most sweeping pro-family agenda in Georgia history. Here are some of the wins we were privileged to fight for:

  • PASSED HB 1084 – a ban on Divisive Concepts AND a step toward Save Girls Sports – received final passage late in the evening on Sine Die. This began as a Governor-supported initiative to ban divisive, racist indoctrination (like CRT) and bills were carried by Rep. Will Wade (whose bill was ultimately passed) and Sen. Bo Hatchett. However, as options ran out to Save Girls Sports last night (as the initial bill by Sen. Marty Harbin faced resistance), the Governor helped secure an amendment to this bill that will empower the GHSA to ensure our girls be protected. Now, this bill achieves both these major wins. We spent extensive time on both these subjects – lobbying, testifying, and engaging our audience. This is huge win for our values, and it would not have happened without YOU! [for more info, check out our podcast with Rep. Will Wade]
  • PASSED SB 226 (Anti-Obscenity) which is the first major legislative effort aimed to combat a decades-old problem of obscenity in schools. This bill guarantees a parent the right to be heard, and holds schools accountable for obscene material available in libraries. We began this pushing for this last year, and we passed this bill in the Senate. This year, we were able to put extensive efforts on this to gain final passage in the House. Like other Save Our Students initiatives, Governor Kemp repeatedly called for these bills.
  • Stopped gambling expansion – including a MAJOR push for horse racing and parimutuel betting on Crossover and sports betting on Sine Die. Our fight on Crossover was RAZOR thin, and our team and Georgia Baptists stayed until the day’s end going toe-to-toe with more than a dozen lobbyists and high-powered office holders pushing for it. We fought every day leading up to Sine Die, and we had strong whip counts in our favor. I’m so thankful for our legislators who stood strong against the well-funded push! [for more info, check out our podcast with Rep. Wes Cantrell]
  • PASSED HB 1178 (Parent’s Bill of Rights), a Governor’s bill that was carried by Rep. Josh Bonner and Sen. Clint Dixon. This bill recognizes the fundamental rights of parents for the upbringing of their children and secures their right to review material, opt their child out of sex education, etc. Another BIG win for Save Our Students! We were proud to strongly support this bill to passage. [for more info, check out our podcast with Rep. Josh Bonner]
  • Amended HB 1013 which aims to improve Georgia’s ability to serve those struggling with mental health. We have applauded the motivations behind this bill, and, as concerns over language arose, we were instrumental in securing a final bill that was reflective of our values as a state. A special thanks goes to Rep. Todd Jones and so many other legislative allies who were eager to listen to concerns and make changes.
  • PASSED HB 1 (Campus Free Speech), an initiative that Rep. Josh Bonner has labored extensively on for years. We have been proud to support this effort, which protects the First Amendment on college campuses. Americans for Prosperity, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Georgia Baptists have been a great coalition to work with on this issue as well, and Rep. Bonner and Sen. Bruce Thompson (who carried the bill in the Senate) deserve a great amount of credit.
  • PASSED SB 116 (Maternal Housing Bill) sponsored by Sen. Randy Robertson after initial efforts by Rep. Ed Setzler and Sen. Renee Unterman in previous years. Our Director of Alliance, Beatrice Shakal, testified for this bill on multiple occasions and lobbied for its passage. It better enables non-profits to secure housing to help pregnant women and their children. This bill was supported by all the pro-life, pro-family groups at the Capitol—including our friends Georgia Baptists and Citizen Impact—and has been for many years.
  • Defeated Marijuana Legalization (testified against SB263, SB264, and SR165). This was not a major threat to pass, however, we were proud to help demonstrate that our state does NOT want this!
  • PASSED HB 345 (Vaccine Passport Ban) by Sen. Jeff Mullis. This bill bans COVID-19 vaccine passports in our state and is a huge win against the wokists who want to determine what goes in your body. We are so proud of our state for taking this stand, and we were honored to fight for this bill every step of the way! [for more information, check out our podcast with Sen. Mullis – he is always entertaining]
  • PASSED HB 517 (SSO Scholarship) which has been a hallmark of Rep. John Carson’s labors at the Capitol. While initially hoping to raise this school choice tax credit up to $200 million, the final increase will be to $120 million but without a sunset. This increase will impact the lives of roughly 4,000 kids in a profoundly positive way! We support this effort and were proud to lobby for it. However, we work with a school choice coalition of lobbyists and organizations and they deserve more credit than we do on this bill.
  • Amended HB 972 which had initial language that we were concerned would have limited the rights of pastors and faith-based counselors. This language was removed. We were working on this with Georgia Baptists as well – who, likewise, heard from a number of their pastors on this issue. Thankfully, the sponsors of this bill are friends who did not want to do harm, and they removed any concerning language.
  • SIGNED HB 514 to UNMASK OUR KIDS! This initiative led by Sen. Clint Dixon was another “Governor’s Bill,” and it has already been signed into law to ensure that PARENTS, not woke school boards who refuse to listen to the science, determine whether their child is masked or not. This has been a HUGE issue for us, and we are proud to partner with the Governor and Sen. Dixon on this.
  • PASSED SB 259 by Sen. Jeff Mullis and Rep. Rick Jasperse which allows churches, not government, to set the firearm policy on their property. Our Director of Advocacy, Taylor Hawkins, worked to support this pro-religious freedom bill. The Georgia Baptists worked extensively on this and led the charge from a lobbying standpoint.
  • PASSED SB 562 to remove Georgia investment in Russia. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis. As we increasingly work in the Georgia General Assembly to make sure how we spend money reflect our values (i.e. how much longer should we keep devoting massive resources to an uncapped film tax credit when the entertainment industry so often opposes everything we stand for?) this was an important piece of legislation to make sure our money won’t go toward Putin’s Soviet ambitions. This is also mentioned on our podcast with Sen. Mullis, the outgoing Rules Chairman and longtime fixture of the Georgia State Senate.
  • Defeated HB 1389, which would have sought to ban discrimination in the workplace, including any “nonverbal” and “indirect” discrimination on the basis of “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” Therefore, something as harmless as leaving a magazine article on biblical marriage out in the workplace could be prosecuted under this law. For a day or two, this bill had some traction. However, we were able to kill it and ensure it did not pass committee.
  • PASSED SB 565 by Sen. Brian Strickland—another great anti-human trafficking bill from First Lady Marty Kemp. We were proud to support this legislation and stand up for the victims of this evil.

Here are some other items of note (these issues fall outside of our clear issue scope – though Frontline Conservative Business Alliance will increasingly speak to those economic uses – but are of interest to our conservative audience):

  • Georgia Tax Refund (HB 1302) which returns YOUR money back to you.
  • Gas Tax Suspension (HB 304), obviously, suspends the gas tax while those prices continue to devastate us all.
  • Income Tax Reduction (HB 1437) lowers Georgia’s income tax beginning in 2024 from 5.49% to 4.99% – making our rates significantly more competitive in the southeast and keeping more money where it belongs. Of note, some versions of this bill provided caps for the film tax credit. This is definitely an issue to watch and something we anticipate looking very close at in the future.
  • Investigative Power for the GBI in Elections (SB 441) allows the GBI to investigate elections irregularities without permission from the Secretary of State.
  • Constitutional Carry (SB 319) eliminates the requirement to get a permit to conceal and carry a gun.

Here are some things that were left undone (all of these efforts will start from scratch in 2023):

  • SB 456 by Sen. Bruce Thompson is the biggest ticket item that did not get accomplished in whole or in part. This legislation, which banned Biden’s abortion-by-mail scheme and required in person examination, was passed out of committee after session Day 39 – after it did not receive a vote the day before. It was ineligible for Rules Committee at 9am and would not get out until the last meeting. It never got called to the House Floor. We have heard and seen various private and public explanations ranging from “lack of support in the Caucus” to “not enough time.” Next year, we will work to ensure this legislation gets the vote it deserves. Passed the Senate – with every Republican member co-signing – but did not get a vote in the House.
  • SB 381 by Sen. Randy Robertson seeks to raise the minimum sentencing for buying and selling human beings (what is known as “pimping” and “pandering”) from a misdemeanor to a felony and apply a minimum one-year prison sentence. These higher mandatory minimums are a deterrent to trafficking in our state because the traffickers are very attuned to well-developed online marketplaces where they avoid locations with higher penalties, and also leave states and cities that begin serious efforts to catch and prosecute these criminals. This did not get a vote in the House.
  • HB 290 by Rep. Ed Setzler, after making it to the Senate Floor – only to be tabled – last year, the Right to Visit – to ensure the human dignity of every person in a hospital by requiring they be allowed in-person contact with a decision-maker – did not make it back on the floor. Setzler briefly offered a Rules substitute that would have included the bill in the Second Rules Meeting of Sine Die, a meeting for committee substitutes only. That effort did not pan out, and the bill died.
  • HB 1217 by Rep. Chris Erwin would have required safeguards so that students could not access obscene material on the internet. We strongly supported this legislation as a great way to protect our students. Unfortunately, it did not get out of Senate Rules Committee for a last-minute vote.
  • SB 326 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte was legislation that would have put a statue of Justice Clarence Thomas on Georgia State Capitol grounds. While this legislation wouldn’t have necessarily affected public policy, we fully support recognizing this great Georgian. This bill was never put on the Floor for a vote in the House.

Overall, the Frontline team testified on legislation more than 3 dozen times (we lost count, and there were also several bills we opted not to testify on but lobbied for extensively). We sent the largest pro-life, pro-family lobbying force to the Capitol day in and day out. And we delivered a sweeping slate of victories. I am proud of the work we have done and grateful for the opportunity to represent you.

I’ll be following up with some more thoughts and with info on what is coming next. This is only the beginning of 2022 and only part of what Frontline does.

I promise you – you ain’t seen nothing yet!

For Georgia,

Cole Muzio

President,

Frontline Policy Action

[email protected]

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