The Georgia General Assembly adjourned its 2017 session on March 30. There were 296 Senate bills introduced this year and 640 introduced in the House. Forty-seven percent of bills introduced were passed.
Going into the 2017 legislative session, which began January 9, legislation that would have made casino gambling legal in Georgia dominated the news. However, casino legislation fizzled early on.
While there was no one theme or debate that emerged in 2017, state legislators passed a hodgepodge of tax breaks. There were at least 10 tax bills that will likely reduce the state’s revenue. The approved measures include a laundry list of tax breaks for special interests, from large music productions and yacht owners to a reduction on leased car taxes. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute estimated a reduction of $483 million in state revenue over the next five years.
The state legislature passed a brewery bill that allows breweries and distilleries to sell alcohol for on and on-site consumption. Legislators also made a few changes to the CDB Oil law that adds conditions to the approved usage list, allows those with out-of-state prescription to possess CDB Oil in Georgia and reduced the frequency of physician reporting of THC levels in their patients.
Efforts to tack on so-called “religious liberty” language to several bills were defeated. This legislative language emerges each year and would essentially sanction discrimination. However, a measure that allows the state to withhold funding from Sanctuary Campuses did pass.
Taking a swing at the growing number of public protests, a bill dubbed “Back the Badge” increases the penalties for certain assaults.
Democrats led the charge to defeat a House bill that would have continued race- based gerrymandering. The proposed legislation drew sharp criticism from many Georgians because the proposed changes aimed to protect incumbents without public hearings and impact districts now trending to be more competitive.
Senate Democrats were also successful in passing legislation that will improve school resource officer training and resources. Another measure makes it illegal to
photograph a person under, or through, clothing (known as “upskirting”) and places the human trafficking hotline notice in more places. A Democratic-led effort to improve the legal process for those involuntarily committed to have her or his firearm permit rights restored passed the Senate.
Senate Democrats introduced the Omnibus Georgia Civil Rights Act that would ensure equal protection for all Georgians, Family and Medical Leave Expansion, a measure to increase the state’s Minimum Wage and a number of environmental and health protection measures that were not given a committee hearing. The Republican-controlled state legislature failed to address Medicaid Expansion that would provide at least 500,000 Georgians vital health care services.
Lead testing for school water and the Democratic proposal to create Community Schools passed the Senate but did not pass out of the House.
This was the first year of Georgia’s two-year legislative cycle. Bills not passed are sent back to committees and are eligible for a hearing again during the 2018 legislative session. You can read more about the 2017 legislative highlights below and use the table of contents to find bills by subject matter or the index to look up bills by bill number.