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2014 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia is committed to the protection of civil liberties and civil rights of all Georgians.

In the 2014 Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly, the ACLU of Georgia will continue to counter growing threats to fundamental freedoms and remain steadfast in the ongoing fight for justice.

As the session moves forward, we will continue to update our legislative agenda. You may download a paper copy of our legislative agenda here.

The bills and resolutions listed below comprise the ACLU of Georgia’s current legislative agenda:

Criminal Justice

Death Penalty

Disability Rights

Drug Law Reform Due Process Economic Justice
Education Equality

Free Speech

Immigrants' Rights

Juvenile Justice

Open Government

Privacy Rights Racial Justice Religious Liberty

Reproductive Justice

Voting Rights Human Rights

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

  • Reentry Reform (SB 365)

    • The Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform has recommended legislative changes that would assist former incarcerated individuals in procuring jobs, educational opportunities and housing.
    • SB 365 makes the following reforms;
      • (1) Requires consumer reporting agencies to permanently delete any criminal history record that has been restricted;
      • (2) Updates the juvenile code to require more thorough assenssments before a juvenile is removed from his or her home;
      • (3) Grants more judges the ability to restore a defendant's driver's license;
      • (4) Requires the Board of Corrections to develop and implement programs to assist adult offenders with reentry into society, including education and vocational programs, social and behavioral programs, substance abuse counseling, mentoring programs, financial planning, physical and mental health programs, and housing and federal assistance programs;
      • (5) Requires the Board of Corrections to create a "Program and Treatment Completion Certificate" that shall "symbolize an offender's achievements toward successful reentry into society."
    • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
    • Sponsosred by: (1) Sen. Jessie Stone; (2) Sen. Charlie Bethel; (3) Sen. Bill Jackson; (4) Sen. Butch Miller; (5) Sen. John Crosby; (6) Sen. Bill Cowsert
    • Committee: Senate Judiciary (Non-Civil)
    • Status:Senate Passed/Adopted As Amended - 2/26/14
      • House Second Readers - 3/4/14
  • Expansion of Private Probation Industry Authority (HB 837)

    • Enhances the ability of probation companies to abuse poor probationers—most of whom have committed low-level misdemeanors such as traffic violations—simply because they are too poor to pay court fines and company supervision fees.
    • Unfairly extends probation by requiring courts to toll probation when a company probation officer indicates, without substantiation, that a person has missed a meeting or court hearing—whether or not there was adequate notice.
    • On February 10, HB 837 was tabled after a bipartisan coalition of representatives voted to amend the bill and include modest safeguards to prevent abusive practices. These amendments would:
      • Grant judges appropriate discretion to determine whether a probation sentence should be tolled for failure to report to a probation officer or to appear in court.
      • Prohibit private companies from charging misdemeanor probationers more for supervision than state probation officers charge felons.
    • If HB 837 is taken up again, these proposed amendments should be added to the bill and also supplemented by even more urgent reforms, such as:
      • Prohibit probation companies from charging supervision fees in cases that are purely about debt collection.
      • Cap company fees so that they do not grow into extortionate sums that eclipse the fines actually imposed by law.
      • Enhance reporting requirements and require probation companies to disclose how much they collect in fees.
      • Clarify that courts—not probation company employees—determine whether probationers have the means to pay fines, costs and company fees before jailing for default.
      • Strengthen statewide oversight over the probation industry by adequately funding CMPAC.
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
    • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Mark Hamilton; (2) Rep. Alan Powell; (3) Rep. Rich Golick; (4) Rep. Howard Maxwell; (5) Rep. Jay Powell; (6) Rep. Mandi Ballinger
    • Committee: Senate Public Safety
    • Status:
      • House Passed/Adopted by Substitute - 2/21/14
      • Senate Withdrawn & Recommitted - 3/4/14
  • 911 Medical Amnesty Law (HB 965)

    • Provides that any person who in good faith seeks required medical assistance for a drug overdose by himself or another, while awaiting the arrival of medical assistance to aid, shall notbe arrested, charged, or prosecuted for a drug violation if the evidence for the arrest,charge, or prosecution of such drug violation resulted solely from seeking such medicalassistance.
    • ACLU Position: SUPPORT and recommend the following changes:
      • Provide immunity when seeking assistance from law enforcement or medical or fire personnel for any emergency. Good Samaritans should not be fearful of providing assistance to someone in need no matter what the emergency.
      • Prevent the prosecutor from using the legal doctrines of independent source and inevitable discovery as a means of introducing evidence obtained during the emergency call in a criminal prosecution against a Good Samaritan.
    • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Sharon Cooper (2) Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (3) Rep. Dale Rutledge (4) Rep. Ben Watson (5) Rep. Bruce Broadrick (6) Rep. Tom Weldon
      • Committee: Senate Health and Human Services
      • Status:
        • House Passed/Adopted By Substitute – 2/25/14
        • Senate Read and Referred - 2/26/14
        • Senate Committee Favorably Reported by Substitute - 3/7/14

The Following Criminal Justice Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • Denial of Commercial Licenses to Registered Sex Offenders (HB 40/SB84)

    • Prohibits persons on the sexual offender registry from obtaining class “P” (passenger vehicles with 16 or more persons) and “S” (school buses) commercial drivers’ licenses.
    • Driving without the endorsements in violation of this proposal constitutes a felony punishable by two years, fine of $5,000.00 or both.

    Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform (HB 1)

    • This bill makes several important reforms:
      • Enhances reporting requirements and promotes greater transparency and accountability in how forfeiture funds are used.
      • Denies law enforcement agencies access to civil forfeiture proceeds when agencies misuse “property derived or resulting from civil forfeiture actions” as well as deny access to forfeiture proceeds where agencies fail to submit and make public annual reports ”specifying the property received during the fiscal year and clearly identifying the use of such property, including the specifics of all monetary expenditures”;
      • Caps forfeiture proceeds paid to district attorneys’ offices at 10% of forfeiture proceeds and limits the way that prosecutors can use seized funds.
      • Consolidates all forfeiture laws into a single chapter of the code.
    • However, the bill fails to address many of our concerns:
      • Still allows law enforcement to seize property from individuals even where those individuals have been acquitted of all criminal wrongdoing or where all pending charges have been dismissed. This can be fixed by amending lines 525-526.
      • The burden of reclaiming one’s property lies with the innocent party. This burden is made especially difficult on Lines 558-560, which says the innocent owner must show that he/she “Should not have reasonably known the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture was likely to occur.” These lines should be deleted.
      • Prohibits an innocent owner from reclaiming her seized vehicle if he/she jointly owned the vehicle with the individual suspected of criminal wrongdoing. This means that any innocent spouse, parent or grandparent does not even get their day in court. This can be amended by simply deleting lines 564-566.
      • Many claims by innocent owners have been dismissed on mere technicalities. We believe that all innocent owners are entitled to their day in courtand we would like stronger language to ensure that their claims are heard on the merits.

DEATH PENALTY

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • There has been a lot of discussion about changing the evidentiary burden for proving intellectual disability (ID) in order to avoid the death penalty and we are hopeful that legislation will be introduced to address this critical issue.
  • In 1988, Georgia was the first state to prohibit the execution of persons with ID.
  • In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court found that it is unconstitutional to execute persons with ID.
  • Georgia requires a defendant to prove mental retardation (intellectual disability) beyond a reasonable doubt; this is the heaviest burden of proof in the law and Georgia is the only state that requires it.
  • The vast majority of jurisdictions use preponderance and no jurisdiction uses beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Among southern states:
  • The defendant bears the burden of proof by preponderance of the evidence in the following southern states:South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and Virginia
  • The defendant bears the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence in the following southern states: Florida and North Carolina
  • ACLU Position: SUPPORT

DISABILITY RIGHTS

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • Lower Evidentiary Burden for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (TBD)

  • Please see “Death Penalty”.
  • Blind Persons’ Braille Literacy Rights and Education Act (HB 18)

    • Requires an evaluation of a blind or visually impaired child to determine the child's need for Braille instruction; requires Braille instruction in the individualized education program (IEP) of a blind or visually impaired student; requires textbook publishers to make their material available in electronic format for the visually impaired; to electronic materials.
    • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
    • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Keisha Waites (60th)
    • Committee: House Education
    • Status: Second Read - 02/26/13

DRUG LAW REFORM

  • Medical Cannabis (HB 885)

    • The General Assembly found and declared that clinical research has shown certain benefits arising from the utilization of medical cannabis and, most recently, significant benefits of a particular strain delivered orally for the treatment of seizure disorders among children.
    • Legislation's purpose is the compassionate potentially life-saving use of medical cannabis and is not intended to sanction, encourage, or otherwise be construed as a movement toward the legalization of recreational cannabis.
    • Changed the name of Article 5 of Chapter 34 of Title 43 of OCGA from Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research to Haleigh's Hope Act.
    • Would allow qualified academic medical centers approved by the Patient Qualification Review Board created by Code Section 43-34-124 to conduct research and clinical trials that authorize use of the drug on a compassionate basis to seriously ill persons suffering from cancer, as well as the severe side effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatment, and to persons suffering from glaucoma, and to persons suffering from seizure disorders
    • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
    • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Allen Peake (2) Rep. Ben Watson (3) Rep. Mickey Channel (4) Rep. Margaret Kaiser (5) Rep. Micah Gravley (6) Rep. Tom McCall

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • Creation of the Medicinal Marijuana Study Committee (SR 756)

    • Would create a committee to “study of the prescriptive use of medicinal marijuana for serious medical conditions to determine whether it would be appropriate to enact legislation making new provisions or changing provisions of current law of this state with regard to such prescriptive use.
    • The committee would be comprised of chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee and four members of the Senate to be appointed by the President of the Senate and would release a report with its findings and recommendations by December 1, 2014.
    • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
    • Sponsored by (1) Sen. Joshua McKoon

DUE PROCESS

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • Denial of Trial by Jury for Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs (SB 141)

    • The bill would preclude an injured patient from seeking damages in a court of law. Any claim for medical malpractice brought by a Georgia patient could only be brought in this new administrative system.
    • Patients harmed by a physician or other provider would be denied their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial and could no longer seek damages in a court of law for a medical injury.
    • Injured patients would be at the mercy of an administrative panel appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House. The substantive decisions of this administrative appeal could not be appealed.
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
    • Sponsored by (1) Sen. Brandon Beach; (2) Sen. Steve Gooch; (3) Sen. John Albers; (4) Sen. Butch Miller

ECONOMIC JUSTICE

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • Encourages the President and Congress to adopt the Paycheck Fairness Act in order to help close the wage gap between male and female employees.
  • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
  • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Sheila Jones; (2) Rep. Keisha Waites
  • Committee: House Industry and Labor
  • Status:
    • House Second Read – 02/04/13


EDUCATION/SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE

  • Parent/Teacher Trigger Act (HB 123)

    • This would allow parents or teachers in low-achieving schools to petition local school boards and demand that those schools be converted to charter schools or that an approved turn-around model be implemented within the school. The petition must be signed by more than 50% of parents whose children attend the school, or by more than 50% of teachers at the low-achieving school.
    • The local school board can deny the petition by majority vote, unless more than 60% of parents or teachers have signed the petition, in which case the board may only override the petition with a 2/3 vote.
    • The law would prohibit private companies from initiating a petition or compensating parents or faculty who initiate the petition.
    • Any school that is converted to a charter school or which implements a turn-around model must continue to serve all children within its attendance zone, and all children who attended the school in the previous year. Parents would have the option of removing their children from the converted school and placing them in a different public school within the system (if one exists).
    • The law does not allow these petitions to be initiated against charter schools (thus, it is a one way street of converting public schools to charter schools).
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
    • The ACLU opposes this bill in its current form. The ACLU would support legislation that would empower parents/teachers to petition local boards to implement approved turn-around models within low-achieving schools.
    • The ACLU does not support the expansion of charter schools until there is greater oversight and accountability within the charter school system.
    • Committee: Senate Education & Youth
    • Status:
      • House Passed/Adopted by Substitute – 03/05/13
      • Senate Read & Referred 03/07/13
  • Equipping School Personnel with Firearms (HB 875)(HB 512)

    • Would allow school personnel to carry guns in schools, on school buses and at school-related events.

    • We believe this bill would lead to an expansion of the School-to-Prison Pipeline, a disturbing national trend wherein children, disproportionately children of color and students with disabilities, are being funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Several policy trends in the public education and juvenile justice systems are to blame for this nationwide epidemic, such as the trend toward "zero-tolerance" policies criminalizing minor instances of school misconduct, the lack of due process protections in school disciplinary procedures, and the introduction of armed school resource officers (police officers) in the schools.

    • Allowing school personnel to carry weapons will likely have the effect of intimidating students, and will shift the school environment from an institution of learning to a prison-like, disciplinary facility.

    • There is no evidence that arming school personnel will promote safety within schools. The ACLU of Georgia believes that any attempt to promote school safety should be based on evidence-based practices.

    • It appears that even the authors of the bill realize that this could actually undermine school safety because the bill seeks to relieve school systems of all liability if an accident occurs as a result of this new policy.

    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE

    • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Rick Jasperse; (2) Rep. John Meadows; (3) Rep. Jay Roberts; (4) Rep. Mandi Ballinger; (5) Rep. Alan Powell; (6) Rep. Dustin Hightower

    • Committee: Senate Judiciary Non-Civil

    • Status::

      • HB 512:
        • House Passed/Adopted by Substitute - 3/07/14
        • Senate Read and Referred - 3/11/14
      • HB 875:

        • House Passed/Adopted by Substitute – 2/18/14

        • Senate Read and Referred – 2/19/14

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

    • Due Process for Parents of School Children (HB 698)

      • Ensures that parents are entitled to a hearing before a school is allowed to ban them from the premises. The ACLU has received several complaints from parents who have been banned after advocating for their children at school meetings.
      • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
      • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Keisha Waites
        • Status:
          • Prefiled – 11/15/13
  • Public School Disciplinary Tribunals (SB 321)
    • A student may elect to have his or her case heard before an external hearing officer, panel, or tribunal.
    • The local school board appoints and trains the hearing officer, panel, or tribunal members.
    • Any determination made by a hearing officer, panel, or tribunal as a result of a hearing shall be deemed a recommendation only to the local school superintendent, and such hearing officer, panel, or tribunal shall not have the authority to impose any suspension or expulsion directly on a student. Within five days of receipt of a recommendation by a hearing officer, panel, or tribunal, the local school superintendent shall render a decision affirming or denying the recommendation. Such decision shall be appealable to the local board of education in the same manner as a decision made by a hearing officer, panel, or tribunal of school officials appointed pursuant to Code Section 20-2-752 or 20-2-753.
    • ACLU Position: MONITOR and recommend the following changes:
      • The external disciplinary panel or tribunal consists of at least three members.
      • The external disciplinary panel or tribunal members are elected by the school parents.
      • The external disciplinary panel or tribunal should include a community stakeholder.
      • Within five days of receipt of a determination by the hearing officers, panel, or tribunal, the result of the hearing shall be binding on the student and the local school superintendent, unless the local school superintendent or the student appeals to the local board of education pursuant to Code Section 20-2-752 or 20-2-753.

EQUALITY

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

FREE SPEECH

  • Intimate Harassment (HB 838)

    • Would make it a felony punishable by one to five years imprisonment or a $100,000 fine or both to transmit or post to the internet a photograph or video of buttocks or breasts that are less than fully covered or fully covered male genitals in a “discernibly turgid state,” when the person transmitting or posting knowingly intends to cause substantial emotional distress to the person depicted and serves no legitimate purpose to the person depicted.
    • The language is overly broad and has many undefined legal terms that would chill free speech and freedom of the press that is currently protected by the First Amendment. It would subject internet transmission of non-obscene photos and videos to prosecution simply because the person depicted is offended and convinces the public prosecutor that the internet transmitter/poster knew that the transmission or post would cause substantial emotional distress. Therefore, many people will not exercise their right to free speech or freedom of the press to post non-obscene photos or videos on the internet for fear of prosecution.
    • The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that the government may not restrict the right to free speech based on whether or not someone is offended by the message. SeeCohen v. California (use of a profane word to object to government action is protected free speech);Texas v. Johnson (prohibiting flag burning because it might offend someone is a content based restriction that violates the right to free speech); RAV v. City of St. Paul (licensing one side of a debate to fight freestyle while requiring the other side to obey Marquis of Queensbury Rules is viewpoint discrimination that violates the right to free speech).

HUMAN RIGHTS

The Following Bills were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

    • Would provide that the laws of other states and foreign nations law shall have no force and effect of themselves within Georgia further than is provided by the Constitution of the United States and is recognized by the comity of states.
    • The courts shall enforce this comity, unless restrained by the General Assembly, so long as its enforcement is not contrary to the policy or prejudicial to the interests of this state.
    • Any tribunal ruling shall be void and unenforceable if the tribunal bases its ruling in whole or in part on any foreign law that would deny the parties the rights and privileges granted under the United States Constitution or the Georgia Constitution.
    • Private contracts in which the person voluntarily submits to laws of other states or foreign nations are exempt from this law. However, the exception provided does not apply to domestic relation contracts, including, but not limited to, antenuptial agreements or contracts, divorce agreements, adoptions, and other contracts or agreements related to or arising from matters of family law.
  • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
      • This bill seeks to address a problem that does not exist.
      • These bills have been introduced throughout the country based on the irrational fear that American courts will implement certain religious laws in violation of the U.S. Constitution. We believe that these laws unfairly target certain immigrant groups and religious minorities, and will have the effect of treating these groups like second-class citizens.
      • The proposed law is unnecessary because our legal system already has protections against our courts’ relying on “foreign law” to undermine constitutional rights enshrined in the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions.
      • The law erodes the separation of powers doctrine enshrined in the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions because only Courts, not legislatures, are empowered to determine which laws are relevant to the issues before them.
      • It violates religious freedom because First Amendment jurisprudence already prohibits US courts from imposing any kind of religious law, including Sharia.
    • Proposing an amendment to the Georgia Constitution so as to prohibit the application of foreign law in Georgia courts when such foreign law is in violation of rights guaranteed natural citizens by the United States and Georgia Constitutions.
    • Essentially covers the same points provided in HB 895
  • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
  • See Talking Points for HB 895

IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

    • Limits acceptable documentation for obtaining a driver’s license to specifically exclude DACA recipients.
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
      • This would be the first and only bill of its kind in the nation, and would make Georgia the only state to exclude an entire category of immigrants from its driver's license laws, in order to target DREAMers.
      • Such a bill would put Georgia’s compliance with Secure ID into jeopardy because immigrants granted "Deferred Action" are expressly listed as a category of immigrants eligible for driver’s licenses under the federal REAL ID Act.
      • Along with DREAMers, certain victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes with “deferred action” status under federal immigration procedures would also be harmed by this type of bill.
      • There is no sound reason to take drivers’ licenses away from DREAMers & victims of crimes.
      • This bill comes just weeks after Republicans in Congress published standards for immigration reform embracing DREAMers and calling for a change in law providing a rapid path to citizenship for individuals brought to the US as children. In their statement, Republican leaders wrote:
        • “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.”
    • Proposing an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to declare English as the official language of Georgia.
    • Requires government officials to use English when conducting state business, unless the use of another language is allowed for a few narrowly defined circumstances.
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
    • Seeks to address a problem that does not exist. The amendment is not needed because English is the predominant language in Georgia, and non-English speakers already take steps to learn English.
    • If English ceases to be the favored language of Georgians, they should not be required to continue to speak English. Georgians have a constitutional right to speak freely with and about government officials. Therefore, government officials should not be required or allowed to have Georgians speak to them only in English.
    • Unfairly discriminates against immigrants, which is an affront to the founding principles of America because all Americans have an immigrant ancestry.
    • Erects an unnecessary barrier between English speakers and non-English speakers.
    • Sponsored by: (1) Senator Don Balfour
      • Status:
        • Senate Committee Favorably Reported - 2/25/14

JUVENILE JUSTICE


OPEN GOVERNMENT


PRIVACY

  • Drug Testing for Food Stamp Applicants (HB 772)

    • Would require drug testing for applicants seeking food assistance, and applicants would be required to pay for their own tests. Similar laws have been declared unconstitutional by federal courts in Florida and Michigan. This bill seeks to differentiate itself from the other laws by requiring “reasonable suspicion.”
    • However, the factors giving rise to “reasonable suspicion” under this bill are unconstitutionally broad and would be struck down by the courts. Laws requiring drug testing in exchange for public assistance violate our Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures because they require thousands of innocent, law abiding citizens to be tested without adequate, individualized suspicion and probable cause. Drug testing programs do not save money and there is no evidence that individuals on public assistance are more likely to use drugs. Before the Florida law was struck down, the State of Florida wasted tens of thousands of dollars on implementing the program, only to find that less than 3% of applicants tested positive for drugs. We believe this is nothing more than a mean-spirited attempt to stigmatize the poor.
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • Limitations on Domestic Drone Use (HB 560, HB 846 SB 200)

    • These bills seek to place reasonable limitations on the use of domestic drones.

    • HB 560 recognizes that “[t]he right to privacy is fundamental in a free and civilized society” and that Georgians “have a reasonable and justifiable expectation of privacy that they will not be monitored by [drones] without a warrant based upon probable cause . . . and requiring a warrant in order for any information obtained by [a domestic drone] . . . to be admissible in a court of law.”

    • Committee: House Judiciary Non-Civil

      • Status: Second Reader - 3/12/13
    • HB 846 places limitations on public and private use of drones. It seeks to enumerate acceptable drone uses for private use which does raise serious First Amendment concerns. It does create a warrant requirement for law enforcement unless the police are in immediate pursuit of a person the police have a reasonable suspicion to believe committed a felony, documenting a felony crime scene, investigating the scene of a human fatality or motor vehicle accident, searching for a missing person, conducting a high-risk tactical operation that poses a threat to human life, or conducting surveillance on private property that is generally open to the public.

    • SB 200 also requires a warrant before law enforcement can use domestic drone technology, and it requires “records on all surveillance flights as to duration, flight path, and mission objectives, including the names of places or persons authorized to be subject to surveillance." Further, the bill would only allow law enforcement to use domestic drones when investigating a felony, unless exigent circumstances exist.
    • SB 200 also prohibits the domestic use of weaponized drones. ACLU Position: MONITOR
  • Requires the government to obtain a search warrant before accessing data from electronic devices with location information technology, such as GPS devices. A search warrant would not be required if the information is needed to respond to an emergency phone call or other life-threatening situation, if the device has been reported stolen or if the owner of the device consents.
  • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
  • Sponsored by (1) Rep. John Pezold; (2) Rep. Scot Turner
    • House Prefiled – 11/25/13
  • Employee Privacy Protection Act (HB 117/HB 149)

    • Prohibits employers from requesting any information that would allow the employer to access a prospective or current employee’s personal social media account, including the employee’s username, password, or any other means that would grant access. Furthermore, an employer is prohibited from requesting that an employee access or divulge in his or her social media in the presence of the employer.
      • There are two exceptions:
      • 1) An employer may request that a current employee to divulge personal social media activity that is “reasonably believed” to be “relevant to” an investigation of the employee’s misconduct or violation of a statute. In this circumstance, the social media activity must be used solely for the purposes of the investigation.
      • 2) The employer is not prevented from requiring that an employee disclose any means of accessing non-personal accounts or services that provide access to the employer’s internal computer or information systems.
    • ACLU Position: SUPPORT

RACIAL JUSTICE


RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

  • Celebrate Freedom Week (SB 68)

    • To educate students about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values, principles, and philosophies on which this country was founded, the full week in September which includes Constitution Day, September 17, shall be recognized in public elementary, middle, and high schools in this state as Celebrate Freedom Week.

    • It shall include approximately three hours of appropriate instruction, as determined by each local school system, in each social studies class. The instruction shall include an age-appropriate study of the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution including the Bill of Rights, in their historical context.

    • Local boards of education and charter schools shall allow and may encourage any public school teacher or administrator to read or post in a public school building, classroom, or event excerpts or portions of writings, documents, records, or images that reflect the history of the United States.

    • The Department of Education shall create an online instructional resource page or pages for teachers, which may include, but is not limited to, links to websites, foundational documents, and lesson plan ideas that shall focus on the foundational principles of limited constitutional government, federalism, religious liberty, freedom of speech, the right to private property, free enterprise, and the rule of law.

    • There shall be no content based censorship of American history, writings of the Founding Fathers, or heritage documents due to their religious or cultural nature.

    • ACLU Position: Recommend Revision

      • The government must maintain the middle ground of neutrality towards religion. Allowing public school teachers to teach students the religious views of the founders could be seen as government endorsement of a particular religious view and creates the danger that teachers will abuse this opportunity to advance their own religious views. This will result in many as applied violations of the Establishment Clause, which will divide communities along religious lines and result in costly litigation for school districts.

      • Require teachers to publish the proposed curriculum to the parents in advance with an opt-out provision allowing students to not participate in the Celebrate Freedom classes and to provide meaningful regular curriculum social studies classes during that time. A person is free to refrain from association with a particular group or idea, even allegiance to the United States. SeeWest Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette(School may not compel a student to participate in a compulsory flag salute);Edwards v. Aguillard(Louisiana law violated the Establishment Clause because it endorsed a particular religious doctrine.)

      • Not allowing for the school display of historical documents of a religious nature. SeeStone v. Graham(Requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments on the wall of public classrooms with the notation that “The secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western Civilization and the Common Law of the United States” violated the Establishment Clause because the law had no secular legislative purpose.);McCreary County v. ACLU(Posting copies of the Ten Commandments in the County courthouse violated the Establishment Clause because the government was advancing religion.)

    • Sponsored by (1) Senator William Ligon, Jr. (2) Senator David Shafer (3) Senator John Albers (4) Senator Barry Loudermilk (5) Senator Butch Miller (6) Senator Steve Gooch

    • Sponsored in House by (1) Rep. Earl Ehrhart

      • Committee: House Education

      • Status:

        • House Withdrawn, Recommitted - 03/28/13

        • Senate Passed/Adopted By Substitute – 02/26/13

  • Placement of Ten Commandments at the State Capitol Entrance (HB 702)

    • Calls for the immediate placement of a monument depicting the Ten Commandments, Preamble to the state Constitution, and Preamble to the United States Constitution, outside the front entrance of the State Capitol.
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
      • When the government puts up a religious monument, especially on the grounds of the state capitol, it sends a message that the state holds that particular religion in a special regard and conveys to Georgians of minority faiths and non-believers that they are second class citizens because they do not adhere to the state’s preferred faith. Georgia is a diverse state and Georgians of all faith backgrounds should feel welcome at the state capitol.
      • While it is true that courts have upheld some older governmental displays of the Ten Commandments, the courts have been more critical of newer monuments and displays because they tend to be erected for the sole purpose of promoting the Commandments’ religious tenets.
      • The Ten Commandments advocate religious beliefs that should be left to the individual. Religious freedom is alive and well in America precisely because government can’t tell us what to believe and cannot favor one religion over another.
      • In America, all are free to express their religious beliefs and this works best when the government does not take sides by erecting monuments that promote the religious doctrine of one faith. Religious expression should come from people’s hearts and faith, not stone monuments erected on government property.
      • Sponsored by: (1) Rep. Greg Morris, (2) Rep. Paul Battles (3) Rep. Randy Nix
      • Committee: House State Properties
      • Status: House Committee Favorably Reported by Substitute - 2/24/14
        • House Passed by Substitute - 3/3/14

The Following Bills were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act (HB 733/861) Note: The bills are identical.

    • Allows voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools. Requires local school systems to allow religious expression in classroom assignments. Requires local school systems to provide students with the freedom to organize religious groups and activities and to wear clothing that displays religious messages or symbols. Requires local school systems to provide a limited public forum for student speakers to express voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint.

    • There shall be no content based censorship of American history, writings of the Founding Fathers, or heritage documents due to their religious or cultural nature.

    • ACLU Position: Oppose

      • The bill is an unnecessary and unconstitutional attempt to subject students to prayer and proselytizing during school events. It will cause confusion for schools that want to comply with federal law and will likely result in costly litigation.

        • Students’ rights to express and practice their faith in the public schools are already well-protected by existing law.

        • “Model policy” would result in religious coercion of students, who could be subjected to unwanted prayer and proselytizing in a variety of inappropriate settings, including the classroom, school-day assemblies, and school events.

        • “Model policy” would not establish a true “limited public forum” at school events and would not prevent unconstitutional religious coercion of students. SeeSante Fe School District v. Doe(School policy of allowing students to elect a Student Chaplain to deliver a prayer at the varsity football games violated the Establishment Clause because it sought to preserve a popular state-sponsored religious practice.)

        • Will divide communities along religious lines and result in costly litigation for school districts.

        • Will further drain schools’ precious resources, place further responsibilities on teachers and administrators, and distract from the schools’ core educational mission.

    • HB 733 Sponsored by (1) Rep. Tom Kirby (2) Rep. Delvis Dutton (3) Rep. David Stover (4) Rep. Kevin Cooke (5) Rep. Trey Kelley (6) Rep. Michael Caldwell

    • HB 861 Sponsored by (1) Rep. Dustin Hightower (2) Trey Kelley (3) Matt Ramsey (4) Ronne Mabra (5) Stacey Evans (6) Mack Jackson

      • Committee: House Judiciary - CIVIL - Jacobs Subcommittee Two

      • Status:

        • House Second Readers - 01/31/14

    • Preservation of Religious Freedoms Act (HB 1023)

      • Prevents a state entity from substantially burden a person's civil right to exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability unless such state entity demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
      • A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened or is substantially likely to be burdened in violation of this chapter may assert such violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding. A court may grant appropriate relief as may be necessary including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, protective order, writ of mandamus or prohibition, declaratory relief, actual damages, and reasonable costs and attorney fees as determined by the court.
      • In determining whether a compelling governmental interest is sufficient to justify a substantial burden on a person's exercise of religion, only those interests of the highest order and not otherwise served can overbalance the fundamental right to the exercise of religion preserved by this chapter. In order to prevail, the government shall demonstrate that such standard is satisfied through application of the asserted violation to the particular claimant whose sincere exercise of religion has been burdened. The religious liberty interest protected is an independent liberty that occupies a preferred position and no encroachments upon this liberty shall be permitted, whether direct or indirect, unless required by clear and compelling governmental interests of the highest order.
      • This law shall not apply to penological rules, regulations, conditions, or policies established by a penal institution that are reasonably related to the safety and security of incarcerated persons, staff, visitors, supervised violators, or the public, or to the maintenance of good order and discipline in any penal institution or parole or probation program.
      • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
      • Uses religion to discriminate and harm many Georgians
      • Examples of Potential Uses the will discriminate and harm:
        • Religiously affiliated schools firing women because they became pregnant while not married;
        • Business owners refusing to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their employees;
        • Graduate students, training to be mental health providers, refusing to counsel gay or transgender people;
        • Pharmacies turning away women seeking emergency contraception or to fill birth control prescriptions;
        • Businesses closing their doors to same-sex couples planning their weddings.
  • Preservation of Religious Freedoms Act (SB 377)

    • Identical to HB 1023 except that it only requires a showing of a “substantial burden” to one’s religious practice and it only applies to state actions.
    • Government agencies could be prevented from disciplining employees who break the rules.
      • EX: Citing his religious beliefs, a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, refused to attend, or even assign another officer to attend, a police appreciation community event held by a local Islamic Society. When disciplined, the officer cited the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act (ORFA) to support his claim that participating in the Society’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day would impose a substantial burden on his religion.Fields v. City of Tulsa, (10th Cir. 2013).
      • EX: Public employees may refuse to assist LGBT employees seeking employment or domestic partnership benefits guaranteed to them by the local government.
    • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
    • Status:
      • Senate Read Second Time – 02/24/14

REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE

  • Would prevent any qualified health plan in Georgia from providing abortion coverage. This applies to all insurers in Georgia regardless of how the health plan was created, even if the plan would otherwise provide the coverage in other states, i.e. a plan created under the Affordable Care Act would not be allowed to provide abortion coverage in Georgia, even if the federal law allowed the plan to provide abortion coverage.
  • ACLU Position: OPPOSE
  • This is yet another example of anti-choice legislators’ “War on Women.” The government should not second guess women who have either earned health insurance from their employer or used their own money to purchase a health insurance plan through the ACA marketplace. Women should have the right to choose the health plan that best suits their medical needs.

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;

  • “Birth with Dignity Act” (HB 7)

    • Prohibits the use of restraints onpregnant female inmates unless there is a reasonable basis to believe that the use of restraints is necessary to prevent the inmate from injuring herself or others.
    • ACLU Position: SUPPORT
      • Shackling pregnant women is dangerous, degrading and inhumane.
      • Restraining pregnant prisoners at any time increases their potential for physical harm from an accidental trip or fall. This also poses a risk of serious harm to the woman’s fetus, including the potential for miscarriage.
      • During labor, delivery and postpartum recovery, shackling can interfere with appropriate medical care and be detrimental to the health of the mother and her newborn child.
      • The nation’s leading experts in maternal, fetal and child health care, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Public Health Association have clearly stated their opposition to the practice of shackling.
      • Shackling pregnant prisoners endangers the health and safety of both the mother and the fetus, and is almost never justified by the need for safety and security for medical staff, the public or correctional officers.
      • In the jurisdictions that prohibit shackling, there have been no reported escapes nor threats to medical or correctional staff from pregnant inmates
    • Sponsored by (1) Rep. Keisha Waites
    • Status:Prefiled – 11/26/12

VOTING RIGHTS

The Following Bills Were Not Passed by Crossover Day and Are Basically Dead;