It was another extremely busy week under the Gold Dome. Georgia lawmakers pushed forward a harmful anti-voting omnibus bill, tabled a vaguely written “don’t say gay” bill, and passed a measure in the House protecting pregnant workers following some pointed testimony from one of our policy advocates. In short: we saw some wins worth celebrating, but the fight continues in earnest on Monday when the legislature reaches its first major deadline, Crossover Day.
Crossover Day is a key moment during the legislative session because in order for bills to become law, they must pass out of one chamber and into the second chamber. Although some bills will not make it on Crossover Day, they could be attached to bills that will go forward.
One such bill that unfortunately has made the cut is Senate Bill 221, a Frankenstein piece of legislation that attacks all Georgians right to vote and would suppress voting in minoritized communities. It aims to do the above by banning ballot drop boxes, increasing baseless voter challenges, and placing unfunded mandates on counties already starved for resources statewide. Our Policy Director Chris Bruce has described the bill as “an insult to every voter in Georgia,” because it so clearly increases barriers to voting for voters of color, young voters, and low income voters.
The Senate Ethics Committee passed a version of SB 221 on Tuesday night that was only available to lawmakers and the public for about 10 hours before the vote, including several amendments that were haphazardly crafted on the fly. Unfortunately, there are additional, cruel anti-voting bills still up for consideration. Read about them using our Legislative tracker here.
Some positive outcomes
Now, some good news. Senate Bill 88, which would have banned teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity “other than the child’s biological sex” without parental consent, stalled in the Senate Education and Youth Committee. We and numerous organizations, teachers, youth, and parents spoke out against the bill. Opponents say it’s likely dead in the water this session. However, its language could be inserted in another measure. We’ll keep our eyes peeled.
Thank you once again to all of the educators who spoke out in opposition to SB 88. The knowledge of teachers should be valued and trusted. As Christine Knox, the principal for Westchester Elementary School in Decatur, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, classrooms should be “an oasis of safety” for LGBTQ+ students.
Another victory this week, House Bill 556, the Pregnancy Protection Act, successfully passed through the House Industry and Labor Committee. Two months ago, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) passed the U.S. Congress and was signed into law. HB 556 mirrors PWFA and extends its protections by:
- Prohibiting employers from forcing pregnant workers to resign;
- banning changes to the terms and/or pay of a pregnant worker returning from parental leave;
- And allowing pregnant workers to legally challenge employers who retaliate against them for pregnancy-related requests.
“Many pregnant women are on their own, barely making ends meet, and working so-called ‘good’ jobs that don’t offer pregnancy accommodations. HB 556, like the 35 other pieces of pregnancy protection legislation that have passed across the U.S., makes access more equitable and promotes economic stability,” ACLU of Georgia Policy Advocate Sarah Hunt-Blackwell testified before the committee.
Lobbying and more at the Capitol
Beyond all the action with the many bills this week, we partnered with organizations to host or participate in two engagement days. On Monday, we joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority for the 2023 Delta Day at the Capitol. Our Executive Director Andrea Young gave a keynote speech; Bruce provided an update on the legislation making its way through Georgia’s General Assembly so far this session.
We also had a tremendous turnout for Student Lobby Day on Thursday. Students from East Coweta High School, Georgia Southern University, Emory University, and other schools learned about the legislative process and helped inform lawmakers about student-centric bills.
More from our week at the Capitol