It was yet another busy week under the Gold Dome, during what one ACLU of Georgia attorney dubbed the “silly season” of the state’s legislative session, a period when lawmakers may push harmful bills as quickly as possible and with little notice to prevent opponents from mobilizing.
Senate Bill 140
Republicans added SB 140 to the House calendar for a vote 30 minutes before lawmakers were set to gavel in Thursday morning. The bill would ban medical professionals from giving transgender children certain hormones or surgical treatment that assists them in aligning with their gender identity. A terrible amendment was made to the bill, adding civil and criminal liability for doctors.
The ACLU of Georgia and allies sprang into action, calling and messaging House representatives, urging them to vote no. Several representatives pleaded with their colleagues to do the same. Sadly, and against the consistent warnings of parents, medical providers, and transgender youth themselves, the House passed SB 140 in a 96-75 vote.
Next, the bill goes back to the state Senate to vote on the amendment. A vote could happen as soon as Monday. We encourage you to keep up the pressure. Call or message senators here throughout the weekend.
Several Organizations held a press briefing Friday to share more info on why the bill should be defeated. ACLU of Georgia Legal Director Cory Isaacson said the bill is part of a disturbing trend by the legislature to interfere with the private medical decisions of families.
“SB 140 violates guaranteed rights under the federal and Georgia constitutions. It violates the right to parental autonomy. It violates the rights of medical providers to provide their patients with standards of care treatment. And it unlawfully discriminates against a group of Georgians who desperately need access to this care. If this bill passes, the ACLU of Georgia and our partners will consider all legal actions,” Isaacson told reporters.
Audrey Maloof, research manager at Progress Georgia, highlighted the results of a recent poll carried out with Georgia Equality. Among its findings:
- More than two-thirds of parents in Georgia oppose the regulations being proposed in SB 140 (58 percent are in strong opposition).
- 59 percent of Republicans surveyed oppose the regulations. 73 percent of Democrats oppose.
Senate Bill 129, “Time Off for Voting”
SB 129, which would provide time off for employees in Georgia to advance vote, passed out of the House Governmental Affairs Committee with an amendment recommended by ACLU of Georgia Senior Policy Counsel Vasu Abhiraman.
We already supported the bill as good legislation that will improve the lives of Georgia voters. The amendment, removing employers’ right to say no (in the interest of keeping an employer from saying, “You can vote on Saturday,” or some other time during the early vote period), will more robustly allow Georgians the opportunity to have their voices heard at the ballot box.
Staff attorneys are continuing to keep an eye on another elections-related bill, Senate Bill 222. This harmful bill would dry up funding, stifle innovation, and harm community partnerships at county elections offices. The state should step up and fund our elections instead of banning counties from seeking their own funding as they continue to struggle with anti-voter burdens already in place statewide.
Criminal Legal Reform bills
Our Policy and Advocacy team is working with lawmakers to stop any legislation that takes Georgia back to policies that drive mass incarceration and inequitable treatment of communities of color.
On that front, we have some great news. Three bills we were watching in the House Committee on Judiciary Non-Civil – Senate bills 31, 63, and 92 — had hearings only. That means the committee chose not to take action and the bills are held up. Follow the links for more details on all of those bills.
Members of the committee asked many questions, suggesting Republican and Democratic members alike recognized our concerns about jail overcrowding and the collateral consequences of being jailed unnecessarily. Rep. Tanya Miller cited the ACLU of Georgia’s report, “There are Better Solutions,” as evidence that there will be an overcrowding crisis that would be exacerbated by one of the bills.
Georgia Lawmakers Threaten the Rights and Lives of Trans Youth by Voting to Ban Their Health Care
Senate Bill 140 advances during a Georgia House Public Health Committee hearing
Press Briefing on the Harms of SB 140 to Georgians
ACLU of Georgia Policy Advocate Sarah Hunt-Blackwell appears on WERU Radio with Miss Sophia