ATLANTA – Lawmakers in the Georgia General Assembly on Friday are concluding the regular 2020 session of the General Assembly after a months-long recess because of COVID-19. Besides their annual duty of passing a budget to govern state spending, here’s a look at the fate of some other significant issues:
HATE CRIMES: Georgia lawmakers acceded to a strong push for a hate crimes law, agreeing to House Bill 426, which would impose additional penalties for crimes motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
POLICE PROTECTIONS: Republicans pushed through House Bill 838, which would create a new crime of bias-motivated intimidation for people who commit offenses against police, firefighter and emergency personnel.
DUAL ENROLLMENT: The number of college courses that the state would pay for high school students to take was capped under House Bill 444, which Gov. Kemp signed in April. Most students would be limited to 30 hours of college credit, in a money-saving measure.
MEDICAL BILLS: Patients could see fewer surprise medical bills under House Bill 888. It would require insurers in many cases to pay for care by a doctor or at a hospital not within their network of providers. It also would limit patient liability for costs.
STANDARDIZED TESTING: Public school students in Georgia will see fewer state standardized tests under Senate Bill 367. The measure would cut four of eight exams in high school and one exam in middle school.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Georgia lawmakers voted to let trafficking victims get crimes expunged from their records and to revoke commercial driver’s licenses for those convicted of human trafficking.
LIQUOR DELIVERY: Georgians could get beer, wine and other alcohol delivered to their doorstep under House Bill 879. Buyers would have to set up an account, pay in advance and present an ID at their door.
CRIMINAL RECORDS: People could ask a judge to restrict public access to criminal records of non-violent or non-sexual misdemeanors if they haven’t committed another offense within four years under Senate Bill 288.
SENIOR HOMES: Assisted living and personal care homes will face higher training and safety requirements under House Bill 987, which also increases fines for abuse and neglect.
SUING THE STATE: House Resolution 1023 proposes a state constitutional amendment which, if approved by voters, would allow Georgians to sue state and local governments over illegal acts.
MEDICAID FOR NEW MOMS: Mothers would get six months of Medicaid health insurance under House Bill 1114, up from two months now, in an effort to cut maternal deaths.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Workers in Georgia would be allowed to earn several hundred dollars more a week while keeping their full unemployment benefits under Senate Bill 408. Employees would also potentially be eligible to receive benefits for more weeks.
RIDE-HAILING FEES: Lawmakers imposed a 50-cent-per-ride tax on ride-hailing services, taxis and limousines with House Bill 105, instead of leaving them be subject to higher, regular sales taxes.
TEACHER PAY RAISES: Plans to give teachers additional pay raises of up to $2,000 went by the wayside amid budget troubles
INCOME TAX CUT: Some Republicans had hoped to again cut Georgia’s top income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.5%, but abandoned plans because of falling revenues.
ANTI-GANG EFFORTS: Gov. Brian Kemp won more money to fund an anti-gang task force and permission for Georgia Bureau of Investigation lawyers to help prosecute cases, but lawmakers rejected House Bill 994 to toughen criminal penalties for gang offenses.
JUSTICE REFORM: Democrats unsuccessfully introduced bills to repeal Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law and stand-your-ground law and to require changes to policing.
TOBACCO TAX: Despite pushes from Democrats and anti-smoking advocates, Republicans rejected attempts to increase Georgia’s cigarette taxes.
HAZING: Senate Bill 423 would have raised criminal penalties for members of fraternities, sororities and other college student groups that engage in hazing and require colleges to publicly report on hazing investigations twice a year.