After 40 days of deliberations and debate, the 2023 Georgia legislative session came to a close on March 29th. legislators, lobbyists, and interest groups all worked diligently to get their desired legislation pushed through. Now that the session has ended, we can judge who was successful and who will have to try again next year.
HOPE Funding: Georgia lawmakers have agreed to a state budget that would eliminate the current two-tiered scholarship system for Georgia college students. Currently, Zell Miller recipients have their full tuition covered, and HOPE recipients receive up to 90% coverage. Under the new system, all scholarship recipients would receive full tuition coverage. The budget also boosts pay for all state university employees and public school teachers.
SB 140 (Gender Affirming Care Prohibition): Introduced by Senator Carden Summers (R-Cordele), SB 140 aims to ban doctors from providing medical treatments to help transgender youth affirm their gender identity. It blocks gender
affirming surgery and hormone replacement therapy for those under 18. Senator Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett) made the argument that there are certain restrictions minors face being underage such as joining the army or buying alcohol and that this should be added to the list. Opponents of the bill cited the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidance that doctors should provide minors with “comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care.”
SB 93 (“TikTok Ban): Introduced by Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), SB 93 prohibits the use of TikTok, Telegram, and WeChat on all state-owned devices. According to Anavitarte, “this legislation will keep Georgia on the forefront of this domestic security concern and proactively block malware from sensitive state computer systems in the future.” Other states, as well as the federal government, are considering following suit with similar “TikTok bans.”
SB 146 (Electric Vehicle Charging): Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), SB 146 alters the way in which electric vehicle owners would pay for the charging of their vehicles. As part of the state’s goal of becoming the “electric mobility capital of the U.S.,” the bill would allow electric vehicle charging stations to charge by the kilowatt hour rather than the amount of time that the charge takes, similar to how we pay for gas. The bill also applies a tax on publicly available charging stations at a rate of 2.84 cents per kilowatt hour, aiming to balance out decreased motor fuel tax revenues.
SB 88 (“Don’t Say Gay”): Introduced by Senator Carden Summers (R-Cordele) SB 88 would prohibit teachers from speaking about gender identity and sexual orientation with students without parental permission. Opponents have compared the bill to Florida’s HB 1557, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” The bill is officially titled “Parents and Children protection Act of 2023.” After concerns were raised regarding effects on private schools, the bill was tabled by all but one member of the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
SB 233 (Charter School Vouchers): Introduced by Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act would create a voucher program offering parents the choice of what form of learning they want their child to partake in. The grant would provide parents with a $6,000 voucher for parents to use towards enrolling their child in private or charter schools, homeschooling, or virtual learning. Opponents raised concerns regarding shifting funds
from public schooling, and the bill failed on the House floor with a narrow 85-89 vote. All Democrats opposed the bill with the exception of Representative Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta), who represents Georgia Tech.
SB 114 (Buckhead Cityhood): Introduced by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), SB 114 would place a measure on the ballot to allow Buckhead to secede from Atlanta and form its own city. This was an extremely controversial piece of legislation. Supporters have focused on incidents of violent crime and police response times, and the hypothetical City of Buckhead would establish its own police force. Opponents argued that Buckhead’s cityhood would cause legal issues and raised the fact that no representatives of Buckhead supported the bill. The bill failed in the Senate on a 23-33 vote, with Republicans split and all Democrats opposed.
HB 319 (Tuition Increases Prohibition): Introduced by Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), HB 319 would have prevented the University System of Georgia from raising tuition by more than 3% in a year without the approval of the Georgia General Assembly. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and with only one no vote in the House but was vetoed by Governor Brian Kemp. According to Kemp, the bill would have violated the authority of the university system’s Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the Governor.