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Houston Gaines (R), Georgia state representative candidate for district 117, speaks at a cookout on Aug. 20. The Athens-Clarke County Republican Party held a cookout at their new headquarters on Aug. 20, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

New voting machines, stricter hate crime laws and restrictions on abortions are among laws that have a chance at becoming law in Georgia this year.

The Georgia General Assembly legislative session began on Jan. 14 and lasts 40 work days. March 7 was “crossover day,” generally considered the last chance for a bill to pass either the House or Senate in order to become law before the session ends in April.

Now that crossover day has come and gone, here is a look at a few of the bills which passed the House and stand a chance of becoming law this year.


HB 217

Passed the House on Feb. 25, 166-3

Sponsored by Athens Rep. Houston Gaines, H.B. 217 would make it easier for needle-exchange programs to operate in Georgia. State law currently prohibits the distribution of needles without a “legitimate medical purpose.” It is hoped the bill would reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C by making clean syringes more available.

How Athens-area representatives voted:

  • Spencer Frye: Yes
  • Houston Gaines: Yes
  • Marcus Wiedower: Yes

HB 316

Passed the House on Feb. 26, 101-72

House Bill 316 would install new, uniform voting machines across Georgia. The machines would be touchscreen, similar to the current machines used in the state, but would also print a paper receipt of each ballot.

The 2018 elections in Georgia faced a series of problems. Machines broke down and lost power, and they left no paper trail. Some voting machines were also proven to be hackable.

The bill would also make changes to voter identification rules, stating that if an individual’s identification information on their voter registration form does not match information held on file at the Department of Driver Services or the Federal Social Security Administration, they are still registered to vote bust must provide evidence of their identity at or before the time they request a ballot.

How Athens-area representatives voted:

  • Spencer Frye: No
  • Houston Gaines: Yes
  • Marcus Wiedower: Yes

HB 426

Passed the House on March 7, 96-64

H.B. 426 establishes stricter penalties for hate crimes committed in Georgia. The bill would take effect if the defendant chose a victim because of the victim’s disability, gender, nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation. The bill would establish a minimum imprisonment time of three months for a misdemeanor, six months for a misdemeanor of “high or aggravated nature” and two years for a felony.

How Athens-area representatives voted:

  • Spencer Frye: Yes
  • Houston Gaines: No
  • Marcus Wiedower: No

HB 481

Passed the House on March 7, 93-73

The Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, Also known as the LIFE Act, H.B. 481 would outlaw most abortions once a heartbeat is detected in the womb. The bill would provide exceptions if the abortion would prevent death or serious injury in the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been filed in an official police report.

Current Georgia law bans most abortions after 20 weeks. A heartbeat can generally be detected in a fetus between six and a half and seven weeks, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

How Athens-area representatives voted:

  • Spencer Frye: No
  • Houston Gaines: Yes
  • Marcus Wiedower: Yes

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