With the Georgia General Assembly legislative season kicking off on Jan. 9 when the State House of Representatives reconvenes, Georgia citizens should expect several key pieces of legislation this spring.
Only roughly three dozen bills and resolutions have been prefiled from the upcoming session, with the majority of bills expected to arrive in the coming weeks. However, already a couple of bills could prove to be controversial.
Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) faced criticism in November after proposing House Bill 3, which would amend provisions regarding wearing a mask or hood to conceal one’s face, extending the restriction to driving and identification cards such as a driver’s license. After many considered the “Burqa Bill” a way to target Muslim women who traditionally conceal their face, Spencer announced shortly after the bill was filed that he would withdraw the bill following “the visceral reaction,” according to a post on his Facebook page.
While House Bill 3 is expected to be removed, two other proposed bills focus on another commonly controversial topic: gun rights.
House Bill 10 looks to prohibit the sale, distribution, transport, sale or use of certain assault weapons, large capacity magazines, armor-piercing bullets or incendiary .50 caliber bullets. The bill defines “assault weapon” as a firearm capable of “fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire,” and lists several models that would fall under the definition.
A “large capacity magazine,” per the bill, would be any magazine that can fit or can be “readily restored or converted” to fit more than ten rounds of ammunition.
At the same time, House Bill 11 looks to revise weapons permits by requiring firearms safety training within three years prior to someone applying for a license. The training, according to the bill, would require “instructions on the features of a handgun and a brief explanation of loading, firing and unloading of the weapon” from a law enforcement officer, nationally recognized firearm safety organization or a licensed firearms dealer.
Two Democratic representatives also hope to make voting in upcoming elections easier with House Bill 20 and 22.
The former would make the application to obtain or renew a driver’s license additionally function as a voter registration application, in effect allowing citizens to automatically register to vote when receiving their driver’s license.
The latter looks to remove the confusion of assigned voter precincts on election days by authorizing the election superintendent of a given county to allow electors to vote at any precinct in the county.
Two House Resolutions tackle legislative and congressional reapportionment, with House Resolution 2 proposing the General Assembly head the reapportioning of the state’s congressional districts, while House Resolution 3 proposes a 14-member Citizens’ Redistricting Commission to devise and present the General Assembly with a potential redistricting plan.
And while nothing has been filed yet, some bills that failed to pass last year are expected to return this year.
A renewed religious liberty bill is likely, after Speaker of the House David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle both vowed to reintroduce the legislation after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the bill. Deal killed the bill, which many said would have allowed discrimination against the LGBT community, following national criticism and threats of businesses leaving the state.
After four years in a row of proposed guns on college campuses, another campus carry bill seems inevitable. House Bill 859 last year made it the furthest of all the bills, reaching Gov. Deal’s desk before being vetoed in May following state-wide protests.
Another attempt at expanding casino gambling in Georgia is possible for the upcoming session, as the bill stalled on Crossover Day last year. Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) said in an interview with The Red & Black following the bill’s death that he planned to reintroduce the bill in the next session. Stephens pushed the idea of expanding gambling as a way to fund the HOPE Scholarship.