How did Athens’ state representatives vote?
• Red rows indicate a bill sponsored by Republicans only.
• Purple rows indicate a bill with sponsors from both parties.
(If you’re wondering why there aren’t any blue rows, it’s because without Republican support, bills have no chance at all of passing in this state.)
• Votes (yes or no) colored red indicate that most people who voted that way were Republicans, with few or no Democrats voting with them.
• Votes colored blue indicate that most people who voted that way were Democrats, with few or no Republicans voting with them.
• Votes colored purple indicate that many members from both parties voted that way.
Thumbs up means APN supports the bill.
Thumbs down means APN opposes the bill.
Athens’ legislative delegation
State House District 120 – Houston Gaines (R)
State House District 121 – Marcus Wiedower (R)
State House District 122 – Spencer Frye (D)
State House District 124 – Trey Rhodes (R)
State Senate District 46 – Bill Cowsert (R)
State Senate District 47 – Frank Ginn (R)
A closer look: 2022 legislation in Georgia
Low-Income Homestead Exemption for Athens (HB 797)
Last year, the ACC Mayor and Commission asked the state legislature to allow them to freeze property taxes for people living on low or fixed incomes so that future tax increases wouldn’t force them out of their homes. Houston Gaines, one of Athens’ state representatives, agreed with the idea but only after adding a catch — he would double Athens’ already high homestead exemption at the same time.
Fearing a loss of revenue, Mayor Kelly Girtz spoke out against the bill. It didn’t pass in 2021, but this year legislators reconsidered the idea. This time it passed both houses and was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, setting up a referendum in November to see if Athens residents want to lower their property taxes or not.
APN will go over the referendum in detail when it gets closer to the election. For now, know that it’s possible voting YES would cause more harm than good to many low-income people in Athens. For more on this bill, check out Flagpole’s reporting here.
HB 797 was signed into law.
Mental Health Parity Act (HB 1013)
Mental health is an extremely important part of our overall well-being, but it’s not always been treated that way by the state legislature or by insurance companies. That all changes with this act! Georgians for a Healthy Future calls the Mental Health Parity Act “a landmark bill covering many aspects of mental health and substance use care.” Perhaps most importantly, it equalizes the treatment of mental health with that of physical health in the eyes of insurance companies.
This should allow Georgians to more easily gain access to the mental healthcare they need, and to pay less for it. It’s the best thing that happened in this year’s legislative session, hands down.
For more information, check out Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Mental Health Parity Act fact sheet.
HB 1013 was signed into law.
Ban “Divisive Concepts” in Classrooms (HB 1084)
This bill bans advocacy of “divisive concepts” in the classroom, such as the idea that the US is a racist country or that white people, due to their race, are inherently oppressive towards people of color. The bill does not mention critical race theory by name, but it’s designed to ban the inaccurate right-wing perception of this graduate-level legal theory in K-12 education.
It requires that all local boards of education create a complaint resolution process to handle any parental accusations that their kids are being taught something similar to critical race theory. The final arbiter of whether a particular teacher’s instruction has violated this law will be the Georgia Board of Education.
As if this wasn’t enough for one bill, it also allows athletic associations to ban transgender girls from competing with cisgender girls in high school sports.
HB 1084 was signed into law.
Sex Discrimination Protection in the Workplace (HB 1390)
This bill grants additional legal protections to municipal government employees who face retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment. It passed unanimously in both chambers although some legislators, like Athens’ own Frank Ginn, declined to vote one way or the other on it.
HB 1390 was signed into law.
Voting Complication Bill (HB 1464)
This bill is a companion of SB 202, the controversial “omnibus voter suppression” bill passed in 2020. In its original form, HB 1464 would have empowered the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate elections without an invitation from the Secretary of State. Additionally, it would have prevented local boards of elections from accepting donations from nonprofits without approval from the state elections board and finally it would have allowed the public to inspect paper ballots for any reason upon request.
HB 1464 was blocked in the Senate, but the provision allowing law enforcement to intervene in elections was moved to a different bill, SB 441, which did end up passing.
HB 1464 died in the Senate.
SB 441 was signed into law.
Criminalize Protest (SB 171)
The “Safe Communities Act” would have made some protests, such as those blocking the street, felony offenses. It would have required permits for all other protests and even held municipalities liable for damages if they failed to act to prevent protesters from damaging property. It would have made defacing Confederate monuments a felony and it would have provided a legal shield for those who hit protesters with their cars. This blatantly unconstitutional bill passed the Senate but failed to advance any further.
SB 171 died in the House.
Allow Permitless Carry (SB 319)
Georgia residents and those with firearm carry licenses from other states can now carry a concealed gun without a license statewide. Those prohibited from carrying firearms, like felons, will still be prohibited from doing so. Permitless carry is called “constitutional carry” by supporters even though the Second Amendment does not prohibit gun regulation. This act comes as gun violence continues to increase both nationwide and in Georgia, which had the 9th highest rate of gun violence in the US in 2019, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
SB 319 was signed into law.
Postpartum Medicaid Expansion (SB 338)
The state legislature failed yet again to fully expand Medicaid in 2022, but it has at least expanded Medicaid access for new mothers from six months to 12 months after birth with this act.
SB 338 was signed into law.
Ban the Abortion Pill (SB 456)
This bill would have banned mail delivery of abortion-inducing drugs and would have only allowed the use of such drugs under the strict supervision of a doctor.
SB 456 died in the House.
Mandate Cash Bail (SB 504)
This bill would have required the use of cash bail by judges for any felony committed in the state of Georgia. Normally, judges are allowed the discretion to let those accused of crimes who are not a flight risk or a danger to the public remain free until trial.
SB 504 died in the House.