Posted on

Week 12 Session Update

Week 12 Session Update
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)
Week 12 Session Update
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)

The Georgia General Assembly gathered at the State Capitol for the last week of the 2024 legislative session on Monday, March 25. That Monday and Wednesday we held intensive committee sessions to finalize bills. Legislative days 39 and 40 were held on Tuesday and Thursday with the House adjourning Sine Die well after midnight early Friday morning. It proved to be a hectic week as we worked hard to pass good bills or, perhaps more importantly, block bad ones. Although I will highlight some of the bills we voted on during our final two days, you will find a more detailed list of legislation that passed both chambers (and some that didn’t) on my website at next week.

The “Big Budget”

While many people do not realize it, the only constitutional obligation of the General Assembly each year is to pass a balanced state budget. On the last day of the session, we did just that with the passage of the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY 2025) budget, which will become effective July 1, 2024. Based on a revenue projection of $36.1 billion, this budget represents an historic increase of 11.4 percent over the previous fiscal year’s budget. Its passage marks a significant milestone in Georgia’s commitment to addressing the diverse needs of its citizens and reflects a robust investment across various sectors for the state’s growth and prosperity.

I serve as vice-chairman of the Education subcommittee for Appropriations, so I’ll highlight that area. The FY 2025 budget demonstrates a significant commitment to education, prioritizing key initiatives essential for advancing K-12 instruction. Notably, HB 916 fully supports the Quality Basic Education (QBE) program with an allocation of $14.1 billion in state funds. This budget also includes measures to: • boost teacher sala ries, earmarking $373.6 million to raise the state base salary schedule by $2,500. Teacher salary increases now total $9,500 over the last 5 years making Georgia the southeast’s leader in teacher pay.

• provide salary in creases for school nutrition workers, bus drivers, school nurses and RESA staff.

• give $1,000 salary supplements for school custodians.

• prioritize literacy with $6.1 million for reading grants including literacy coaches.

• allocate $45,000 to each school for the School Security Grants program.

This will become annual funding that schools can use for security upgrades, school resource officers, and other safety investments.

• provide $200 million for student transportation, addressing increased operating costs.

• set aside an addition al $1 million for the Communities in Schools program to support students with a focus on improving attendance, behavior, and graduation rates.

I would like to commend and thank our Senator Blake Tillery for his dedicated work as Senate Appropriations Chairman. He works tirelessly around the year to make sure the state maintains a balanced, fiscally responsible budget.

Protecting Minors Online House Bill 993, which received final passage, aims to safeguard Georgia’s minors from potential harm by introducing measures against online grooming. This legislation imposes criminal consequences on predators who knowingly and intentionally use electronic means to groom minors, persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing them into committing sexual offenses or acts of human trafficking. Perpetrators of this crime would face felony imprisonment. Importantly, these penalties would apply regardless of whether the crimes occur within or outside state lines if they involve a minor residing in Georgia. HB 993 would address the growing threat of online exploitation and grooming, which would provide crucial protection for Georgia’s vulnerable children against online predators.

Strengthening our Elections

We passed Senate Bill 189 along party lines to strengthen the integrity, transparency, and accountability of our elections.

This legislation does several key things: • protects against fraud by allowing for voter challenges of those who have moved out of Georgia.

• requires visible wa termark security features on paper ballots so a voter can be confident that they are marking an official ballot.

• stops the use of QR codes or bar codes for counting ballots.

• tightens up the chain of custody of ballots and expands the number of election contests that are subject to risk limiting audits.

• requires the Secre tary of State to establish a statewide system for the posting of scanned paper ballots for public inspection and makes high resolution ballot images subject to open records requests.

• removes the Secre tary of State as a nonvoting ex officio member of the State Elections Board.

• requires all verifled and accepted absentee ballots and all ballots cast during advance voting to be tabulated, with the results reported within one hour of polls closing on election day.

Senate Bill 212 also passed. It removes duties related to elections from the powers of probate judges. The bill directs any county with a probate judge acting as the election superintendent to create a board of elections and registration to perform these duties.

No Patient Left Alone

House Bill 663, the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” has been sent to Governor Kemp for his signature. Under this bill, both minors and adult patients will have the right to have an essential caregiver physically present while that patient is in the hospital or facility. Importantly, these caregiver rights could not be terminated, suspended, or waived by the facility, the Department of Public Health, or any governmental entity, regardless of emergency declarations by the governor. This legislation was introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented many Georgians from visiting their loved ones, even during the final days of their lives. This legislation ensures that patients are never left alone without their family or caregiver by their side to provide crucial support and advocacy.

Up-to-date Bill Info

Now that the 2024 legislative session has come to an end, Governor Kemp will have 40 days to sign or veto legislation that received final passage by the House and Senate. Any legislation not signed or vetoed within 40 days of Sine Die will automatically become state law. To keep up with which bills the governor signs this spring, you may visit gov.georgia. gov/executive-action and click on Legislation.


During the interim, my legislative colleagues and I will continue to examine current and emerging issues facing Georgians that may need to be addressed in next year’s session, which will begin on January 13, 2025. Please let me know how I can continue to support House District 156 and what issues are important to you in the months ahead at Leesa. Also, I am running for reelection, so you’ll see me campaigning from Fitzgerald to Cobbtown between now and November! I would be honored to earn your vote again. As I mentioned above, there will be a much more detailed summary of bills passed by the General Assembly on my website next week. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative under the Gold Dome.

Recent Death Notices