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Week 12 Under the Gold Dome

Week 12 Under the Gold Dome Week 12 Under the Gold Dome

By Sen. Blake Tillery (R- Vidalia)

The 2024 Legislative Session is finally complete. You have heard me say before — this session was the most grueling and timeconsuming I have seen in my eight years in the Senate, not because of the toughness of the issues — those are always tough — but because of the volume of legislation and ideas from the very start of session. The budget process has become more complex as federal funds start and stop, adding complexities we did not have to previously consider. From the get-go, the Senate’s goals were ambitious — increase third grade reading levels, promote school choice, reduce taxes, curb special-interest tax credits, change laws to provide additional confidence in elections, protect children from increasingly hostile agendas, encourage and strengthen public safety and go home. We hit the mark on some of these and missed it on others. There will be tons of articles written over the next few weeks hitting most of these topics, so I would like to use this column to hit some that you may not see in headlines instead: What Passed and Sits on Our Governor’s Desk: SB 233: School Choice. Allows $6,500.00 for children to attend a school of their choice when they are trapped in a school in the bottom 25% of schools of our state.

SB 73: My 3-year effort to curb telemarketing to homes on Georgia’s Do Not Call list. I have discussed this in depth over the course of this bill advancing, so I will not waste your time doing so again. We also included language in the final version of SB 73 to curb attorney advertising as well. I am an attorney, but I think the advertising has gone to a level of extreme that perverts the perception of our system of justice. I believe SB 73 can help.

SB 426: Tort reform that ends direct suit of insurance companies in trucking situations. I was proud to carry this bill, and we will be watching now to see if insurance rates fall before making other changes.

SB 505: A bill I carried to require nonprofit hospitals to disclose certain financial information or risk losing their state funding. A nonprofit’s mission is to provide for the community. Our hospitals around here are already doing this, but some bigger “nonprofits” have financial sheets that include land holdings and overseas banking accounts. Those are funds that should be treating the needy in their community. If they have enough money for Caymen Islands accounts, they do not need additional state funds.

HB 926: Revises procedure for arrest by citation for violations of motor vehicle related laws or ordinances.

HB 916: The State Budget. $36 Billion. 4% COLA for state employees; $2,500 increase for teachers.

HB 1015: Accelerates a cut to Georgia’s income tax by reducing these by ten basis points this year and setting a path to reduce it by another forty basis points to 4.99%.

HB 1105: Requires every eligible police and sheriff’s department in Georgia to identify, arrest, and detain illegal immigrants for deportation.

SB 189: Elections – (1) allows additional parties to qualify to run in Georgia (2) requires those without a permanent address to re-register to vote at their county elections office if they wish to vote moving forward, (3) clarifies what is necessary to challenge one’s voter registration, (3) removes the Secretary of State from the State Elections Board, (4) requires ballot readers read the text of the ballot, not the QR code, and (5) adds chain-of-custody language concerning ballots.

HB 974: Requires visible watermarks on ballot paper and establishes a statewide system for the posting of scanned paper ballots.

HB 1021: Increases the child and elderly parent tax deduction from $3,000 to $4,000.

HB 1019: Doubles the Homestead Exemption from $2,000 to $4,000.

HB 101: Increases paid parental leave for state employees. The Trump Administration did this for federal employees several years back. The state leave is still substantially less that the fed leave.

HB 1017: Georgia Squatter Reform Act. We are having people just move in and claim to live in various houses without a lease or deed. This bill states if a person can’t provide a lease, rental payments, or some other form of proof they belong in the property, they have committed a criminal offense and can be arrested and removed.

HB 1192: Pauses the state tax credit to data centers for two years.

What Did Not Pass: SB 425: Would have allowed for folks to notarize documents via online means. It passed the Senate but could not pass the House.

Sports Betting: It came on various bills, but it did not make it through both chambers.

Preventing Boys from Participating in Girls Sports: Made it through the Senate but not House.

Banning Libraries from being a part of the American Library Association ( ALA). Those supporting this bill felt the ALA has an agenda toward children not supported by most in this area. Those opposing this bill felt the government was censoring books. I supported the bill, and it passed overwhelming in the Senate but could not make it through the House.

Preventing minors from receiving hormone replacement/transgender treatment. This bill passed the Senate but did not pass the House.

SB 180: Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill has been debated for years in the General Assembly. It passed the Senate but did not make it through the House.

In closing, I owe a lot of thank yous to those who make it possible for me to spend three months in Atlanta. To my wife — thank you for keeping our family together. Session is more difficult on you than me, but you hold it all together so well. To my parents, my in-laws, co-workers, and neighbors — you all chipped in to keep our kids when session or budget negotiations ran late into the evening or over the weekends and Ashlee Nicole was called in to perform surgeries. You are always there for us, but we asked more of you this year than ever, and you never told us “No.” Last but not least, you, the citizens of the 19th Senate District, thank you for the honor of serving you in the Senate. It is not lost on me that you could pick a different person and probably one more capable. I am honored you let me hold this position.

Over the next few months, I will be in Vidalia practicing law and keeping a watchful eye over our state’s financial position. If you have any questions or issues affecting you, please feel free to call me there at 912-537-3030 or do not hesitate to contact Ms. Angela at my office in Atlanta via 404-656-0089. Thanks again for the opportunity to serve you.

Sen. Blake Tillery serves as Chairman for the Senate Committee on Appropriations. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Bacon, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Coffee County. He can be reached by email at blake.

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