Weekly Wrap Up – the Ugly, the Bad, and the Good
With one full week and some change left in this year’s Georgia General Assembly, Frontline continues to battle to ensure pro-family and Christ honoring laws are passed in our state this year.
That has not stopped us from continuing to work across the state for our culture, laying the groundwork for future endeavors, and building a force that can shift our state in a positive direction. This team is hard at work, and I have been so proud of the work Taylor Hawkins has done every day at the Capitol and that our Church Ambassador Network team of Scott McInnis and Sam Thomas is doing to connect pastors to ministry under the Gold Dome.
As I envisioned a greater Frontline – a vision you have been so gracious to support – this is the kind of team and kind of impact I hoped to build.
Before I provide a brief weekly rundown, let me share a “the Ugly, the Bad, and the Good” of what is happening at the Georgia Capitol:
The Ugly (that includes some sunshine) – One of the nicest legislators you could ever hope to meet is Rep. Leesa Hagan. She’s a good conservative and has made a positive pro-family, pro-business impact under the Gold Dome in just a short time. This week, she arrived at the Capitol believing that she was inching closer to passing her first bill – recognizing the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the State’s official Soap Box Derby, a good bill for kids and a good one for her district.
When she began to speak at the Committee hearing, however, Chairman Brandon Beach informed her that her bill would now be the vehicle for Sports Betting to become law in Georgia – that he was attaching the gambling bill to hers. This was devastating to a new legislator who had put a lot of time into a friendly bill that had strong support – to see her bill turned into something ugly. It was a disappointing moment that revealed the lengths to which the big money gambling industry will go to impose its will on our state – even after our State Senate has wisely repeatedly rejected sports betting this session!
But here’s the little encouraging note: Rep. Leesa Hagan refused to let her work be associated with something she opposed. Knowing that it would cost her a chance at passing her intended legislation, she informed the committee that, as an opponent of gambling, she wanted her language removed altogether. This is a first-class, hero move! Send Leesa an encouraging note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The Bad – You have heard a lot from us about SB 140. It passed the House this week after being improved.
It remains, however, the weakest bill of its kind in the country because of a SMALL cabal of REPUBLICAN senators working overtime to oppose positive changes – those who want to protect woke doctors at the expense of children. We know who they are, and we hope they will take an opportunity to change their tune.
Please remain in prayer over this bill. The next steps could potentially be complicated. At the VERY least, this bill needs to see the false “medically necessary” exception removed in order to earn the support of Frontline – or, really, any conservative organization. This bill, which should be a unifying and exciting one for pro-family groups, lacks any support because of the weak measures insisted on by a few.
The Good – While we try to share the unvarnished reality of what is happening at the Capitol, including the “ugly” and the “bad,” it’s important that you know how hard many of your conservative legislators and leaders are working for you.
Members like Rep. Josh Bonner, Rep. Will Wade, Rep. Jodi Lott, Sen. Ed Setzler, Sen. Marty Harbin, and Sen. Clint Dixon – and many others – have poured themselves into making SB 140 better. Additionally, while we have language frustrations, please know that every member who voted for SB 140 is receiving intense hatred from the radical and woke “gender ideology” community – which is just one of the many reasons why we need to strengthen the bill and make it a WIN, so there can be actual support as well!
Director of Advocacy, Taylor Hawkins with Rep. Josh Bonner (top) and Rep. Will Wade (bottom)
Many of those same members – and many others – are sacrificing a great deal to push back against gambling.
Sen. Greg Dolezal is leading the charge for a historic win for school choice, and he has the strong support of Lt. Governor Burt Jones, who has been instrumental in this effort. This legislation has momentum, and has gone farther than any bill of its kind!
It can be easy to focus on the bad, but don’t ever forget that there is much good, much righteousness, and much sacrifice also happening under the Gold Dome.
NOW… to a short weekly rundown…
On Monday, Taylor testified on SB 157 – enabling workforce rehabilitation for those with a criminal record; SB 42 – to incentivize businesses to post the Human Trafficking Hotline information; & SB 44 – to ensure dangerous criminals are not released without a bail requirement, altogether in House Judy Non-Civil Subcommittee.
That evening, Taylor also spoke to the Walton County GOP, giving a legislative update and discussing SB 140 in detail.
On Tuesday, Taylor was at the House Public safety subcommittee in support of SB 93 – banning TikTok and other spy software owned by adversarial countries on any state owned devices (no testimony allowed, but he was communicating our support to members). Also, on Tuesday, Frontline-endorsed SB 222 (prohibiting “Zuckerbucks” undue influence in elections) passed the House Governmental Affairs subcommittee on Tuesday, and the full committee on Thursday. This is an excellent election integrity measure, which was combined with some changes to the state board of elections by the House committee.
Later that day, FCBA’s Director Mark Gonsalves testified in support of SB 195; The Freedom to Work Act. This bill would expedite GA licenses for transitioning members of the Armed Forces and spouses who have work experience or licenses in good standing in other States. Sponsored by Senator Larry Walker, it passed the House Committee vote unanimously.
Director of Frontline Conservative Business Alliance, Mark Gonsalves, with Rep. Todd Jones
It was also on Tuesday that SB 140 was in Public Health Committee where it was amended to address one of our concerns. Thank you to Rep. Jodi Lott and the members of the Committee for this improvement!
Public Health Committee republicans vote to amend SB 140
One sample of coverage this week is from an AP article:
“Cole Muzio, the president of Frontline Policy Action, which advocates for conservative Christian causes, called the amendment “a welcome and positive development,” but said his group still wants to eliminate access to puberty blockers and tighten an exemption for medical necessity.”
On Wednesday, the House education committee passed Senator Greg Dolezal’s SB 204, a bill to ensure that accreditation agencies – which have an huge degree of importance in determining the educational path of students – prioritize academic success over more subjective, peripheral matters. Later that day, Taylor testified in favor of SB 92 before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil committee. This bill, by Senator Randy Robertson, would create a Prosecutorial Oversight Commission, providing accountability to lawless DAs who issue manifestos of the crimes they refuse to prosecute. This abuse of prosecutorial discretion endangers the public safety of communities across our state, and we look forward to its eventual passage.
On Thursday morning, the disgraceful episode we have already discussed took place in the Senate Economic Development committee. No testimony was allowed. Please contact your senators and ask them to VOTE NO on this bill to legalize state-sanctioned gambling expansion. We spent the rest of the day in meetings regarding legislation on the calendar next week, and preparing legislative initiatives for 2024. Let me take this chance to encourage you to engage on a VERY important issue – SB 233, a game-changing school choice bill that would free hundreds of thousands of Georgia kids from being trapped in failing schools, and allow them educational opportunities to achieve success!
Also on Thursday, Scott and Sam led a group of pastors to the Gold Dome, where they met with Senator Frank Ginn, Senator Chuck Payne, and Representative Carter Barrett. We are grateful for Pastor Robert Chapman, Pastor Cory Sexton, and Pastor Andre Johnson for taking the time to be the light of Christ with us at the Capitol!
(L to R) Pastor Cory Sexton, Pastor Robert Chapman, Sen. Frank Ginn, Director of Council, Scott McInnis, and Pastor Andre Johnson
(L to R) Rep. Carter Barrett, Director of Christian Engagement, Sam Thomas, Director of Council, Scott McInnis, Pastor Robert Chapman, Pastor Cory Sexton, and Pastor Andre Johnson
They were able to watch part of the debate on the House floor over SB140, where a few radical wokists defended the practice of child sterilization and castration, in the name of radical self-determination. It was an eye opening lesson in the importance for Christians to engage the political process, and for the church to be evangelizing our communities and our state.
On a lighter note, they were able to meet former Governor Sony Perdue who was at the Capitol to celebrate and recognize Kennesaw State’s recent March Madness success.
We are capping off a big week with a Biblical Citizenship Academy At Crossroads Church in Newnan. We have pastors, legislators, and some of the world’s leading experts on religious liberty for this amazing event to equip Christians to be salt and light in the public sphere. Please pray that God would be honored and glorified!
That completes the wrap up for the week. Please stay engaged with our emails and Action ALERTs via social media, as we finish out the last few weeks of session!
For His Glory,
Frontline Policy Council
SB 140 – Banning Gender surgeries & chemicals for minors – Passed Senate and House; back to the Senate for “Agree” vote
SB 233 – School Choice for all students; Promise Scholarship Accounts – Assigned to Education and Youth Committee – TAKE ACTION!
HB 101 – Expansion of the Student Scholarships for private schools – Passed House; In Senate Committee: Finance
HB 129 – Expanding eligibility of TANF benefits for pregnant women – Passed Senate, awaiting Governor’s signature
HB 155 – Expedited licenses for healthcare and EMS spouses – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governors signature
HB 162 – 2022 Income tax refund – Signed into law, March 14th, 2023
HB 188 – Georgia Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act – Passed Senate committee; awaiting floor vote
HB 231 – Creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission to discipline lawless DA’s – Passed House; In Senate Committee: Judiciary
HB 338 – Student Technology Protection Act – Passed House; In Senate Committee: Education
SB 1 – Removing the repealer of the Covid vaccine passport ban in Georgia – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 3 – “Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023” – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governors signature
SB 36 – Raising penalties for buying and selling human beings – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
SB 42 – Further incentivize posting of the Human Trafficking Hotline info – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 44 – Raising the penalties for crimes with a weapon & enticing minors to join a gang and/or commit crimes – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 69 – Honor Clarence Thomas with a capitol grounds statue – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Special Rules
SB 92 – Creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission to discipline lawless DA’s – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
SB 93 – Banning TikTok on Gov’t devices – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 131 – Foster Care reform; simplification of hearing procedure – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 133 – Foster Care reform; Uniform process to address custody of children – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Juvenile Justice
SB 134 – Foster Care reform; makes it easier for children to testify in proceedings – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governors signature
SB 135 – Foster Care reform; establishes standards for admissibility and authenticity of genetic testing – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 195 – Expedited professional licenses for service members and their spouses – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 216 – Foster Care Reform: Longer respite care – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Juvenile Justice
SB 222 – Prohibition on outside money influencing elections – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 266 – Banning retirement investment by fiduciaries on the basis of social, political, or ideological motives – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Retirement
SB 230 – Foster Care Reform: Update to the Foster Care Bill of Rights – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Juvenile Justice
*These are the bills alive this session, post crossover. Other Frontline-supported legislation that did not crossover this year, can be considered next year.