We are not stopping.
As Cole said in his short appeal Wednesday, those who oppose or would undermine our values aren’t stopping, and that means we can’t either. From Government intrusion and coercion, to harmful gambling expansion, to radical, irreversible gender treatments on children, we are serving you on the Frontline of our state, and joyful and grateful to get to do so!
This week was the eleventh week of the General Assembly, and the pace hasn’t let up at all. Important bills considered, debated, and signed into law, impactful prayer meetings… and kickball. Yes, kickball – keep reading to find out what that looked like.
With 38 legislative days in the books, we now have just two left to pass good bills and stop bad ones.
Our #1 remaining priority: PASSING SB 233, which would be the biggest win for educational freedom in state history.
While we work on the state level, our President Cole Muzio represented Frontline this week at the first ever “SoConCon” – a conference featuring 116 social conservative organizations. He heard from incredible speakers, including US Senator (and potential presidential candidate) Tim Scott, connected with other leaders, and strategized on the future of the movement. Though our focus is on our state, we are committed to having this growing organization be at the forefront of the national conversation.
At the conference, Cole ran into fellow Georgian, Matt Sharp, our key ally with Alliance Defending Freedom. He also had a chance to visit with Chloe Cole (who we are working to reschedule coming to our state).
Throughout the week, Cole never stopped working the phones with legislators and allies here as we ramp up toward the conclusion of a topsy turvy session.
On Monday, the legislature got things going with a packed schedule. The House passed 23 different pieces of legislation – both House and Senate bills – and the Senate passed 19. The pressure is mounting to get things to final passage as we approach Sine Die (the last day of session) this coming Wednesday.
Our day started off bright and early, with the House Education subcommittee considering SB 233 – the most consequential piece of school choice legislation ever to pass the House or Senate in the state of Georgia. This bill would provide “Promise Scholarships” of $6,500 per child to parents zoned in failing school districts, enabling access to a wide variety of educational opportunities for their children to escape their failing school and have a better chance at a quality education.
We heard moving testimony from parents and students alike, and I offered testimony referring back to the mountain of data that exists about school choice, which point irresistibly in one direction – that the expansion of educational freedom leads to better results for kids. Period. What was far more interesting than my testimony, however, was hearing from a brave, 10-year old boy named Gabriel, who took the day off school to come to the capitol with his mom and lobby for school choice. SB 233 passed subcommittee that day, and I grabbed a picture with Gabriel to commemorate his very special involvement in the process.
Also on Monday, the House passed SB 93, Frontline-endorsed legislation by Senator Jason Anavitarte (Dallas) that will ban TikTok – and other social media entities controlled by foreign adversaries of the United States – from all government-owned devices, including all school computers. Two other bills we fully supported also passed: SB 42 by Senator Mike Hodges (Brunswick) to incentivize businesses to post the required Human Trafficking info, and SB 44 by Senator Bo Hatchett (Cornelia), which increases the penalties for committing gang crimes and enticing minors.
The Governor also took a big step on Tuesday, the 14th – he signed HB 162, granting over $1 billion (with a B!) in direct tax rebates back to the taxpayers of Georgia! This bill was endorsed by our Frontline Conservative Business Alliance, and will likely turn out to be one of the most popular passed this season.
On Tuesday, we got going on SB 233 in the full House Education committee bright and early as well – discussing it for over an hour, beginning at 8am, before postponing the debate until later that day. The Senate also gave the final stamp of approval to SB 140 – the bill seeking to ban gender transition surgeries and cross-sex hormones. [More on that below]
That afternoon, I also offered supporting testimony on one of our priority bills, SB 36 by Senator Randy Robertson (Cataula) in the House Judiciary Non-Civil subcommittee. This bill tackles human trafficking – raising the penalties for buying and selling human beings in order to empower law enforcement to arrest & prosecute these evil individuals and to attack the demand pipeline of this horrific trade. Thankfully, this bill passed committee, and now heads to the House Floor. The House Education committee then reconvened after the floor session and, after briefly concluding the debate, voted to pass SB 233.
That evening, the legislators and many of their staff threw off their coats and ties and headed to the Credit Union Stadium at Georgia State University to play the annual House vs Senate kickball game. With Speaker Jon Burns coaching the House team in red shirts and Lieutenant-Governor Burt Jones coaching the Senate in blue, a fun and rowdy time was had by all. Though the Senate took an early lead of 9-4 in the first half, the House came back with an aggressive lineup and spot-on defense to land the 15-11 victory by the end of the game. Our friend Senator Chuck Payne then snuck up to the scorekeeper’s box and had them change the score to read “House 34 – Senate 97” to reflect the number of the opposite chamber’s bills each had passed. An enjoyable rivalry to watch play out as the stress of the session was placed on hold for a brief hour.
On Wednesday morning, I was back in Chairwoman Soo Hong’s subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, to testify in favor of SB 92. This bill – also by Senator Robertson – would establish a Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission, which would prevent District Attorneys or Solicitors General from wantonly disregarding the law in the execution of their duty, and would investigate allegations of misconduct and malpractice by GA DA’s and initiate disciplinary measures when necessary.
Wednesday was a committee work day, which means that no bills passed either chamber, but we had many productive meetings with legislators and leaders to determine the next steps on a number of different initiatives, including legislation that will come to fruition next session. There is much to tackle as we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, and we ask for your prayers as we seek to honor God and determine His will for our steps as we fight on the frontlines of our state’s political arena.
On Thursday, Direct of Council, Scott McInnis with his wife Heather, and Director of Christian Engagement, Sam Thomas had the opportunity to pray with legislators in several more of our Church Ambassador Network meetings, where we seek to bless legislators by bringing their burdens before the Lord in prayer. Pastor Todd Slade of First Baptist Moreland joined them for a busy day of meetings.
Throughout the day they met and prayed with Rep. Lydia Glaize (Fairburn), Rep. Brent Cox (Dawsonville), Rep. Houston Gaines (Athens), Rep. Marcus Weidower (Watkinsville), Rep. Bethany Ballard (Warner Robins), Senator Brian Strickland (McDonough), Mayor Jon Howell of Jefferson, and Doug, a member of the House’s security team.
Some of these meetings take place in the offices of legislators, but yesterday, many of them were in the halls of the capitol as business was conducted all around. Our team heard from several onlookers who were grateful to see the name of the Lord lifted in prayer around our lawmakers, with one sharing: “That right there is a beautiful sight. We need to see more of that in this building!” And we will certainly do our best to make that happen.
The House also passed an excellent bill on Thursday afternoon. SB 1 by Senator Greg Dolezal removes the sunset on a ban of vaccine passports for Covid-19 (which is already in statute here in the state) effectively reaffirming this prohibition in perpetuity. We appreciate his staunch stand for medical freedom, and have been proud to push for this legislation to ensure Georgia Citizens are treated unfairly or coerced on the basis of not having received an elective shot. Glad to see it cross the finish line and head to the Governor’s desk!
While much of Thursday was taken up in shoring up support for SB 233 in the House, I did have the opportunity to address a small group of Christian school students who were visiting the capitol with our friend Paul Smith of Citizen Impact, about the impact of effective Christian political engagement.
After a full day whipping (counting) votes in favor and opposed to expanding school choice, the House decided it would be time to put the measure on the floor. So they passed the bill through the rules committee and on to the floor. Then began the floor debate on the measure. Unfortunately, despite widespread and fairly bi-partisan support for school choice in Georgia, the political divide on this issue has always been pretty partisan under the Gold Dome, and this time around was no exception. Representative Todd Jones (Cumming) did an incredible job presenting the bill, as he is the House sponsor.
A telling and very important moment was when our friend, Governor’s floor Leader Rep. Will Wade (Dawsonville) gave a powerful floor speech for the bill, and emphasized several times the fact that our Governor – Brian Kemp – wholeheartedly endorses and supports this measure to give parents more choice and students a better chance. (Side note: Happy 20th anniversary to Rep. Wade and his wife!) However, after a full and robust 2 hours of debate, the house had 6 members absent, and the bill was tabled, pending a future point when there is more likely to be a full voting strength. (The Governor’s support of this measure captured HERE)
We want to recognize Speaker Burns, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (who delivered an excellent Floor Speech), and all who rose to speak to the bill. We also do want to make a special mention of Rep. Mesha Mainor, a Democrat legislator who lamented the partisan nature of the bill. Some of her great points were captured HERE.
One thing Rep. Mainor also mentioned was the mean looks she gets from opposed lobbyists. We can say this with confidence, Rep. Mainor will not be getting any mean looks from us!
In other news yesterday, Governor Kemp signed SB 140 – the “gender reassignment” measure. We regret a stronger bill did not reach his desk, and the many players who worked to push a weak bill will not be forgotten. While we hope this legislation will protect as many children as possible, our state deserved better, and the rushed, quiet bill signing is indicative of legislation that was not supported by conservative leaders and organizations.
Nevertheless, doing something to protect children was a priority for the Governor, and we appreciate his willingness to stand his ground. Our position on SB 140 was featured in Associated Press coverage yesterday – which is now the lead story around the country:
Cole Muzio, president of the conservative Christian group Frontline Policy Action, had pushed for even stronger prohibitions. While he applauded Kemp signing the measure, he also called it “one of the weakest in the country,” promising more efforts at restrictions. “Gov. Kemp has never been afraid to protect children and we appreciate his continued commitment to standing against radical and harmful agendas,” Muzio said in a statement.
At Frontline, we are not going to be shy about speaking truth nor about offering praise to those who have earned it. There were many conservative champions in this battle, but there were also those who exhibited spinelessness and a beholdenness to special interests.
Because of the weakness of this bill, we can assure you – Frontline will be back for more, and, you better believe, this issue will be at the forefront of our minds in the 2024 primary.
Note: Be on the lookout for urgent action alerts and updates from us as we close out. Among many other bills, the Senate added HB 237 – our friend Leesa Hagan’s bill that was stripped out to serve as a vehicle for a gambling expansion measure – to the calendar for Monday.
There are only three more work days – a committee day and two days of session – before the 2023 legislative session is officially complete. With much excellent legislation left to be passed, please be in prayer for wisdom for us at the capitol, and pray that we and the legislature both will finish strong!
Relying on Him,
Director of Advocacy
SB 1 – Removing the repealer of the Covid vaccine passport ban in Georgia – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governors signature
SB 140 – Banning Gender surgeries & chemicals for minors – Governor signed into law
SB 233 – School Choice for all students in failing schools; Promise Scholarship Accounts – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote – TAKE ACTION!
SB 92 – Creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission to discipline in lawless DA’s – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
HB 338 – Student Technology Protection Act – Passed Senate Committee; awaiting floor vote
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 Governor’s 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 in lawless DA’s – Passed House; In Senate Committee: Judiciary
SB 36 – Raising penalties for buying and selling human beings – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 42 – Further incentivize posting of the Human Trafficking Hotline info – Passed House and Senate
SB 44 – Raising the penalties for crimes with a weapon & enticing minors to join a gang and/or commit crimes – Passed Senate and House; awaiting Governor’s signature
SB 93 – Banning TikTok on Gov’t devices – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governor’s signature
SB 131 – Foster Care reform; simplification of hearing procedure – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governor’s signature
SB 133 – Foster Care reform; Uniform process to address custody of children – Passed House Committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 134 – Foster Care reform; makes it easier for children to testify in proceedings – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governor’s signature
SB 135 – Foster Care reform; establishes standards for admissibility and authenticity of genetic testing – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governor’s signature
SB 216 – Foster Care Reform: Longer respite care – Passed House Committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 222 – Prohibition on outside money influencing elections – Passed House committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 230 – Foster Care Reform: Update to the Foster Care Bill of Rights – Passed Senate; In House Committee: Juvenile Justice
BUSINESS ALLIANCE BILLS:
SB 3 – “Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023” – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governor’s signature
SB 195 – Expedited professional licenses for service members and their spouses – 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
HB 162 – 2022 Income tax refund – Signed into law, March 14th, 2023
HB 189 – Expands allowable truck weight on the highways to enable lower costs for GA companies shipping on state roads – Passed House and Senate; awaiting Governor’s signature
*These are the bills alive this session, post crossover. Other Frontline-supported legislation that did not crossover this year, can be considered next year.