Gold Dome Update- February 24, 2021

Welcome to Day 22 of the legislative session within the Georgia General Assembly! 

Since last Tuesday’s legislative update, there has not been much movement among most of the bills we are watching that are not related to voting and elections administration. However, members of both the State House and Senate were quite busy this past week introducing new legislation that aims to reform (and mostly limit) aspects of how Georgia voters cast their ballots in the future. 

Click here for a review of those bills referenced last week that we are still monitoring. 

Below, you’ll find some updates on updates to important bills pertinent to the lives of the new Americans we welcome and the mission of New American Pathways, including the committee where each bill is currently awaiting a vote. Additionally, you’ll find information on new bills proposed within the last week since Tuesday, February 16th . Our Civic Engagement team will be continuing to track these bills, along with any new, relevant bills throughout all 40  days of the state legislative session this year. Check back every week for new updates on state policy developments and ways to take action, when necessary.

Positive Bills on the Move

HB 120: Provides in-state tuition rates to certain noncitizen citizens at certain institutions of higher education. Received a hearing in the House Higher Education Committee on Friday, February 12th but did not receive a vote. 

Note: A substitute change was made to the bill since last week that is currently being analyzed by New American Pathways and our partners in the Immigrant Rights advocacy space. While HB 120 is a great first step toward bridging the gap in education equity for undocumented Georgia students, we also believe it can-and should- expand its scope of eligibility so certain immigrants such as asylees and TPS holders can also access the dream of higher education. We will continue to track this bill and work with both partners and legislators on this extremely important opportunity for so many Georgia immigrant youth. 

Harmful Bills on the Move

SB 67: Requires voters to submit copies of ID when requesting absentee ballot; Passed out of Senate Ethics Committee on February 22nd 35-18 and is expected to move quickly through Rules committee.

New Legislation to Watch

Good Bills:

HB 589 and SB 220: Companion bills in the House and Senate that would create a statewide Commission on Civics Education. House Education and Senate Education and Youth Committees, respectively. 

Bad Bills: 

HB 286: Restricts ability of local governments to reduce their law enforcement budget by more than 5%; Received a hearing on the House floor today and passed.

HB 531: Makes a number of sweeping changes to the way in which voting and election administration takes place in Georgia. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Cuts early voting options down to only one Saturday in the three-week period early voting takes place 
  • Eliminates Sunday early voting altogether
  • Places new limitations around the use of drop boxes for absentee ballot submissions. Drop box locations would be restricted to early voting sites and would only be accessible during the hours of early voting. 
  • Ends option to submit absentee ballot using the drop box on Election Day entirely
  • Adds new identification requirements for voting absentee

HB 531 is in the House Special Election Integrity Committee and is expected to be voted on this afternoon during the committee’s  3:00 meeting. 

SB 241: A companion bill to HB 531 that similarly creates more challenges for voters to vote by mail including:

  • An end to “no-excuse” absentee voting 
  • Requiring identification for voting by mail or by drop box

SB 241 has not yet been assigned to a committee. 

A Note for Advocates

Among all the above legislation currently being considered in the House and Senate, the bills that are most quickly advancing are those that seek to curb voting rights and voting access. We know that the elimination of Sunday early voting and 24/7 drop box accessibility will just make voting more difficult for working Georgians who find convenience in these options. If you’d like to take action this week and help us protect voting access, please contact your State Representative about HB 531 and your State Senator regarding SB 67 and SB 241. Click here to find your state representatives and refer to the sample script below when reaching out:

Dear Representative/Senator __________:

My name is _____________ and I am a resident of ___________, Georgia. I’m asking that you do not support any legislation that creates new restrictions around voting in Georgia. These changes do not make voting more secure but rather make it more difficult for far too many Georgians to cast their ballot, especially working Georgians who rely on the safety, security, and convenience of absentee and weekend early voting. I believe we should be encouraging Georgians to participate in elections and instead, these bills only add unnecessary barriers to voting. I encourage you to vote “no” on any of these bills such as HB 531/ SB 67 and SB 241. Thank you. 

New American Pathways stands in solidarity with all persecuted peoples and their right to pursue a life filled with purpose and dignity. Our advocacy work aims to affirm our commitment to promoting human rights, Democracy, and equitable access to services and resources that can materially improve the quality of life for refugees and all Georgians. 

For comments or questions about New AP’s policy and advocacy work, please contact Ashley Coleman at a.coleman@newamericanpathways.org 

Due to COVID-19, our services may be different than what is listed. Please contact us before coming to our office.

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