ATLANTA — The Georgia General Assembly adjourned March 31 at midnight, ending a legislative session that attracted controversy and applause. With 40 legislative days complete, legislators now direct attention to redistricting efforts this summer. 

Statewide

The state attracted national attention following passage of SB 202, titled the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” which introduces sweeping changes to absentee ballot requirements and other election law.

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp March 25, changes Georgia's absentee voting rules, adding new identification requirements and moving back the request deadline.

A record 1.3 million absentee ballots were cast in the 2020 Georgia General Election, overwhelming some local elections officials.

Previous provisions of the bill to require an excuse to vote by mail, and to restrict weekend voting hours were deleted amid an outpouring of complaints from Democrats, voting rights groups and county elections officials.

The law faces current legal challenges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, based in Atlanta. 

HB 479, legislation repealing a Civil War era citizen’s arrest statute, cleared the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support. The House voted 173-0 and the Senate voted 52-1 in favor. Repealing the law was a legislative priority for Gov. Kemp, following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Feb. 2020. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

Late evening of the final day, legislators passed a $27.3 billion appropriations bill with bipartisan support, which secured state funding starting July 1, 2021. 

A wide breadth of bills related to taxation, public safety, education, public health, and small businesses await signature from the governor. 

Taxation

SB 6 - Tax Credit Return on Investment Act of 2021 calls for the House Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee to obtain independent economic analyses when considering fiscal bills. 

HB 593 - Tax Relief Act of 2021 increases the standard deductions for single, married and people over 65 and blind. The law would impact filings starting Jan. 1, 2022. Gov. Kemp has already signed this bill. 

Public Safety

SB 105 - Statewide probation system would be revised to permit the early termination of probation after a person has paid fines, had not had a probation revocation and not been arrested for any serious offense. 

HB 255 - Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2021 would create a state tracking system for sexual assault kits through the criminal justice process. 

HB 94 - “Porch Piracy” or package theft, would be treated as a felony carrying punishment from one to five years in jail.  

HB 286 - Restricts ability of county and city governments to decrease law enforcement funding by more than 5 percent in a fiscal year. 

Public Health

HB 146 - Paid Parental Leave is expanded for eligible state employees and local board of education employees. The leave is for 120 hours or three weeks.  

SB 164 - Modernization of HIV laws to align with science to ensure laws and policies support current understanding of public health. Also supports best practices for prevention of transmission. 

HB 43 - Vehicle registration application forms include option to disclose an impairment that may interfere with communication to law enforcement. 

SB 85 - “Max Gruver Act” bans hazing and requires public disclosure on the case is adjudicated. Gruver, a Roswell resident, died on Sept. 14, 2017 in a fraternity hazing incident.  

Small Business

HB 112 - Certain immunities from COVID-19 for small businesses are extended for one additional year. The immunity expires July 14, 2022. 

SB 236 - “Cocktails to go” permits restaurants to sell mixed drinks for curbside pick-up. The alcohol has to be sold in a tamper-proof container.

Jeffrey reports on Dunwoody and the State Capital for Appen Media. He also hosts The Georgia Politics Podcast

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