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We are once again looking forward to our 2024 public affairs training events. Our theme for this year’s training will be the same as last year, "Living for Christ in the Public Square."

This was my 17th year working at the Georgia Capitol on legislation dealing with social and moral issues. This year had the most issues I have ever dealt with. And there were a lot of ups and downs when it came to this kind of legislation. As Georgia Baptists, we were monitoring a lot of legislation through the two-year cycle that started in 2023.

Georgia Baptists have been monitoring up to 54 bills since this legislative cycle began in 2023. Now that we have made it past crossover day (the 28th day of the session) we are focusing on at least 19 bills. Our primary focus has been pro-life, religious liberty, gambling, child protection and alcohol bills.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) SB180), authored by Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) along with 25 senator sponsors, is running out of time! Next Thursday, March 28, at midnight, is the final day of the 2024 legislative session. The RFRA has strongly passed the Senate, but at this time it still has not even had a hearing in the House.

ATLANTA, Ga. — Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson’s announcement that he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver has triggered an outpouring of prayer from his fellow Southern Baptists across the state. Thompson, a member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, said he will provide updates on his health as they become available.

State Representative Todd Jones said two years ago in a press conference that it is intellectually dishonest to talk about the benefits of gambling without talking about the detriments. Notably, Rep. Jones was the co-author of the mental health legislation that was passed in 2022.

ATLANTA — Senate lawmakers have given a thumbs up to legislation intended to protect religious rights from being infringed upon by state and local governments. Senate Bill 180, which passed 33-19 along party lines, now goes to the House for consideration.

ATLANTA — The Republican majority in the state Senate, with help from Democratic colleagues, have pushed through a proposal that could legalize sports gambling in defiance of Georgia’s largest religious organization, which called for the measure to be quashed. The Senate voted 41-12 on Tuesday to pass Senate Resolution 579, another step toward putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for Georgia voters to ratify or reject.

On Thursday afternoon, Feb. 22, SB 180, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6 to 3 vote. It now goes to the Rules Committee to be considered for a vote by Thursday, Feb. 29, on Crossover Day.   

Just a couple of years ago a hearing was held in the Georgia Senate regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana. Though no vote was taken on the legislation, the most striking element of the hearing was the numerous negative comments from the Senate committee members and those who testified against the legislation. When the dangers of legalizing recreational marijuana were uncovered, it was obvious that no one wanted this legislation to be considered on a ballot as a constitutional amendment.

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the power to protect the unborn has been given back to the American people (mostly) through your elected state representatives. All state capitols have now become a critical battleground for protecting life. That is why we need you to march at the Georgia State Capitol to bring a voice for the voiceless.

ATLANTA — Hindsight shows that refusing to order churches to shut down at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was the right move, Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday. “I’m glad we never wavered on that,” Kemp told some 200 Georgia Baptist pastors gathered at the Capitol for an annual prayer breakfast. “If there was ever a time people needed to worship, that was the time.”

ATLANTA — Over the objections of Georgia Baptist leaders, a proposal to legalize sports betting in Georgia cleared the state Senate on Thursday, but gamblers may not want to reach for their wallets just yet. A series of legislative hurdles still remain, meaning sports betting remains a longshot in the state. Senate Bill 386, which passed 35-15, would empower the Georgia Lottery Corp. to award 16 licenses to sports betting facilities, but only if voters first approve an amendment to the state's constitution to specifically allow sports betting, just as they did with the state lottery in 1992.

ATLANTA — Georgia’s largest religious organization is taking aim at the latest proposal to legalize sports betting in the state. The 1.4 million-member Georgia Baptist Convention, which has long opposed any expansion of gambling, is mobilizing its forces to urge lawmakers to defeat the legislation. The measure cleared the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on an 8-2 vote Tuesday morning and now goes to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide whether to call it for a floor vote.

Georgia Baptists are once again looking forward to recognizing our “Legislators of the Year” at the 10th Annual Georgia Baptist Pastors Day at the State Capitol on February 6. Each year, Georgia Baptists recognize a Senate and House member with an award, thanking them for their extraordinary service to Georgia and God’s Kingdom here on earth.

For almost a decade, the Georgia General Assembly has been dealing with the issue of expanding gambling in Georgia. Every year, the proposed legislation has failed to pass out of the House and the Senate. This year, once again, gambling is being discussed at the Capitol. In fact, on the second day of the 2024 legislative session, enabling legislation for sports betting (SB 172) without a constitutional amendment was brought back up in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee and voted out to go to the Senate floor for a vote.

The 2024 legislative session has already kicked off in Atlanta. We are beginning the second year of a two-year legislative cycle. This means bills that did not pass last year are still available for consideration this year. In 2023, the Public Affairs Ministry of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board was monitoring approximately 27 pieces of legislation on a wide range of social and moral issues, such as religious liberty, gambling, child protection, alcohol, pro-life, foster care, and adoption.

ATLANTA — Supporters of legal sports gambling in Georgia renewed their push Tuesday, but it's unclear whether they're any closer to assembling a winning coalition after they went bust last year. The Georgia Baptist Convention, the state’s largest religious group with some 1.4 million members, continues to oppose the proposal, saying sports betting would be more detrimental than beneficial to the state’s residents because it produces “increases in human misery.”

President Ronald Reagan proclaimed on January 13, 1984, that January 22 would be the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. That date was the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion-on-demand in the U.S. in 1973. This month reminds us of the 51st Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which led to the deaths of over 60 million babies in the United States alone.

ATLANTA — Inside the Capitol rotunda, a towering Christmas tree shines with thousands of lights. Red poinsettias line the staircases. Long strands of garland hang from railings. And a children’s choir sings about the birth of Christ. That was the scene when Gov. Brian Kemp and his family kicked off the Christmas season in Georgia earlier this month with the lighting of the state Christmas tree, a clear signal that it’s still politically correct to celebrate Christmas as a Christian holy day in the Bible Belt.

The Georgia Baptist 10th Annual Pastors’ Day at the State Capitol will take place Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. Once again, we will be combining the annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast and Pastors’ Day into one event. We encourage you to join us at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast and to hear from legislators, public policy experts and activists. This also is a great opportunity to invite your state senator and house member to attend with you free of charge.

ATLANTA — Groups of Georgia Baptists took part in a series of prayer tours of the state Capitol over the past week.  Mike Griffin, public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, led tours, providing insights into how state government operates. As the groups made their way through the Capitol, they made multiple stops to pray for government leaders.

Once again, we are planning for our annual Christmas prayer tours at the Georgia State Capitol! This is a great opportunity for people to get a closeup look at the Christmas decorations at the State Capitol and participate in a series of prayer tours which are scheduled to start on December 6th.

Georgia Baptists are so thankful for the ruling of the Georgia Supreme Court that was in favor of Georgia’s heartbeat law! This is a big victory for life in Georgia! Judge Robert McBurney presided over the original case in the Fulton County Superior Court, which challenged the constitutionality of the LIFE Act. SisterSong, et al, asked Judge McBurney to essentially repeal the LIFE Act and argued that the law was unconstitutional at the time it was passed in 2019, before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a legal principle known as “void ab initio.”

ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a lower court ruling that the state's abortion law was invalid, leaving limited access to abortions unchanged for now. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said last November that the ban was “unequivocally unconstitutional” because it was enacted in 2019, when Roe v. Wade allowed abortions well past six weeks. Georgia’s law bans most abortions after roughly six weeks. The Georgia Supreme Court in a 6-1 decision said McBurney was wrong.

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