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COMMENTARY

Legislative session getting underway at state Capitol in Atlanta

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As we approach the legislative session getting underway 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 2021, we were monitoring up to 30 pieces of legislation on a wide range of social and moral issues, such as religious liberty, gambling, child protection, alcohol, pro-life legislation, adoption and human trafficking.

This year’s session is part of an election year. Every two years, the Georgia General Assembly is up for reelection in the House and the Senate. Legislators recognize that citizens are likely more attentive when an election is at stake. That typically means lawmakers will lean into some hot-button issues if it will help them or lean away if it could hurt them.

Here some of the legislative subjects that will be featured the 2022 session:

Religious Liberty

This will be the first year we have not been able to get a bill introduced regarding Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We are hoping next year we will have RFRA reintroduced to the Legislature. It's very important that we communicate to our House and Senate legislators how important and necessary this legislation is for Georgia.

Forum Act

This bill protects students on our college campuses regarding their freedom of speech and freedom of association. We hope that since this bill was introduced during the first year of a two-year cycle, we can see its passage this year.

Gambling Expansion

For at elast seven years, we have had to deal with legislation seeking to expand gambling in Georgia. In 2021, we had 11 bills dealing with gambling expansion or promotion. These bills dealt primarily with casinos, pari-mutuel betting on horses, online sports gambling and COAM (Coin Operated Amusement Machines) Revision.

We are so thankful that all the gambling legislation stalled last year. However, we are concerned that it will be moving again in 2022. Therefore, it's important that all Georgians remain vigilant and communicate how important it is that NO predatory gambling be expanded in Georgia. Also, we cannot allow legislators to use the excuse, “We just want to let the people vote!”.

Alcohol Regulation

Three bills were introduced into the 2021 legislative session that dealt with reducing the restrictions on alcohol. Some version of all three bills passed the Legislature. We are looking at the possibility that there will be further attempts to reduce restrictions, such as home delivery being allowed for distilled spirits.

Our concerns for this kind of legislation are based the fact that the availability of alcohol leads to the increased sales of alcohol. This, in turn, leads to increased consumption, which then leads to an increase in societal problems.

Child Protection Legislation

By child protection legislation, we are referring to legislation that protects our children and young people from evil and unhealthy influences on their lives. Under this heading were several pieces of legislation that were introduced in 2021, did not pass, but have the potential to pass in 2022.

Vulnerable Child Protection Act

This legislation has to do with protecting those who are 18 or younger from having radical surgery or administering drugs to a child for the purpose of changing their gender.Parental Obscenity Appeal Act

This legislation started out as an attempt to remove school libraries as an exemption from state obscenity laws. Obscene literature and photos have been documented as accessible to children through printed and online literature and e-books.

Protecting Girls’ Sports

This legislation would ban any biological males from participating in biological female sports.

Maternity Supportive Housing Act

This legislation would allow Georgia churches and nonprofits to provide housing to mothers over the age of 18 who need supportive housing to care for their newborns.

Child Victim Protection Act

This legislation is important because it allows survivors of child sexual abuse to file civil action upon entities that would have had a duty of care for them.

Pro-Life Legislation

Two very important pieces of pro-life legislation were supported by Georgia Baptists last year: Gracie’s Law and Simon’s Law. Both were passed and signed into law.

We are anticipating that additional pro-life measures will be introduced this year that will reinforce the efforts regarding the heartbeat bill and other laws that are before the federal courts. Also, we are looking at legislation that will ban the use of chemical abortion pills through telemedicine and the ability to send them through the mail. This same legislation will also encourage the use of abortion reversal pills.

Adoption/Foster Care Legislation

Gov. Brian Kemp promoted two important bills in 2021 regarding adoption laws: tripling the adoption tax credit for the first five years after adoption (HB 114) and lowering the required age to adopt from 25 to 21 years old (HB 154). Once again Georgia Baptists will be supporting all legislation that supports  adoption and foster care. These are key issues related to our Mission Georgia emphasis!

Human Trafficking

Last year we supported two bills related to human trafficking: Civil Remedy for Victims of Human Trafficking and Name Change Exemption for Survivors of Human Trafficking. Georgia Baptists will continue to work with the Legislature to combat this very difficult problem in Georgia. This, too, relates to our emphasis in the Mission Georgia priorities.

Conclusion

As you can see, legislative sessions are busy with many bills and topics. Thank you all so much for your support and prayers. Your input is making a difference in our state. Please stay tuned to the Christian Index, our Public Affairs Ministry website and our Facebook and Twitter feeds for more information.
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Mike Griffin is public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Reach him at mgriffin@gabaptist.org.

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