Ga. Capitol roundup: Lawmakers move to cut outside election cash

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, was proposed in honor of Izzy Scott.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 2:27 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:37 PM EDT
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ATLANTA - The Georgia House has voted 100-69 along party lines to approve Senate Bill 222, which would ban local governments from accepting any funding for elections from outside groups except the state or federal governments.

The bill goes back to the Senate for more debate because the House made changes.

A 2021 Georgia law made it illegal for elections officials themselves to accept outside money after Republicans grew alarmed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated more than $400 million to election officials nationwide. Republicans view outside money for election administration as unfairly favoring Democratic counties and improperly influencing the conduct of elections.

But it was widely understood in 2021 that county commissions could still take money from outside groups and pass it on to election administrators. Earlier this year, however, overwhelmingly Democratic DeKalb County accepted $2 million from the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence to seek improvements and share best practices. The alliance includes the Center for Tech and Civic Life, Zuckerberg’s main funding vehicle from 2020.

That set off a round of condemnations from Republicans that DeKalb had broken the law.

Republican lawmakers originally wrote the bill to force the county to give the money back. House members removed the refund provision. But Democrats Monday pushed back on claims that DeKalb had done anything illegal.

Republicans say any money should be donated to the state and divvied up according to directions from the State Elections Board, which is dominated by Republican appointees. The board in December, however, asked lawmakers to make such rules for accepting and dividing donations.

Democrats, though, said the 2021 law made it more expensive for counties to run elections and that without outside funding, counties may have to raise taxes to pay for the increased expenses.

Bill aims to tighten rules on sex offenders in Georgia

ATLANTA - A bill expanding restrictions for convicted sex offenders in Georgia could soon be on Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.

The Senate approved Mariam’s Law.

It’s named for a woman who was kidnapped and killed on her way home from work in 2021.

The law would require certain sex offenders to be fitted with an ankle monitor.

Mariam’s brother recently spoke about the legislation.

“That’s the main goal for what we have been doing. … This bill is to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else, and no other family has to suffer to um something so tragic.”

The bill will now head back to the House for a final motion.

After that, it’ll go to the governor for a signature

Georgia bill is latest GOP effort targeting prosecutors

ATLANTA - A new Georgia commission to discipline and remove wayward prosecutors would be the latest move nationwide to ratchet up oversight on what Republicans see as “woke prosecutors” who aren’t doing enough to fight crime.

The Georgia House voted 97-77 on Monday for Senate Bill 92 to create the commission. The Senate later sent the measure to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto. Kemp has previously voiced support for the concept.

The Georgia bill parallels efforts to remove prosecutors in Florida, Missouri, Indiana and Pennsylvania, as well as broader disputes nationwide over how certain criminal offenses should be charged. All continue anti-crime campaigns that Republicans ran nationwide last year, accusing Democrats of coddling criminals and acting improperly by refusing to prosecute whole categories of crimes including marijuana possession. All the efforts raise the question of prosecutorial discretion — a prosecutor’s decision of what cases to try or reject and what charges to bring.

Georgia Democrats intensely oppose the measure, saying majority Republicans are seeking another way to impose their will on local Democratic voters.

Ga. House tells local governments to enforce bans on homeless camps

ATLANTA - Georgia lawmakers are telling cities and counties that they must enforce existing bans on public camping or sleeping by homeless people while saying local governments and hospitals can’t dump homeless people in other counties without permission.

The House voted 99-76 to pass Senate Bill 62 on Monday. The Senate later approved House amendments adding the ban on dumping, sending it to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto.

“We should not have cities that are looking away as people choose, or feel they must, find different places to put their head every night,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey, a Rome Republican.

The measure passed over vociferous Democratic opposition accusing Republicans of trying to criminalize homelessness and impose unworkable requirements on local governments.