The legislation, House Bill 1464, is the latest Republican measure to change election rules after the 2020 presidential election, when Democrat Joe Biden narrowly defeated Republican Donald Trump in Georgia. Last year, the General Assembly passed a larger bill that limited drop boxes, required more voter ID for absentee voting and allowed state takeovers of county election boards.
Under this year’s measure, paper ballots would become public records, available for review by those who want to check results or look for errors. The GBI would be able to subpoena election records and launch investigations, a job currently conducted primarily by investigators in the secretary of state’s office.
The bill also would ban nonprofit election funding to county election offices, require paperwork and seals when election officials move ballots, and make it a felony to threaten violence against poll workers.
State senators will take up two pieces of legislation to decide whether they want to allow Georgians to expand gambling to allow horse racing.
Senate Resolution 131 would ask voters whether they support allowing horse racing and, if voters approve the measure, Senate Bill 212 would establish a Georgia Horse Racing Commission tasked with licensing and regulating up to five racetracks. Since SR 131 would ask voters to amend the state constitution, it needs the support of two-thirds of each chamber to pass. SB 212 only needs a majority vote.
After years of false starts, this is the second time in two years that gambling legislation has received a floor vote in the Senate. Last year, lawmakers approved legislation that would legalize online sports betting in the state. Those measures, Senate Resolution 135 and Senate Bill 142, did not get a vote in the House last year but remain in play.
Legislators are trying to find a way to move forward with Georgia’s medical marijuana program, which has been indefinitely delayed amid disputes over which companies will be licensed to sell cannabis oil to registered patients.
Since July, when a state board picked six companies to produce and sell medical marijuana, none has been able to begin operations because the protests of losing companies must be resolved first.
One measure, Senate Bill 609, would issue licenses this summer to six companies chosen by a state commission. Another proposal, House Bill 1425, would restart the competitive bidding for licenses following complaints that the previous selection process was unfair.
Regulation of protests
Georgia senators are scheduled to debate legislation that would impose harsher penalties on people who commit crimes during protests.
Senate Bill 171 would increase the penalties for crimes such as blocking a highway, assaulting someone or damaging property if it involves groups of two or more.
SB 171 would also punish local governments that instruct public safety officers to “stand down” during protests. There were reports that city leadership instructed police officers not to engage with protesters who began to damage property during protests in Atlanta in summer 2020.