Decision day: Kemp signs bills to limit TikTok, preserve fishing rights

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Governor also enacts key healthcare, tax laws

Gov. Brian Kemp signed dozens of measures into law Tuesday that create an online state-run marketplace for health care, extend welfare benefits to low-income pregnant women and restrict TikTok and other social media platforms from state devices.

With a deadline looming Monday to sign or veto legislation, Kemp also approved a slate of fiscal measures that allow the state to collect sales taxes when Georgians download books, video games and music, and establish new incentives for Atlanta tourist attractions.

And he signed a controversial measure that he said would preserve public rights to fish, hunt and float along many of Georgia’s navigable rivers, despite pushback from private landowners who say they should be allowed to restrict access.

In the next few days, Kemp is also expected to sign measures to create a new state board that could punish or oust district attorneys and expand electric-vehicle charging stations. He will also soon sign a $32.4 billion budget with raises for teachers and state employees.

Here’s a closer look at the measures that Kemp signed Tuesday:

HEALTH CARE. Georgia will offer a new state-run online marketplace for residents who now shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act using the website. Still, the Biden administration must approve the proposal before it can launch. Senate Bill 65 marks a policy shift for Republicans, who initially sought to block Georgians from accessing the federal health care site.

Another new law, House Bill 383, allows hospitals to form on-campus police departments much like public colleges and universities. It also enhances penalties for those who commit crimes against health care workers.

Credit: Ariel Hart/AJC

Credit: Ariel Hart/AJC

And hundreds of pregnant women could now qualify for welfare under House Bill 129, a policy that aims to improve the state’s dismal maternal mortality rate. It marks a slight expansion of welfare after years of state efforts to pare back enrollment in the program.

TAXES. Under Senate Bill 56, Georgia can start collecting taxes on books, video games and music downloads. The measure is set to bring in more than $200 million in state and local taxes by 2028, but GOP sponsors say that revenue is offset by other provisions that speed up income tax cuts.

Another law, House Bill 86, renews a state sales tax exemption on construction materials for zoos and aquariums undergoing renovations and expansions. It comes as the Georgia Aquarium weighs building an exhibit on a nearby parking lot.

TIKTOK. A new law now restricts TikTok and other social media platforms from state employee devices if they’re owned by “foreign adversaries” including China. Kemp signed Senate Bill 93 weeks after he issued an executive order that banned employees of the state’s executive branch from using TikTok, WeChat and Telegram on state devices.



ENVIRONMENT. Noting a sharp clash over the legislation, Kemp said he signed Senate Bill 115 to “ensure sportsmen have use of Georgia’s navigable rivers.”

The legislation passed after fiery debate in the last minutes of the legislative session as a response to a March settlement that granted a landowner along the Flint River the right to restrict fishing near their property.

The new law asserts the state can’t grant fishing rights to private landowners on navigable rivers. In his signing statement, Kemp said the law preserves the public right to hunt, fish and transit navigable waterways across Georgia — a “privilege that has been assured Georgians for generations.”

LEAF BLOWERS. Cities and counties are now prohibited from banning gas-powered leaf blowers or limiting the kind of fuel that homeowners use under House Bill 374.