PG A.M.: Here’s what’s left for lawmakers in final sprint to Sine Die

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team
State Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas, watches the voting board during a recent session.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

State Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas, watches the voting board during a recent session.

The Georgia General Assembly’s current two-year legislative session is down to two legislative days, with everything from the state’s $36 billion budget to a raft of hot-button social issues still left for lawmakers to push through in a final, frenzied sprint.

The state budget is the single bill that must pass. The spending plan, with pay raises for about 300,000 state employees, has already cleared the House and awaits Senate approval. That’s on top of the midyear budget that passed earlier this year adding $5.5 billion in spending for a new medical school at the University of Georgia and a revamp of the state Capitol complex, as detailed by the AJC’s James Salzer.

Along with the must-pass bill are dozens of measures championed by members in both chambers. Those range from nuts-and-bolts tax bills, such as a child care tax deduction and property tax relief legislation favored by House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, to a host of bills related to culture war social issues that started in the state Senate.

Chairman Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, meets with the Senate Rules Committee for its last meeting of the 2024 legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol on Monday. Pictured left to right: Sens. John F. Kennedy, R-Macon; Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville; Brass and legislative assistant Mercedes Benites.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

An education “Frankenbill” is still alive after Senate Republicans took a freshman Democrat’s suicide prevention bill and added four Republican-backed measures, including banning transgender athletes from playing sports, requiring that students use restrooms that align with their gender identity, and preventing sex education in schools before the sixth grade.

With nursing student Laken Riley’s killing still on lawmakers’ minds, two closely watched immigration bills need final action before they can head to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. House Bill 301 and HB 1105 aim to force local law enforcement officials to comply with federal immigration laws.

Several big industries are watching the Capitol this week for bills that could affect their business, including a measure narrowing the state’s lucrative film tax credit and a mining-related bill that would keep a titanium mine planned near the Okefenokee Swamp at bay for the time being. Then there are the perennial sports betting bills — could this be the year?

Finally, the looming election means voting measures are on the table again. So we’re watching for bills that would strengthen voter challenges and reduce the number of voting machines.

The list goes on, but the clock does not. Come back to AJC.com now through the final legislative day on Thursday as we keep you posted about what’s moving, what’s not and what to watch until the clock strikes midnight on Sine Die.

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The Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.

Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

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Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

UNDER THE GOLD DOME: Legislative Day 39

  • 8 a.m.: Committee hearings begin.
  • 10 a.m.: The House convenes.
  • 10 a.m.: The Senate gavels in.

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Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, was the only Republican in the Georgia House to vote against a new immigration crackdown.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

IMMIGRATION RIFT. State Rep. Kasey Carpenter of Dalton was the sole Republican in the Georgia House to vote against a new immigration crackdown. Now he’s facing pushback from his local activists.

The Whitfield County GOP formally censured Carpenter for the second year in a row and asked Republicans to withhold their support in the May primary after he opposed House Bill 1105.

The measure seeks to ban local governments from enacting “sanctuary” policies and requires that local law enforcement coordinate with federal immigration officials.

The once-stalled measure gained traction after a Venezuelan native accused of being in the country illegally was charged with the February death of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley on UGA’s campus.

The resolution called Carpenter, a Dalton restaurateur, “wildly out of touch on the illegal immigration issue” with most Whitfield County voters. The county includes Dalton, which is 51% Hispanic.

But Carpenter, who is running unopposed, warned of a “subset of the Republican Party trying to eat their own.” He added:

“In politics as in marriage, we are not going to agree on everything. I would hate to see the marriage in such households. Picking the one or two disagreeable issues instead of the 10 agreeable items will lead to years of marriage therapy I assume. Hopefully everyone wakes up and realizes that you're either growing or dying — and this behavior is not growing the Republican Party."

- Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton

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GEORGIA ON THEIR MINDS. As President Joe Biden steps up efforts to compete in North Carolina, he is also taking pains to emphasize that Georgia is firmly on his radar.

Ahead of a rally in Raleigh today, the president’s campaign released a three-page memo outlining its strategy to wage battle with former President Donald Trump in both states.

“In 2020, Georgia was the closest state in the country won by President Biden, and North Carolina was the closest state in the country won by Donald Trump, making them both extremely competitive states where early investment makes a difference,” read the memo released this morning.

President Joe Biden is campaigning in North Carolina today.

Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

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Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

Both states were part of a $25 million TV blitz last year targeting battleground states, and both are included in a six-week $30 million campaign on the airwaves that kicked off in March.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have made repeated visits to both election battlegrounds, including a March 9 trip to Atlanta that coincided with Trump’s first stop in the state this year.

And Democrats hope that ultraconservative Trump allies in both states help galvanize their supporters. From the memo:

“Meanwhile, Trump’s MAGA agenda has elevated two of the most extreme MAGA elected in the country to be the face of the Republican Party in each state: Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia and Mark Robinson in North Carolina.”

The memo comes as some local Democrats fret that Biden’s campaign will shift resources to North Carolina and other battleground states — and away from Georgia.

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The late Laken Riley had been a student at the College of Nursing at Augusta University.

Credit: Courtesy of Augusta University

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Credit: Courtesy of Augusta University

ANOTHER IMMIGRATION RIFT. One reason the U.S. Senate vote to avert a government shutdown stretched into the wee hours of Saturday morning was a disagreement over border security.

North Carolina Sen. Tedd Budd, a Republican, introduced an amendment that included language from a House-passed bill named after Laken Riley, the nursing student killed on the University of Georgia’s campus last month. The suspect charged in her slaying is a Venezuelan national who entered the U.S. illegally.

Budd’s amendment caused an impasse that lasted for several hours. Party leaders eventually struck a deal to vote on the funding package without the Laken Riley Act language. Technically, the Senate passed the spending plan two hours after the shutdown deadline but quickly enough to avoid any disruptions.

Still, Republicans used the dustup as part of an attack line arguing that Democrats in tough Senate races this year, such as Montana’s Jon Tester, are weak on immigration.

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to be in Norcross on Wednesday to visit the solar cell manufacturer Suniva.

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

CABINET STOP. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen travels Wednesday to Norcross to visit the solar cell manufacturer Suniva, which plans to reopen its factory amid a surge of green energy tax incentives.

The company closed the facility and filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after falling victim to plunging prices for solar power cells and a crush of cheaper Chinese-made solar imports.

But now the manufacturer stands to benefit from a wave of federal incentives and other tax breaks embedded in sweeping green energy measures signed into law by President Joe Biden and backed by U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both Georgia Democrats.

The company specifically cited a provision Ossoff pushed for in the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signature climate change and health care law, that provides $10 billion in tax credits for firms to build solar manufacturing facilities.

Meanwhile, Georgia has also leveraged billions in tax breaks, infrastructure improvements and other inducements to recruit more green energy jobs to the state. Gov. Brian Kemp has long credited the state’s Republican-backed policies for drawing the industry to Georgia.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, speaks during a visit to the Port of Savannah on Monday. From left to right: Republican U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter of St. Simons Island, Mike Collins of Jackson and Sam Graves of Missouri.

Credit: Stephen B. Morton/Georgia Port Authority

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Credit: Stephen B. Morton/Georgia Port Authority

STUDY PRIORITY. Georgia’s top elected officials of both political parties have been united in their support for authorization of a study into deepening the Savannah River shipping channel. On Monday, the port dredging effort picked up a key out-of-state endorsement.

During a visit to the Georgia Port Authority’s Garden City Terminal, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Missouri, said the study would be a “priority” as the committee he chairs, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, puts together a list of projects to be authorized under a renewal of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

Graves said the new WRDA will be crafted this spring and brought to the House floor for a vote this summer. He said he expects full passage of the legislation — “with bipartisan support” — ahead of the Sept. 30 renewal deadline.

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Rep. Marcus Wiedower, R-Watkinsville, is a guest on the "Politically Georgia" show today.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

LISTEN UP. Today on the “Politically Georgia” radio show, state Reps. Marcus Wiedower, R-Watkinsville, and Stacey Evans, D-Atlanta, talk about legislation on their radars with Sine Die around the corner.

Listen live at 10 a.m. on 90.1 FM, at AJC.com and at WABE.org.

If you missed Monday’s episode, download the podcast to hear Andy Miller of Georgia Health News discuss what’s behind the GOP-controlled Legislature’s ongoing rejection of a full Medicaid expansion and Gov. Brian Kemp’s rival program that is struggling to find customers.

Political strategists Brian Robinson and Tharon Johnson also were guests, talking to the hosts about attacks by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, on Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and the latest on the 2024 election season.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Mayor Andre Dickens delivered his annual address on Monday at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. 

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

MAYOR’S PLANS. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens unveiled plans Monday to expand MARTA’s train network with the addition of four new stations. The improvements highlighted his annual State of the City address.

The speech also went heavy on the theme of unity, the AJC’s Riley Bunch reports. The mayor’s first two years have been marked by the controversy surrounding construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a project Dickens supports but critics have said militarizes the police force.

From the speech:

“My administration has proven that we will go first, we will go often, but we can't go far alone — we are all part of a group project. Let's close the Tale of Two Cities in Atlanta. Let's move Atlanta forward together."

- Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens

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Vice President Kamala Harris is campaigning with President Joe Biden in North Carolina today.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

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U.S. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., led the speakers at an event Monday marking the  naming the Veterans Administration Atlanta Regional Office after the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

ISAKSON VA OFFICE. U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff headlined a bipartisan cast of speakers at an event Monday officially naming the Veterans Administration Atlanta Regional Office after the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. Also on hand were VA Secretary Dennis McDonough, U.S. Reps. Austin Scott, R-Tifton; Lucy McBath, D-Marietta; and Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, and members of the Isakson staff and family, who cut the ribbon on the new sign.

“Senator Isakson was committed to Georgia’s veterans and military families, and he was committed to bringing Republicans and Democrats together to do what’s right for the nation and for Georgia,” said Ossoff, a Democrat.

Isakson was well known on Capitol Hill as a champion of veterans when he chaired the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The Isakson Atlanta Regional Office is now next door to the Max Cleland VA Hospital, named for Georgia’s late Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, a triple amputee who served in the Vietnam War.

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Hannah Palmquist leads a state human trafficking prosecution unit.

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

READ UP. The AJC’s Caroline Silva has a must-read profile of Hannah Palmquist, the head of Attorney General Chris Carr’s new human trafficking prosecution unit.

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Minnie Dallas, a 9-year-old Beagle rescue, spreads the word in her neighborhood. She calls AJC subscriber Sheryl Dallas her person.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. If General Assembly leaders need help keeping order ahead of Sine Die, we’d suggest having Minnie Dallas on standby.

Minnie is a 9-year-old Beagle rescue who calls AJC subscriber Sheryl Dallas her person. But there’s nothing miniature about her booming voice. A reliable source tells us Minnie’s ability to call the entire neighborhood to order with her signature howl is both unparalleled and legendary. The state House and Senate could be next.

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, or DM us at @MurphyAJC.

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AS ALWAYS, Politically Georgia readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to greg.bluestein@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com, patricia.murphy@ajc.com and adam.vanbrimmer@ajc.com.