Andrew Allison, Director
Kessarin Horvath, Sr. Communications Associate
Week Nine Highlights
By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
The Senate had a busy start to the week and with Crossover Day behind us, were continuing to work hard and fast to pass legislation that betters this great state. In a productive four days, the Senate passed over 40 bills and resolutions, and held a variety of meetings. Many of those were budget related and gave us a chance to listen to updated proposals from our state’s agencies. We had a number of legislative successes recently and with House Bill 81 now in the Senate’s hands (the 2022 Fiscal Year or FY22 budget), we’re getting closer to the finish line. Here’s a recap of what we did:
With the timing of the 2021 Legislative Session, a lot of our priorities have been centered around issues that came up during the November elections. I’ve been able to provide updates close to every week about the legislation that relates to that. On Monday, we passed out six more bills that try to improve our voting systems.
- Senate Bill 241 is the large, comprehensive elections package that has 21 sections pertaining to absentee ballots, canvassing, ballot harvesting and more. A few of the areas include regulating who is able to vote by absentee, requiring provided identification with applications, limiting portable polling places, requesting immediate ballot counting after polls close, and allowing the State Election Board to recommend the removal of a county superintendent. This bill narrowly passed by a vote of 29 to 20, but I’m confident these measures will help make the voting process more secure and give you confidence that these elections are being conducted fairly and legally. SB 241 is now waiting to be heard in the House, but we are expected to take up their big elections bill, House Bill 531, too.
- Senate Bill 202 works to eliminate confusion about which absentee ballot applications are valid and which ones aren’t. It would make sure only the Secretary of State or one of the listed certified election officials can send the applications out. It would also prohibit them from being sent to a voter who has already requested, received or voted with an absentee ballot. This passed 32 to 20.
- Senate Bill 72 relates to some concerns that there might have been more ballots coming in than registered Georgians. This bill would require county registrars to get monthly, updated death records from the county coroner and funeral homes to help remove deceased individuals from voter registration records. This passed 48 to 5.
- Senate Bill 74 tries to bring transparency to the ballot counting process by granting poll watchers more access in tabulation centers. This makes sure someone is able to watch the ballots throughout the process and help monitor for potential manipulation. This passed 38 to 18.
- Senate Bill 62 increases the security of absentee ballots by embedding certain forensic markers for fraud prevention, requiring the name of the precinct, and establishing measures for auditing and duplicate ballots. This passed 37 to 15.
- Senate Bill 253 helps make the process of voting in person easier. It would require a notice, that’s at least four feet by four feet, to be posted at and near a polling place that’s changed locations. This would have to be posted at least a week in advance. SB 253 passed 53 to 0.
We also had the opportunity to focus on several other issues that affect you at home. The bills listed below work to improve your lives and ensure that Georgia remains a great, and safe place, to raise a family.
- Senate Bill 218 and Senate Resolution 134 would suspend the pay for public officers who have been indicted of a felony and haven’t yet been reinstated. This ensures we aren’t paying someone for a capacity they aren’t currently in, and we’re utilizing your taxpayer dollars conservatively.
- Senate Bill 226 would require local school boards to adopt a policy to address complaints from parents about material that is seen as harmful to minors. This measure makes sure the content our kids are reading and seeing is right for their age.
- Senate Bill 10 would enhance the penalties for illegal drag racing to try and make our streets safer for drivers and pedestrians.
- House Bill 156 works to support our state’s overall security by requiring local governments to report cyberattacks to the Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, in addition to the federal government.
During the amended 2021 budget process, I had discussed added allocations within the Department of Labor for the position of a Chief Labor Officer. On Monday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 156 which outlines that position in full. This individual would be appointed by the Governor and would primarily be in charge of making sure unemployment benefits are being delivered in a timely manner. Over the pandemic, added stress on our businesses led to a rise in unemployment claims and you, unfortunately experienced delays in getting the funds you need. SB 156 and this added position should make the process easier to ensure that more Georgia families are receiving the support they need. In relation to the budget, the Senate conducted its round of FY22 budget hearings this week to determine the areas that might need added allocations. This includes presentations from the Department of Public Health, Labor, Public Safety, Community Health, and our K-12 and higher education systems. We’re current working on crafting our substitute to the budget to take into account these proposals. This should be introduced in the next week or two.
I know that several of you are still having difficulties receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. A few days ago, Gov. Kemp announced the next phase of vaccine rollout – those age 55 and older or Georgians who have a health condition that puts them at high-risk. You can find the list of conditions here: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine. We’re also expecting to receive even more vaccine shipments. This should help alleviate some of the challenges you’ve experienced, but we’re continuing to work through your concerns. Next week, the Senate will meet for four more legislative days, which will be the last week of consecutive session days. We’re quickly approaching the end of the session – if you have any questions about the budget or legislation being discussed, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. Thank you for letting me represent District 19 here in Atlanta.
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Sen. Blake Tillery serves as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.