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Wednesday, February 21, 2024 - Day 24
Prior Legislative Updates for this Year

GAE Day at the Capitol is tomorrow!

GAE's annual lobby day starts at 8 a.m. sharp tomorrow morning, Thursday, February 22.  Doors open at 7:15 a.m. in the Floyd Room of the Sloppy Floyd Building, West Tower.  The building is diagonally across the street from the state Capitol.

GAE members will hear from legislators who are involved setting state public education policy as well as State School Superintendent Richard Woods.

Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes
Sen. Derek Mallow
Rep. Ken Vance
State School Superintendent
Richard Woods
Rep. David Wilkinson
Rep. Gerald Greene

Senate Education Committee hears five more bills today

Sen. Clinton Dixon, R-Gwinnett, is author of a bill he calls "The Clean Libraries Act."  It is not about sanitation of cleaning or school libraries.  It is another bill censoring public school library books.  Sen. Dixon is chairman of the committee.

The bill was was heard in the Senate Education Committee at 5 p.m. this afternoon.  SB 394 is tied to the state statutory definition of "harmful to minors."  It also pertains to "instructional material," which is defined in Georgia law, and "sexual material."  SB 394 also creates the Orwellian "Georgia Council of Library Material Standards," a board to be populated by unelected members.  The Council will rate books in school libraries.

The phrase "harmful to minors" is defined in Georgia law as:
" ... that quality of description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse, when it:

(1) Taken as a whole, predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interest of minors;

(2) Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; and

(3) Is, when taken as a whole, lacking in serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, noted that the Council on Library Material Standards should include librarians and educators.  Instead the Council would be comprised of political appointees of the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House.

The bill passed out of the committee and will likely be before the full Senate next week.  A complete re-write of the bill was brought to the committee so the version online currently is not updated.

SB 154 made it back to the full Committee from a subcommittee to which is was assigned.  The bill amends the Georgia Criminal Code, Title 16, "Crimes and Offenses," "Offenses Against Public Health and Morals," and "Obscenity and Related Offenses."  The bill could result in criminal charges against school librarians, media specialists, teachers, and teacher assistants.

An amendment was offered and added to the bill that states: "It shall be an affirmative defense to prosecution of this Code Section if the individual charged can demonstrate the school or such individual themselves has made a good faith attempt to identity and remove from access to minors all physical or electronic material 'harmful to minors'."  The amended bill passed the committee and could be on the floor of the Senate next week.

SB 432 requires recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through eight.  The bill passed unanimously.  The bill is sponsored by Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta.  The legislation has a clause that prevents school systems from seeking approval from the state Board of Education to not implement the provisions of the law."

SB 423, by Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta, regarding defibrillators and the creation of a cardiac emergency response plan in schools, was passed out of committee.

Another Dixon bill, SB 532, states: "No public school or local school system shall provide sex education before the fifth grade."

The legislation also reads: "Before a public school or local school system provides sex education to any student: The public school or local school system shall make the sex education curricula available to parents and guardians of all students and the public for review online and in person ... "  The bill was approved by the committee by a 5-1 vote.

The "End Political Litmus Tests in Education Act," SB 261,
prohibits the use of political litmus tests in post-secondary educational institutions, local school systems, and elementary and secondary schools.  Political litmus tests are defined as:

Compelling or soliciting an applicant, teacher, employee, student, or pupil to identify a commitment to or make a statement of personal belief in support of and an ideology or movement:
(i) That promotes the differential treatment of any individual or groups of individuals based on race or ethnicity, including either of the following:

(I) Any initiative or formulation of diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond upholding the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

If found in violation of this proposed law, public schools and school systems may be subject to the withholding of state funding."  The bill was introduced by Forsyth County Sen. Greg Dolezal.  No vote was taken today.

The Senate Government Oversight Committee took up SB 379, which authorizes public schools to retain volunteer "school chaplains" to "provide support, services, and programs for students."  The bill states: "Such school chaplains may be employed or accepted as volunteers ... to perform the duties required of a school counselor."  Under the bill, "school chaplains" need no formal training or education, no background checks, and need not be a certified professional.

A representative of the National School Chaplains Association testified for the bill.  He stated that school chaplains operate in 30,000 schools nationally.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) testified in opposition, stating the bill would be to the detriment of non-Christian and LGBTQ+ students.  Sen. Elena Parent stated that there is no definition in the bill of what a "school chaplain" is.  There were also questions as to whether a voluntary school chaplain would need a "background check."  The bill, nonetheless, was approved 6-5.

SB 390 was also heard in the Senate Government Oversight Committee today pertaining to Georgia libraries and the America Library Association.  The findings part of the bill includes:

"(1) The present state requirement that only certified librarians may work as librarians public libraries has not benefitted the residents of this state;

(2) The bureaucracy that has developed around the certification of librarians has become heavily intertwined with and influenced by the American Library Association;

(3) The president of the American Library Association has declared herself to be a Marxist; 

(4) The American Library Association has used the librarian certification process to promote its ideology;  

(5) The vast majority of residents of this state do not want their tax dollars to directly or indirectly support such an ideology;  

(6) The Georgia Library Association is an affiliate of the American Library Association;

(7) The Georgia Library Association should no longer be an affiliate of the American Library Association ... [and]

(10) This state should no longer require the certification of librarians working at public libraries or allow public moneys to be used to support the American Library Association."

The bill passed out of the committee and could be on the floor of the Senate next week.

SB 501 was heard, sponsored by Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, which states: "Local boards of education and charter schools are strongly encouraged to allow and may encourage any public school teacher or administrator to read or post in a public school building, classroom" the Ten Commandments."  The bill was given a "do pass" recommendation and will be eligible for consideration by the full Senate next week.

The House Higher Education Committee heard HB 853, a bill regarding qualifications for the HOPE Scholarship that states: "A student shall not be deemed ineligible for any scholarship or grant ... solely based on a conviction for an offense involving marijuana or a controlled substance."  No vote was taken on the bill.
Next Legislative Update will be Friday, February 23
Early, in-person voting has begun for the Presidential Primaries in Georgia
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