2021 Sine Die

House lawmakers uphold the long-standing tradition of tossing paper into the air after the chamber adjourned Sine Die in the early hours of April 1.

ATLANTA — While the saga of Georgia’s election changes dominated the news cycle during the 2021 legislative session, a variety of other bills made their way through both chambers and are now heading to the governor’s desk.

From the expected overhaul of the state’s citizen’s arrest statute to cocktails to go, Georgia lawmakers passed dozens of bills that will impact Peach State residents. From 10 a.m. to midnight Wednesday, lawmakers blew through a flurry of new legislation — some even with support on both sides of the aisle.

Here’s a roundup of some of the bills on their way to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

FISCAL YEAR 2022 BUDGET: The only piece of legislation lawmakers are required by law to pass, the Fiscal Year 2022 budget cleared both chambers late on Sine Die. The budget proposal which takes effect July 1 doles out more than $27 billion in spending to departments and agencies. The new budget makes increases to mental health funding, extra dollars for schools and backfills many of the cuts made during the pandemic.

Some of the highlights include $40 million on a rural innovation fund, $10 million toward boosting internet in rural areas, 60% backfill of the cuts made to education funding and upwards of $60 million for mental health programs.

The state is receiving more than $4.7 billion in federal dollars from the last COVID-19 relief bill although allocation is at the governor’s discretion.

CITIZEN’S ARREST: The second of two major criminal justice reforms sparked by the “vigilante-style” shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia lawmakers unanimously passed legislation to repeal the state’s citizen’s arrest statute.

The legislation — House Bill 279 — completely rolls back the ability for private citizens to arrest someone, but carves out exceptions for security guards and employees of businesses to detain someone they believe has committed a crime. It also allows law-enforcement officers to make arrests outside of their jurisdictions.

PORCH PIRACY: House Bill 94 which passed both chambers would make it a felony to steal packages from at least 10 pieces of mail from three or more different addresses. The measure comes after a spike in complaints of thieves raiding neighborhoods for Amazon packages and other deliveries.

ANTI-DEFUND POLICE: The legislature approved a bill that would ban local governments from making significant cuts to funding for their law enforcement. House Bill 286 prohibits cities and counties from reducing funding for their departments by more than 5% in one year.

COCKTAILS TO-GO: Georgians may soon be able to take their favorite restaurant cocktails home. The legislature voted in favor of Senate Bill 286 that allows Georgia customers to order mixed alcoholic drinks with food in to-go orders.

COLLEGE ATHLETE COMPENSATION: A bill that would pay college athletes for the use of their “name, image or likeness" passed the General Assembly Wednesday. House Bill 617 would allow students to receive compensation and prohibit schools from revoking their scholarships. However, the measure wouldn’t take effect until the NCAA changes its rules or Congress passes its own bill to allow student compensation.

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE: Nearly 250,000 Georgians may be eligible to receive paid parental leave under a measure that passed the legislature. House Bill 146 would offer three weeks of paid parental leave to all state, pubic university and public school employees after birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. The measure saw support last session but did not make it across the finish line.

PERMANENT DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME: Georgia lawmakers backed a proposal to take the state to daylight savings-time year round — pending congressional approval. Senate Bill 100 would stop Georgians from switching their clocks twice a year. Eleven other states have adopted permanent daylight savings time measures if Congress gives its approval.

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