Moving Along - Pro-Life Legislative Update February 15, 2016
Legislative Week 5 (Legislative Days 17-20) was jam-packed with last second strategy meetings and committee hearings as the race against the clock before Crossover Day went into full swing. Crossover Day (Legislative Day 30, which is February 29th) is the last day that a bill can pass from the chamber that it was introduced in.
In addition to all of our legislative progress, we were also very pleased to be one of the hosts of the Religious Freedom Day at the Capitol last Wednesday with Rafael Cruz, Alveda King, the Benham Brothers, and Kelvin Cochran, as well as support the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Lobby Day with Street Grace, GeorgiaCares, and others.
Last week we featured a rundown of all the legislation we were working on and monitoring. This week, let’s take a look back at that legislation and get a status report on how each one moved or may not be moving during Legislative Week 6 (Legislative Days 21-24).
Georgia Right to Life Priority Legislation
- HR 1091, the Personhood Amendment, authored by Representative Brad Raffensperger, is our flagship piece of legislation and represents the ultimate policy objective of GRTL. The Personhood Amendment would add language to the State Constitution that recognizes personhood beginning at the moment of fertilization. It would require two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to pass and then would have to be ratified by voters on the next General Election ballot.
- The Personhood Amendment was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. It then got sent down to the Subcommittee chaired by Representative Johnnie Caldwell. We thought we would get a hearing by this time, but it seems like progress has stalled. Expect an action alert in your inbox this week on how you can help move HR 1091 along.
- HB 713 authored by Representative Brad Raffensperger, allows a woman to terminate the parental rights of her rapist if a child was conceived during the assault. Often times, rapists will file for parental rights of the child conceived as a result of rape and use the case to force a woman to drop her rape charges against him. This bill would free women from the grip of their assaulter and help keep children safe from predators.
- We were scheduled for a full hearing in the House Juvenile Justice Committee for HB 713 two weeks ago, but were suddenly and surprisingly sent to Subcommittee. We spent a week just trying to determine which Subcommittee it would be assigned to, and then finally had it assigned to the Subcommittee chaired by Representative Chuck Efstration. We had a great hearing last Thursday afternoon and testified along with our friend Sarah Hughes in favor of the bill. There is a Subcommittee hearing scheduled to vote on the bill early this week. It will then go to full committee on Friday afternoon, then, hopefully, be on its way to the House floor to pass just before Crossover Day!
- SB 305, authored by Senator Renee Unterman, is an oversight bill that requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to provide 60 days notice to all members of the House and Senate Health & Human Services Committees prior to making any changes to the Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. GRTL worked extensively to amend the current POLST law last year to prevent its use for physician-assisted suicide. This bill continues to protect the vulnerable, elderly, and infirm in Georgia.
- We testified for SB 305 on Monday afternoon in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and it was unanimously voted out of committee! We expect to see this bill on the Rules Committee calendar this week (the Rules Committee determines which bills make it to the floor of either chamber) for a vote by Friday.
- HB 287, the Human Embryo Protection Act, authored by Representative Tom Kirby, is a key piece of GRTL legislation that protects children in their most vulnerable state. This bill would prevent embryos from being created and used for human research, which results in the destruction of a child for scientific purposes.
- We were told the Human Embryo Protection Act would receive a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the morning of our Georgia March for Life. It was suddenly removed from the calendar the afternoon previous, shortly after we testified against Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard’s HB 762. Make of that what you will, but we’ve been told HB 287 is dead in the House. We will keep pushing to get a hearing on this and let you know how you can help later this week.
Georgia Right to Life-Supported Legislation
- HB 770, authored by Representative Chuck Efstration, expands Georgia’s laws on sexual trafficking to include mentally disabled adults in the victim class of the sexually exploited as well as allow the prosecution of sex traffickers based on the cases built by undercover law enforcement officers before a victim is trafficked.
- HB 770 was assigned to House Judicary Non-Civil Committee and sent down to the Subcommittee chaired by Representative Ed Setzler. It was voted out of Subcommittee last week and will be heard in the full House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee this week. We are proud to support HB 770 and will be placing an official letter of support on the desks of every House member once it reaches the floor.
- SB 129, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), authored by Senator Josh McKoon, is the Senate’s legislation that would require courts to use a two-part test when handling religious liberty cases. The first part is determining whether the state has a compelling interest in interfering with the religious expression in question. The second part is determining whether the court is limiting that religious expression in the least restrictive means possible. This legislation is imperative to ensure that Georgians’ religious liberty is treated as a first-tier right, along with freedom of press and speech.
- Senator McKoon’s RFRA bill passed the Senate and was sent to House Judiciary Committee last year. It currently resides there in a special Subcommittee created by Chairman Wendell Willard and has an unfriendly amendment attached to it. All signed indicate SB 129 is dead in the House and will not be revived, especially after tempers flared between Speaker David Ralston’s staff and Senator McKoon last week over HB 757. While we support the Senate RFRA, we are looking to the House RFRA as a more viable means to passing meaningful religious liberty legislation in 2016.
- HB 837, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), authored by Representative Ed Setzler, is the House’s legislation that would require courts to use a two-part test when handling religious liberty cases. The first part is determining whether the state has a compelling interest in interfering with the religious expression in question. The second part is determining whether the court is limiting that religious expression in the least restrictive means possible. This legislation is imperative to ensure that Georgians’ religious liberty is treated as a first-tier right, along with freedom of press and speech.
- Representative Setzler’s RFRA bill, which explicitly avoids all of the criticism levied by opponents last year, has yet to receive a hearing in the House. Be on the lookout for an action alert soon to help get this bill moving.
- SB 284, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), authored by Senator Greg Kirk, ensures that private citizens, Christian schools and adoption agencies, pastors, and churches cannot be discriminated against based on the exercise of their belief in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman and the exclusivity of sexual behavior within that marriage.
- The First Amendment Defense Act is a critical piece of religious liberty legislation. It was assigned to Senate Rules Committee and has been there for several weeks. There is a hearing scheduled for this week, but talk is that there are several amendments being drawn up for it that may or may not affect GRTL’s support for the bill. Watch for action alerts to know the latest on FADA.
Georgia Right to Life-Monitored Legislation
- SB 308, authored by Senator Renee Unterman, would create a state grant for pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) to receive state funding that could be used to expand their facility, make repairs, purchase ultrasound machines, etc. The bill would prohibit PRCs from using any state funding for religious purposes. We wholeheartedly support our PRCs and support any meaningful measure to aid them in their critical work. We will keep a close eye on this legislation.
- The PRC funding bill was heard in Senate Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee last Monday and passed despite an attempt to add several amendments written by John Walraven, the lobbyist for abortionists in Georgia, and offered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert. It was debated heavily on the Senate floor Thursday and passed on party lines despite several attempted amendments from pro-abortion Democrats. It will head to the House for consideration.
- HB 555, authored by Representative Joyce Chandler, is a bill that requires juvenile courts to report how many minors have requested waivers for parental notification to obtain an abortion.
- There was a hearing for HB 555 last week in House Insurance Committee, where it has resided since last year. In that hearing, the bill was gutted of all meaningful language and passed out of committee. There may be an attempt to repair the bill on the House floor or in Senate committee, but it is in critical condition now. It will likely head towards the House floor this week.
- HB 757, the Pastor Protection Act, authored by Representative Kevin Tanner, would allow for pastors to speak on the sanctity of marriage inside their churches without state interference. The scope of this legislation is very narrow, but could be improved on through committee. We will monitor it through the legislative process.
- The Pastor Protection Act was sharply attacked by conservatives as it came up for consideration on the House floor last Thursday, prompting Speaker Ralston’s chief attorney to cuss our Senator Josh McKoon in the halls of the Capitol. The bill passed the House unanimously and will be next considered in the Senate. Expect to see lots of media attention if the bill is assigned to Senator McKoon’s Judiciary Committee.
Georgia Right to Life-Opposed Legislation
- HB 762, authored by Representative Wendell Willard, would prevent abortionists from selling aborted fetal tissue. The bill, however, does not prohibit procurement companies to sell aborted baby body parts. The procurement companies are responsible for obtaining, storing, and transporting aborted baby parts. That means that babies can be killed for money in abortion, then donated to a third-party company who will then make money by selling the baby's body parts to biotech companies, research facilities, and universities for medical research. GRTL's official position is that aborted fetal tissue should not be used for medical research in any circumstance.
- This was heard twice in House Judiciary Subcommittee and then passed out of the full Judiciary Committee last week. It was stripped of important language that would require abortionists to report how they dispose of aborted babies, and will continue on to the House floor.
Joshua & Johnny