Georgia Assembly Session Promises Theatrics, Religious Liberty Absent for Now

January 3, 2017—

In just under a week, the Georgia General Assembly will convene for the 2017 legislative session. Following last year’s session, which featured a multi-polar coalition of corporate, special, and private interests that aligned to combat HB 757, the so-called “Religious Liberty” law. Although, the bill passed a Senate and House vote, Gov. Nathan Deal ultimately struck down the bill based on language that would lead to “state-sanctioned discrimination.”

Two other house bills relating to firearms carry in public, 859 and 1060 were subsequently vetoed in turn. On Veto 9 of HB 859, Gov. Deal cited “enlightening evidence of historical significance” from minutes from a University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting in 1824, to underpin the notion that firearms have long been absent from college campuses. The Governor went on to conclude:

“The approval of these specific prohibitions relating to “campus carry” by the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the principal author of the United States Constitution should not only dispel any vestige of Constitutional privilege but should illustrate that having college campuses free of weapons has great historical precedent.”

On Veto 12 of HB 1060, Gov. Deal reasoned that Section 4 of HB 1060 was an “encroachment on the peace and tranquility of those who attended houses of worship because they can no longer have the time-honored assurance that they are in a protected place that is free of weapons and long guns.” If enacted HB 1060 would have required places of worship to indicate their premises as being an unauthorized location for weapons, which would contradict the existing standard that firearms were banned from houses of worship. Even if a house of worship were to post signage indicating firearms were not permitted, the carrying individual would still have to be notified that “no weapons were allowed.”

The “House Prefiled Legislation” database does not show an attempt to reintroduce the vetoed “religious liberty bill”, but listed are a series of bills and amendments relating to transportation, public health, taxation, voter registration, and reapportionment. Perhaps the most controversial of the prefiled legislation is HB 3 filed by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-180), which would ban women from wearing burqas and veils while posing for photos on Georgia’s driver’s licenses. Using the state’s anti-masking statue (previously directed at Ku Klux Klan members), “the proposed legislation would make it a misdemeanor for individuals to wear masks or other facial concealment while driving and operating a vehicle on Georgia roadways” and penalize concealment of someone’s identity when obtaining a state driver’s license or identification card. However, after considerable “political scrutiny” from Republicans and Democrats in the short window of existence, the bill was withdrawn as a result of the visceral reaction it created. According to Rep. Spencer, “HB 3 would withstand legal scrutiny, but not political scrutiny.”

The preceding screen capture is not an exhaustive list nor final, but does offer an initial indication of issues to be considered by the Georgia House in the 2017-2018 Regular session.screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-12-34-22-pm


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