Day 37 “kicked off” with a celebration of fancy footwork at the Georgia Capitol before the vote-work. 

The morning started on a happy note as Lt. Gov. Burt Jones showed off the trophy won by the Senate in last night’s annual inter-chamber kickball game, after two years of House victories. 

But a visit from Jason Riley, father of slain UGA nursing student Laken Riley, brought a more somber mood to the floor as he spoke about the heartbreak of losing his 22-year-old daughter after she was murdered by a noncitizen while jogging in Athens, Ga., on Feb. 22, 2024.

Three hours after they gaveled in, the Senate finally got down to business and started to debate bills.  

Sen. Larry Walker III  (R-Perry) spoke about House Bill 935, known as the “Back the Blue” bill, which was a gutted house bill substituted with a bill the Senate passed last year but didn’t pass in the House. 

The Senate also passed two House tax bills. HB 1015 will reduce the individual tax rate from 5.49 to 5.39%. And HB 1023 reduces the corporate tax rate to the same 5.39% individual rate the previous bill did. Both bills were passed along party lines.  

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill that codifies a fund for teachers to use to purchase supplies for their classrooms. Senate Bill 464 also includes language for reading screeners.  

Also today, members approved a measure that would increase penalties for fentanyl-laced drugs. SB 465 allows prosecutors to charge people who sell drugs laced with fentanyl with the felony involuntary aggravated manslaughter if someone dies from the drugs. The issue was personal for some members, including Rep. David Clark (R-Buford), who spoke in its favor. The bill passed unanimously

SB 465 “Austin’s Law” was named after a Lowndes County man who died of a fentanyl overdose. His parents, Gus and Beth Walters, visited the Georgia Capitol today. 

After lunch, the House debated the role of labor unions with SB 362. The Gov. Kemp-backed bill provides economic incentives to companies who place restrictions on labor unions. Supporters like Rep. Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) say the bill protects employee privacy. Opponents like Rep. Jasmine Clark (D-Lilburn) said that by being less accommodating to unions, the bill could worsen the labor shortage Georgia is already facing. The bill passed 96 to 78. 

Late in the day, senators approved the House’s version of SB 465. They also gave final passage to the school vouchers bill.  

The legislature returns tomorrow for Day 38.

Join host Donna Lowry and capitol reporter Sarah Kallis for GPB's Lawmakers at 7 p.m. EDT.