Georgia Sine Die 2023: A recap

House Chamber on Day 38

Georgia House members recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" on March 23, 2023, Day 38 of the legislative session at the Statehouse in Atlanta. (Credit: Georgia House)

If you missed all the action Wednesday – or Sine Die, the 40th and final day of Georgia’s 2023 legislative session – check out our blog below.

Sine Die (“sigh-knee dye”) went by in a blur under the Gold Dome of the Statehouse as the General Assembly worked to get their lingering bills passed and others defeated. Bills not passed or signed by the governor this go-round could have a second chance at life when the Legislature returns Jan. 8, 2024. (As they were fond of saying on “Game of Thrones,” what is dead may never die.)

Among the bills that didn’t come up Wednesday, even though lawmakers went a half-hour past the midnight deadline, were food insecurity, anti-Semitism and sports betting.

The controversial school voucher bill (SB 233) went down in a round of cheers in the House, but it was close (85-89). Lawmakers tried to resuscitate it by voting yes to reconsider, but the bill was never brought up again. Gov. Brian Kemp walked in just as the bill was defeated. He thanked the House for their hard work during the session before heading to Senate chambers.

Medical marijuana (HB 196) was another hot topic and took up a good deal of precious time in the last hour. The bill would have handed oversight to Ag Commissioner Tyler Harper and his department, but as senior investigative reporter Tammy Joyner (@lvjoyner) tweeted, it “went up in smoke.”

Jill Jordan Sieder (@journalistajill) was closely watching a bill (HB 188) that would change how sex offenders are monitored and sentenced. It was a bill Rep. Steven Sainz, R-St. Mary’s, had been trying to get pushed through for years — and it finally succeeded.

Here are the bills we were watching for you during Wednesday’s marathon:

SB 97/HB 196 – Medical marijuana
SB 157 – Occupational licenses for convicted felons
SB 177 – Food insecurity
SB 233 – School vouchers
HB 144 – Antisemitism hate crimes
HB 188 – Ankle monitors for sex offenders
HB 237 – Sports betting
HB 520 – Mental health

For more on these bills, read Jill’s preview story posted Tuesday: Last day, last chance this legislative session for a host of bills

This live blog has ended.

12:20 a.m. Thanks for following our live blog. (And many blessings to the Statehouse cleaning crew!)

Just a note before closing: Some notable bills that didn’t make it on Sine Die include school vouchers, sports betting, anti-Semitism protections, mental health and medical marijuana expansion. We likely haven’t seen the last of these.

12:19 a.m. That’s a wrap!

12:17 a.m. You can hear this picture!

12:16 a.m. Sine Die, indeed.

12:05 a.m. It’s Thursday, folks. (And Opening Day for Major League Baseball!)

11:59 p.m. With minutes to spare, the House votes 170-3 to adopt the Conference Committee Report for HB 19, the $32.4 billion FY 2024 budget.

“The last person I want to thank, I can’t thank in person. He was a father figure to me. I loved him. I thank him for teaching me how to persevere. He’s looking down on us.”
– House Appropriations Chairman Matt Hatchett, speaking about late Speaker David Ralston

11:38 p.m.

11:33 p.m.: Less than a half hour remains and the state budget may be the end of it.

“This House does not play politics with the budget.”
– Rep. Matt Hatchett, the chamber’s chief budget negotiator

“Where is a Red Bull when I need it?”
– Tammy Joyner, State Affairs senior investigative reporter

11:30 p.m. Amendment voting for HB 353 was a mixed bag – 2 & 3 failed, 4 passed and 1 is “moot.” The bill went on to pass by substitute, 50-5. It’s headed back to the House.

The House is now taking up HB 19 – the budget.

11:25 p.m. As a reminder, HB 353 is a lottery bill.

11:22 p.m. The Senate a little bit ago passed HB 249 to expand the need-based financial aid program.

Rep. Chuck Martin after HB 249 passes both the House and Senate. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)

11:20 p.m. The House has reconvened with 40 minutes to go.

11:15 p.m. Same time next year?

10:55 p.m. HB 353 is on the Senate floor. The “Georgia Lottery for Education Act” would amend various portions of Title 50, related to coin-operated amusement machines, non-cash awards, and provide for a system for handling certain disputes that may arise. Amendments are being discussed.

The House stands at ease until 11:10.

HB 196, the medical marijuana bill, went up in the smoke in the Senate. It’s back to the House.

10:50 p.m. We’re coming into the home stretch, folks. Stay tuned. The last hour is always the one to watch.

10:33 p.m. It has been a long day.

ICYMI: Ag Commissioner Tyler Harper chatted with Tammy earlier this month. Read the Q&A here.

10:30 p.m. About that school voucher bill…

10:22 p.m. Meanwhile, in the House chamber… (you can read HB 76 for yourself here)

10:20 p.m. A motion to table HB 196 failed 22-30.

10 p.m. Back to HB 196 in the Senate chamber, medical cannabis.

Our story from May 2022:

9:50 p.m. SB 23 passes; streamlines data related to mental health care among agencies statewide.

9:46 p.m.

9:40 p.m.

9:38 p.m. HB 88 – “The Coleman-Baker Act” passed by substitute unanimously. It revises the definition of “cold case” to include homicides committed more than three years prior rather than six and gives families the right to ask for cold cases to be reopened. It will also make it easier for cold case victims’ families to get death certificates. GBI reports it’s tracking more than 100 unsolved homicide cases.

9:28 p.m. The Senate reconvened and immediately (and unanimously) passed HB 139, which would restrict the disclosure of certain identifiable information of nonsworn employees of a law enforcement agency who are witnesses in felony and misdemeanor criminal cases.

9:24 p.m. Sine Die is a family affair.

9:15 p.m. The House Rules committee is meeting again in a few minutes, and the House is in recess until 9:30. The Senate also stands at ease.

9:10 p.m. Kemp is now in the Senate chamber after thanking the House for their session work.

Kemp at Sine Die Senate chambers
Gov. Brian Kemp addresses the Senate during Sine Die, March 29, 2023, at the Georgia Statehouse in Atlanta. (Credit: Tammy Joyner)

9 p.m. Gov. Kemp walked into the House chambers just as the voucher bill was defeated amid raucous cheering. He is expected to make some remarks.

8:50 p.m. The school voucher bill failed by a narrow margin of 89-85. An immediate motion to reconsider passed 98-73, so there could be another vote on SB 233. When that will happen is anybody’s guess.

8:40 p.m.

Read Tammy’s Jan. 26 story about the push to regulate food apps in Georgia. The earlier version – SB 34 – was killed in the Senate earlier this month. Bill co-author Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, was clearly happy, as seen below.

Not-so-fun fact: 1 in 4 delivery drivers admitted to sampling a customer’s food order, according to a survey by U.S. Foods.

8:24 p.m. HB 528 passes the Senate by substitute. The bill now includes part of the bill to regulate food delivery apps.

8:09 p.m. The controversial school-voucher bill, SB 233, is being debated on the House floor. Standby…

8 p.m. Rep. Steven Sainz, R-St. Mary’s, was all smiles at Sine Die after his four-year wait for passage of HB 188 ended. The “Georgia Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act” – aka Mariam’s Law – is headed to Kemp’s desk after today’s action. HB 188 will make life sentences — consisting of prison time, probation, or a combination — mandatory for people who are convicted a second time of one of 13 felony sex crimes. Read more about Sainz’s journey to passage here.

Steven Sainz on Sine Die
Rep. Steven Sainz smiles after his bill, HB 188, the “Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act,” aka Mariam’s Law, passed on Sine Die, March 29, 2023, the last day of the Georgia legislative session. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)

7:41 p.m. The House and Senate are back. We’ve got roughly four hours to go in 2023’s Sine Die.

6:41 p.m.

6:20 p.m. The House is in recess until 7:30.

6:16 p.m. Thinking of you, Mr. Jimmy!

ICYMI – here’s our exclusive coverage on Jimmy Carter, with commentary from and interviews with people who know the former president.

5:59 p.m. HB 196 – abolishes Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission and gives oversight of medical cannabis to the Department of Agriculture. It also expands the number of medical marijuana growers’ licenses to 20 from six and subjects the department’s work to open records and meetings laws.

See our story from last May:

5:45 p.m. The Senate is “at ease” until 6:45.

5:27 p.m. HB 19 – Senate has adopted $32.4 billion FY ’24 budget; awaiting House vote. You can read the Conference Committee’s final budget report here.

5:13 p.m. HB 19 – The budget bill. House members have their work cut out for them as they digest proposed changes to the mammoth FY 2024 budget. Here’s how they got here.

4:58 p.m. HB 520 – A portion of the mental health bill has been added to SB 23.

Our story from Feb. 27:

4:54 p.m. SB 44 – “Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act; mandatory minimum penalties for violations”

Our story from March 6:

4:32 p.m. HB 188 – “Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act,” aka Mariam’s Law, is headed to Kemp’s desk.

Our story from Jan. 30:

4:30 p.m. HB 340 – “Education; daily duty-free planning periods for teachers in grades six through twelve”

4:22 p.m. Update on SB 233 in Rules Committee. ⬇️

4:04 p.m. HB 302 – “Crimes and offenses; issuance of a temporary or permanent protective order by the court”; the House has reconvened.

4 p.m. HB 249 – “Education; needs-based financial aid program”

3:35 p.m. The state’s $32.4 billion budget for FY 2024 has been printed and placed on each legislator’s desk. Should be called for a vote soon.

3:10 p.m. SB 222 – “Primaries and Elections; all costs and expenses relating to election administration are paid for with lawfully appropriate public funds” heads to the gov. Under this bill, local governments can’t directly accept third-party money to help fund elections.

*Taliaferro County

2:44 p.m. SB 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, has been moved back to Rules for a little more tinkering. House Rules will meet in 5 minutes. The school voucher-like bill would create a scholarship account so families could receive up to $6,500 per academic year per child from the state to pay for private school tuition or other qualified education expenses. The controversial bill has been amended so the funds can only be used by students attending public schools ranked by the state Office of Student Achievement as performing in the bottom 25% of all schools. Critics say the bill will hurt students remaining in those public schools by pulling funds and siphoning students and families from the schools that need more resources and community support to improve.  

2:02 p.m. House Rules is canceled. House will come back to order at 2:15 p.m. 🧐

1:16 p.m. Georgia students between 12 and 18 years of age can sign up to page during session. Pages carry messages between legislators and the people in the halls. They help place bills and messages on legislators’ desks. It counts as an educational field trip. Learn more.

1:05 p.m. House breaks for lunch, and Speaker Burns announces that House Rules will meet at 2 p.m. That means they will add more bills to the House calendar. I wonder if Chairman Richard Smith will bring his pig flying statue to the meeting?

House Rules Chairman Richard Smith
House Rules Chairman Richard Smith gives instructions on Sine Die April 4, 2022.

1 p.m. SB 63 – “Bonds and Recognizances; setting of bonds and schedules of bails”

12:35 p.m. SR 175 – “Creating the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages; creating the Joint Study Committee on Service Delivery Strategy; and for other purposes.”

12:15 p.m.

12:13 p.m. HB 374 – “Local government; municipal deannexation; repeal certain provisions,” bans cities from banning use of gas-powered leafblowers – passed; SB 155 (aka Figo’s Law) – “Dangerous Instrumentalities and Practices; provisions relating to harming a law enforcement animal” – passed. Named for Clayton County K-9 Figo, who was killed in October as he was investigating a homicide suspect during a traffic stop.

11:40 a.m.

10:58 a.m. The only thing lawmakers have to do each session is pass a state budget. The conference committee has reached an agreement, which will be presented to the House and Senate for a vote.

10:39 a.m.

10:30 a.m.

10:23 a.m.

10:04 a.m.

9:49 a.m.

9:37 a.m. Seersucker is a Sine Die staple.

9:12 a.m.

9:09 a.m.

8:54 a.m.

Header image: Georgia House members recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” on March 23, 2023, Day 38 of the legislative session at the Statehouse in Atlanta. (Credit: Georgia House)