Senate Committee Hears Gender Identity Bill & Passes Bills on Panic Alert System and Others
SB 88 by Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele), the “Parents and Children Protection Act of 2023,” would prohibit anyone acting “in loco parentis,” including employees of public and private schools, charter schools, social services agencies, public libraries, camps, or similar facilities or programs, from discussing with a child information related to sex education or information regarding a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, without written permission from the child’s parents or legal guardian.
When presenting the bill in committee, Summers said that he is willing to work on language in the bill to avoid conflict with educator mandated reporter requirements. He also expressed willingness to address other issues that multiple groups, including PAGE, have shared with him.
Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett), chair of the Senate Education & Youth Committee, asked Summers to clarify language on lines 50-54 of the bill that would prohibit school employees and others from “engaging in instruction, education, or training of a child while dressed in a sexually provocative manner.” PAGE shares Dixon's concern.
The committee did not take a vote on the bill. Due to time constraints, the committee did not hear testimony from all stakeholders who signed up to speak. Dixon said the committee will hold enough hearings on the bill for everyone interested in testifying to be heard. PAGE will provide testimony at a later meeting.
The Senate Education & Youth Committee approved the following bills:
SB 32 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), “Alyssa's Law,” would require school systems to implement a mobile panic alert system that can connect in real-time to local law enforcement. Anivitarte said that the $50,000 grants included in Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget proposal would help fund the alert system in school districts that do not have them.
SB 50 by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) would allow schools to provide instruction in life guarding and aquatic safety for students in grades 9 through 12. The bill does not mandate that schools offer the program. The course would count as a half credit for students that complete the program. The bill passed unanimously and moves forward for consideration of the Senate Rules committee.
SB 123 by Sen. Anavitarte would require school districts to offer the SAT, ACT, and ASVAB during school hours, free of charge for students. Anavitarte said that the bill will help rural school districts where students often must travel an hour or more to take the tests. Testing will be offered to students in the Department of Juvenile Justice as well. The Georgia National Guard was instrumental in ensuring the ASVAB was included in the bill. Students are not required to take the tests if offered. The bill would require state funding to be fully enacted. Committee members expressed concern that the bill specifically names certain tests. A representative from Achieve Atlanta commented that the SAT and ACT are the two tests most colleges in the United States accept for college entrance requirements. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 8-2.
All bills which passed committee today will next be heard by Senate Rules, which will consider when to schedule them for a Senate floor vote.
House Motor Vehicles Committee Hears School-Related Legislation
Speeding in school zones was a hot topic in the House Motor Vehicles committee. Lawmakers considered HB 348, from Rep. J. Collins (R-Villa Rica) which aims to change how the speed limit is enforced in school zones. Proposed changes include:
Reduce the time period speed limits in school zones can be camera-enforced to 30 minutes before and after the start and dismissal of school, down from the current one hour provision
Require flashing lights on signs announcing the reduced speed limit in school zones
Set counties and municipalities as the entity to apply for a permit from the Georgia Department of Transportation for an automated traffic enforcement safety device (e.g. camera-enforcement of speed zones) instead of school districts
Revoke car registration as consequence for failure to pay speeding penalty
Committee members also heard HB 301, from Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth), which, as outlined in a substitute bill presented in the meeting, aims to change penalties for traffic violations related to school buses and school zones. (The substitute bill is not yet available online.) The bill would prohibit the addition of extra fees to the $250 penalty for passing a school bus. It would also reduce the fee for speeding in a school zone to $50 the first time, down from $75, and $100 the second time, reduced from $125. According to Ridley’s description, HB 301 would also limit fees charged by the companies that operate traffic cameras in speed zones to $2.
As it was hearing only for both bills, the committee did not vote on either.
Wednesday, Feb. 15 – Legislative Day 19
House Public Safety & Homeland Security, 1 p.m., 506 CLOB
Senate Education & Youth and Senate Higher Education Joint Committee, 2 p.m., 307 CLOB
Thursday, Feb. 16 – Legislative Day 20
House Education, 9 a.m., 506 CLOB
Retirement, 1 p.m., Mezz 1 CAP
Tuesday, Feb. 21 – Legislative Day 21/PAGE Day on Capitol Hill