Failed bills included immigration revamp, paper ballots
ATLANTA (AP) — While giving his retirement speech Thursday on the Georgia House floor, Republican Rep. Brooks Coleman reflected on a lesson he learned from Speaker David Ralston: “It’s not what we pass down here that makes a difference many times — it’s what we don’t pass, what we stop.”
In the Republican-controlled legislature, it’s rare for a bill to be voted down. Far more often, bills that don’t garner enough support suffer a quiet death and simply never come up for a vote. Out of hundreds of votes taken in the House and Senate this legislative session, only a handful resulted in bills or resolutions being voted down outright.
Regardless of the manner in which they failed, here’s a look at some of the proposals that did not win final passage this session:
The Georgia House did not vote on a controversial Senate proposal that supporters say would have strengthened immigration enforcement and cooperation with federal immigration officials.
The bill came amid a national debate about sanctuary policies and toughening immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump, who campaigned on building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
It would have given law enforcement officials leeway in detaining individuals suspected of being in the country illegally and required prosecuting attorneys to notify federal officials if they determined a defendant was in the country illegally.
Proponents said the measure would have prevented crimes committed by people that should not be in the country.
But critics said the bill would have been unconstitutional, harmful to immigrant communities and could have resulted in people being held unlawfully. A group of protesters gathered Thursday outside the Capitol to voice their opposition to the proposal.
Georgia’s county election officials can continue to decide for themselves whether to offer early voting on multiple Saturdays and Sundays.
A proposal to limit early voting across the state to weekdays and only one weekend day failed to come up for a vote in either chamber.
Proponents had argued that voters across Georgia should have equal access to the polls during federal and state elections, with each county having the same number of early-voting opportunities.
The measure outraged Democrats, who accused Republicans of trying to prevent minorities and working-class Georgians from accessing the polls.
Sunday voting is especially popular among African-American communities, where churches have led “soul to the polls” initiatives, giving busloads of parishioners a ride rides to polling stations.
In a statement Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia praised the bill’s death, calling it a “victory for all Georgians who want to participate fully in our democracy.”
A proposal to move Georgia from its 16-year-old electronic touchscreen voting system to one that uses some form of paper ballot or receipt died late Thursday when the Senate declined to accept changes made by the House.
Republican Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth, one of the bill’s primary backers, said it was needed to ensure that election results can be audited if there are claims or evidence of irregularities.
But critics, including advocacy groups and several Democratic lawmakers, said the measure did not go far enough.
Verified Voting, a group that advocates for transparent elections, said the legislation fell short because it didn’t fully commit to manual counting of “voter-marked paper ballots” for audits and recounts.
The proposal would have left many of the details about the voting machines to a procurement process.
The persistent pleas of hundreds of Girl Scouts were not enough to persuade lawmakers to put their founder’s name on a Savannah bridge that currently honors a white segregationist.
Despite a huge public lobbying effort, Rep. Ron Stephens’ proposal to remove former Gov. Eugene Talmadge’s name from the bridge and replace it with that of Savannah native Juliette Gordon Low never gained enough traction to come up for a vote in either chamber.
Stephens, a Savannah Republican, said some of his colleagues were leery about removing Talmadge’s name.
He maintains that the bridge was never formally named after the governor so their concerns about “re-naming” the bridge were unfounded.
“We’re going to try again next year,” Stephens said. “In the meantime, I’ll keep on driving over the unnamed bridge.”