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Sen. Ben Watson: Sine Die awaits but not before budget
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Sen. Ben Watson


The Georgia General Assembly has two official legislative days left in the 2024 legislative session and we will wrap up this week completing our 40-day session. With Sine Die looming this week, we still have the most important bill to pass, that being the Fiscal Year 2024-2025 budget.

There are also several other important bills that we would like to see through but that may be for future years. Any bill which does not pass this year “dies” and must be introduced in the next two-year session beginning in 2025.

The Georgia Senate worked during the past week on the biggest and most important piece of legislation, the annual budget. The House has passed their version of the budget, House Bill 916, setting state government expenditures at $36.1 billion, with estimates indicating that the state revenue increased by $3.6 billion.

The Senate now has the bill and we will make our own changes and then the differences between House and Senate versions will be worked out in a conference committee. Saying that, the General Assembly has just two legislative days left in the 2024 legislative session.

In our continued state-based effort to stem illegal immigration, the Senate passed House Bill 301, forcing cities and towns that want to become “sanctuary cities” to follow the laws of the state, especially after the heinous murder of nursing student Laken Riley. This legislation could result in law enforcement agencies and local governments losing federal and state funds and force elected officials to be removed from office if they fail to comply with undocumented immigrant reporting laws. The legislation also gives any state resident the right to sue local governments for not enforcing the state’s ban on sanctuary city policies, which have been in place since 2009.

In an effort to continue to lower our state income tax rate, the Senate has sent a bill to the governor that will lower the state income tax rate. H.B. 1015 will accelerate a state income tax reduction that took effect this year, rolling back the ncome tax rate from 5.49% to 5.39%, and will accelerate the rate cut of 0.1% annually, until it reaches 4.99%. The bill will save Georgia taxpayers about $1.1 billion this year.

In a Senate committee, we passed a package of individual bills aimed at protecting our children from the culture wars by banning opposite-gender students from bathrooms, expand transparency by requiring schools to notify parents which books and publications our children check out of the school library, not allowing transgender males from participating in women’s sports, and banning sex education before sixth grade though continuing to allow discussion of menstruation.

Legislation also prohibits schools from allowing males to compete with females in sports that are designated for females, no matter the gender identity that one may claim at that time for sporting events. It also prohibits schools from allowing boys from using multiple-occupant restrooms for changing areas designated for girls.

I will keep you updated on legislation affecting our community as we progress through the session. Thank you for your continued interest in the work of our General Assembly. As your public servant, feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email. I am in 325A, Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880, and my email is ben.

I look forward to continuing to serve you.

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