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February 27, 2024 5:30 pm

Local News

‘Lawmakers’: Antisemitism definition passes, longest-serving Latino rep talks retirement on Day 9

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Sarah Kallis, GPB News

It was an emotional Day 9 in both the House and Senate as lawmakers in both chambers passed a bill that could help with hate crime prosecution. 

Definition of antisemitism

HB 30, a controversial bill that first passed last year in the House but failed to make its way through the Senate, was amended and brought back to the Senate floor today.  

The bill defines antisemitism for use in conjunction with Georgia’s hate crime and anti-discrimination laws. 

The controversy was about using the ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’ definition of antisemitism in the bill and whether it stifles the right to free speech when criticizing the state of Israel.  

HB 30 was supported and opposed by members of both parties. 

Senator Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson) tried to amend the bill by adding language that would specifically protect free speech rights when criticizing Israel. 

The amendment failed, but the bill passed the Senate 44 to 6, with 5 Democrats and one Republican voting against it.   

Judicial appointments and resolutions

The Senate also took up the task of voting on 3 appointments made by Governor Brian Kemp to the state’s judicial qualification board, including former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr. 

Their appointments were passed 29 to 20. 

But SR 44, a resolution to appoint former Republican state Senator Rick Jaffares to the state election board was more contentious, with Democrats objecting to his outspoken beliefs surrounding the 2020 election.

Kemp’s appointment was passed 32 to 17 along party lines. 

Gov. Kemp also appointed John Fervier to be the election board chairman, which garnered more unanimous support. 

The Waffle House executive’s confirmation easily passed 48 to 1. 

In the House, representatives unanimously voted for Fervier. 

But the big news came when the House passed HB 30. They passed the bill last year but had to approve it again after the Senate’s changes. 

The bill passed 129 to 5. 

State Rep. Esther Panitch (D-Atlanta), the legislature’s only Jewish member, said she is overwhelmed by the support of her colleagues. 

Speaker of the House Jon Burns praised the multi-year effort to get the bill over the finish line. 
 

A retirement

Also in House news, Representative Pedro Marin, Georgia’s longest-serving Latino lawmaker, announced his retirement. Marin served in the House for 22 years and will retire at the end of the session. 

Join host Donna Lowry and capitol reporter Sarah Kallis at 7 p.m. on GPB-TV for the 54th season of GPB’s Lawmakers

This story comes to the Augusta-Richmond Herald through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.