ATLANTA — Monday night the Georgia House passed state Rep. John Carson’s bill allowing counties to collect a sales tax of less than 1 cent per dollar spent.
The Georgia Senate meanwhile approved Sen. Judson Hill’s bill prohibiting teachers and other state workers from having an abortion paid for under the state health benefit plan.
The Senate passed Hill’s bill last year only to see it stall in the House.
Gov. Nathan Deal used his administrative power to remove abortion coverage from the state health benefit plan, but Hill is trying to put it into state law so that if, for example, a Democrat is elected governor, the Democrat couldn’t put the option back in the plan.
“I believe it’s wrong for the government to use taxpayer dollars to pay for someone else’s abortion,” Hill said.
The four Republican senators who represent Cobb voted in favor of S.B. 98, while Cobb’s Democratic senators, Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) and Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) voted against it, Hill said.
Between 2010 and Jan. 1 when Deal’s change took effect, about 2,000 abortions were paid for by the state plan, Hill said.
Having been the father of twins born at 23 weeks that lived for a day and a half 25 years ago, two babies that today would have had an 80 to 90 percent chance at survival, Hill said the protection of unborn children is a subject that hits close to home.
“It just became very real, the life of an unborn baby became very real and personal fighting two babies at 23 weeks alive knowing at the time they could have been aborted,” he said.
Hill said his bill includes a medical emergency exemption for coverage if the pregnancy puts the life of the mother at risk.
State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) said she opposes the bill because it doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest victims.
“I’m also opposed to it because it is insulting to women,” Evans said. “This bill was sponsored only by men. Unlike myself and other women of this state, those men do not know what it is like to be pregnant and worry that something may go wrong that may cause a woman to need to seek counsel with her doctor and her God and consider the difficult decision of having an abortion.”
Evans used the example of a baby that was brain dead or dead in the womb.
“If a woman on a state health benefit plan faces this difficult situation, but cannot afford to pay for an abortion without her insurance coverage, she will be forced to carry the baby to term even though the baby has already passed away,” she said. “It frustrates me when men introduce legislation and ignore these effects.”
Fractional SPLOST passes House
Last week, the House voted down Carson’s fractional sales tax bill, 92-78 vote. The bill has the backing of county Chairman Tim Lee and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, but was opposed by groups such as the Georgia Municipal Association. Carson asked for a revote and got one Monday, seeing his bill pass 97 to 75 at about 9:30 p.m.
Most of Cobb’s 15 state representatives voted in favor except for Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta), who voted no, and Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta), who did not vote.
“This was a team effort and we just never gave up,” Carson said. “We didn’t give up on ourselves, and more than anything, we didn’t give up on the taxpayers, and tonight the taxpayers prevailed so it’s on from here to the state Senate.”
Religious liberty bill dead for the year
Another controversial bill, state Sen. Josh McKoon’s S.B. 377, which sought to cover Georgia with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was never permitted to get to the Senate floor by Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), meaning it is tabled for the year.
“I’m not sure why the chairman chose not to allow it to be part of the rules calendar for the floor today,” Hill said. “I’m disappointed that the measure couldn’t be heard on the floor of the Senate and debated to allow people’s freedom of expression of religion to be protected in Georgia like it is under federal law. I sense that people more now than ever believe it’s important to stand up for all our rights as protected in the U.S. Constitution, including this one.”
Evans opposed the bill along with a similar one filed by state Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) that was also tabled because she believes it would allow for discrimination.
“I was glad to hear that. That was commonsense decision making by the leadership of both chambers,” Evans said.