THE STATUS OF HB 481
At 3 PM this afternoon (March 14, 2019), the Senate Science and Technology Committee will hear HB 481 – the “6-week abortion ban” bill which passed in the House on Crossover Day (March 7, 2019) with only a narrow majority margin. The committee hearing is scheduled to take place in Room 450 in the Capitol building, but this room number could change at any minute.
The Senate Science and Technology Committee is chaired by Senator Renee Unterman (SD 45 in Gwinnett) who has authored more than a dozen anti-choice bills during her tenure of service. There are four other members on the committee, two of whom are Democratic Senators Jen Jordan and Valencia Seay. Both women are WIN List endorsed.
The hearing is expected to last at least three hours. While there are three bills on the docket for today’s meeting, the chair has indicated she will allow one hour for each side to present their case when HB 481 is discussed. The meeting is expected to be viewable via live-stream.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN COMMITTEE HEARING
There are rumors Senate leaders plan to employ a seldom-used tactic from the legislative rulebook to “stack the deck” for Republicans in today’s committee meeting. This tactic would send “ex-officio” Senate members to the hearing who will also be able to vote on the measure, thus swaying the vote in the Republicans’ favor.
Due to the heavy criticism of questionable legal provisions in HB 481, Senator Unterman is rumored to offer her own committee substitute to the bill. As of now, the content of her substitute bill has not been widely circulated. There is a high likelihood committee members and the public will not have a chance to adequately review and process the substitute bill before the hearing this afternoon.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER THE HEARING
After today, the General Assembly will be on recess through the weekend. There are two possible scenarios for what to expect next week:
Scenario One: If the current version of HB 481 passes through committee today, then according to Senate rules, the first day the Senate Rules Committee could place a bill on the Senate calendar is Tuesday (March 19, 2019). Should the bill pass with no amendments on the Senate floor, the bill goes to the Governor for approval.
Scenario Two: If the committee substitute proposed by Senator Unterman passes both in committee and then later on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday, the bill becomes a political football in a power “game” between Republicans in the two chambers. The substitute bill would need to pass in the House with no amendments to go to the Governor’s desk.
When amendments are added, the legislative process slows down and conference committees with members from both houses are appointed to resolve differences. If some version of the bill does not pass in both chambers before the end of Day 40 of the legislative calendar – a.k.a. Sine Die – the bill will be dead for this session. Sine Die is April 2nd.
WHERE THINGS STAND & WHAT YOU CAN DO
The fight against HB 481 is far from over.
For today, there is still time to contact Senator Unterman who chairs the Senate Science and Technology Committee.
- Senator Renee Unterman: (404) 463-1368 or
For the Senate vote, there is still time to contact targeted Republican Senators before the bill goes to a floor vote.
- Senator John Albers: (404) 463-8055 **
- Senator Lee Anderson: (404) 656-5114
- Senator Brandon Beach: (404) 463-1378
- Senator Dean Burke: (404) 656-0040
- Senator Bill Cowsert: (404) 463-1366 **
- Senator Greg Dolezal: (404) 656-7127
- Senator Mike Dugan: (404) 463-2478
- Senator Chuck Hufstetler: (404) 656-0034
- Senator Kay Kirkpatrick: (404) 656-3932 **
- Senator P. K. Martin, IV: (404) 463-6598 **
- Senator Jesse Stone: (404) 463-1314
- Senator Brian Strickland: (404) 656-7454 **
- Senator Ben Watson: (404) 656-7880
Names with asterisks indicate a vulnerable Senate district where Democratic candidates have come close to flipping the seat. These Senators are on notice for 2020.