Georgia’s 2024 Legislative Session—An Update at Crossover Day

It’s a busy time under the Gold Dome as we approach Crossover Day tomorrow, February 29th. Crossover Day is the deadline by which bills must pass one chamber in time to be considered by the other before the end of session on March 28th. 

We’re keeping an eye on bills that affect young children, families, and the people who care for them, including the state budget where many of our priorities lie.  

There are many steps in the budget process and, therefore, many opportunities for us to make our voices heard. The Governor released his budget recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly in January and the appropriations bill for next year’s budget began in the House of Representatives. Relevant portions of the bill were heard by different House appropriations subcommittees. Now, we are waiting for the House to release their version of the budget, where it then must be passed by the full House Appropriations Committee and the entire House. It will then be transmitted to the Senate to go through the same process.  

Below are highlights of what’s been happening under the Gold Dome, including relevant budget items and opportunities to take action. To see all the bills that we’re tracking, click here. (Note: Conditions seem to change by the minute at this point in the session, but this is where we are right now.) 

Early Childhood Education 

In January, the House Working Group on Early Childhood Education issued bold recommendations to enhance Georgia’s Lottery-funded Pre-K Program. They urged the Georgia legislature and Governor Brian Kemp to budget $100 million to strengthen Georgia’s Pre-K Program, including: 

  • restoring class size to 20 students per class 
  • meaningfully increasing the salaries of lead and assistant Pre-K teachers  
  • provide capital funding for Pre-K classrooms in both public school and private child care settings 

GEEARS applauds these recommendations and is working to make them a reality. Notably, a bill related to capital support for public Pre-K providers (SB 360) passed the Senate last week and will now be considered by the House.  

Although the Working Group focused on Georgia’s Lottery-funded Pre-K Program, GEEARS and our partners are also diligently working to significantly increase funding for infant-toddler care, particularly Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) Program, to ensure that investments made in Georgia’s Pre-K do not increase inequities already present in our child care system. 

Ways to take action in support of child care: 

Child and Family Health 

Legislators have been laser-focused on maternal and child health this session. A number of bills were created to address Georgia’s maternal and infant mortality rates. Some of these include: 

  • HB 1037, which would create a Georgia Commission on Maternal and Infant Health. It has passed the House with broad bipartisan support and now goes to the Senate. 
  • HB 1081, which would provide mandatory preeclampsia biomarker testing for pregnant women during their first prenatal visit. It has passed the House Public Health Committee and must pass the House before Crossover Day to be considered by the Senate. 
  • HR 1231, which would create a House Study Committee on Maternal, Prenatal, and Pediatric Care Access and Funding. Because this is a House Study Committee, the bill only needs to pass the House. 

Additionally, GEEARS is watching a range of bills that would address Georgia’s foster care population and behavioral health workforce. 

Family Supports

We at GEEARS advocate for holistic supports for family well-being and early childhood development. We were thrilled by the overwhelming, bipartisan passage of HB 1010, which doubles the number of weeks (from three to six) of paid parental leave for the 300,000 state employees and public school teachers.  

GEEARS testified in favor of HB 565, which would increase access to Georgia’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. TANF provides financial assistance to working parents with low incomes and relative caregivers across the state. It is currently very difficult to qualify for eligibility. HB 565 passed out of the House Public Health Committee and must pass the House before Crossover Day.  

Take action: Urge Georgia representatives to support working families by voting “YES” on HB 565 

Similarly, HB 559, which would allow voters accompanied by a child aged three-years-old or under to have preferential treatment during advanced voting (similar to those with disabilities or 75 years of age or older), passed out of Committee earlier this week and must pass the House before the end of Crossover Day.  

Another highlight is the passage of HB 404 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill, which was nearly passed last session, would support access to healthy, affordable housing. The bill must be passed by the full Senate before the end of this session. 

Take action: Support healthy housing by contacting your legislators in support of HB 404 

At the same time, several of the bills that we support, such as a bill to eliminate the state sales tax on diapers (HB 211), have yet to receive a committee hearing. 

As we get closer to the end of legislative session on March 28th, your advocacy is more important than ever. Please be on the lookout for more opportunities to take action as things wind into high gear!