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“Dean of the House” Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) is honored in the Senate (Credit: GPB “Lawmakers”)

On Friday, the Georgia Senate voted to OK a controversial bill banning teachers from teaching “divisive concepts” in schools. House Bill 1084 would ban teaching that the U.S. is fundamentally racist, that one race is superior, that individuals should feel responsible for the actions of other people of the same race, and that individuals are consciously or unconsciously racist because of their ethnicity. 

The bill faced sharp criticism from Democrats, teachers, and students who say the bill could stifle important classroom discussions.   

Another Republican-led bill, HB 1178, would establish a “Parent’s Bill of Rights” that would give them the ability to request to review their children’s lessons. It also allows them to opt their child out of sex education courses. Critics of the bill say it could hinder teachers’ ability to instruct their students, and pointed out that many schools already allow parents these options.   

The Senate also passed HB 1150, 31 to 21. The bill would limit plaintiffs’ abilities to file nuisance complaints against farms near them. It builds upon the 1980 “Right to Farm” act with a similar goal. Legislators have been trying to pass some version of this bill for the past four years. Democrats who oppose the bill said it could harm both farms and those who live nearby.   

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives was busy passing bills as well. The chamber passed SB 319, the “Constitutional Carry Act.” The bill changes the definition of a “lawful weapons carrier” to allow anyone not otherwise prohibited by law to carry a concealed weapon without a permit in certain public areas.

The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.   

The House also passed a bill, SB 10, that would create harsher penalties for drag racing. The bill is named “Jaye Mize Law” after a woman who was killed by drag racers. The punishment for drag racing would be 8 points added to a driver’s license suspension program and a fine. Licenses will be suspended if they reach 15 points.   

“Dean of the House” Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), who was honored in the Senate chamber, gave a tearful address to lawmakers.   

“Plant seeds for the trees for the shade you may never see,” he said as parting advice to the senators.   

Smyre is leaving the legislature after 48 years. He was tapped by the Biden Administration to serve as ambassador to the Dominican Republic and is awaiting confirmation hearings.

This story comes to Atlanta Intown/Reporter Newspapers through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.

Sarah Kallis | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Sarah Kallis covers state politics for "Lawmakers" on GPB.