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Capitol Visit

( to R): Vidalia City Manager Bill Bedingfield; Vidalia City Councilmember Loyd Mobley; Vidalia City Councilmember Bob Dixon; Mayor of Soperton John Koon; Mayor of Vidalia Doug Roper; State Representative Leesa Hagan; and Vidalia Finance Director Patricia Glover.

By Rep. Leesa Hagan

The Georgia General Assembly legislative session resumed on Monday, January 29, marking the start of the fourth week of the 2024 legislative session at the State Capitol. As the House convened for four days, concluding the week at Legislative Day 14, we have surpassed the one-quarter mark of this year’s session. Unfortunately, this week brought sad news as we learned of the unexpected passing of a cherished colleague and dedicated statesman, the honorable House Rules Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus). In the midst of mourning the loss of Chairman Smith, we remained committed to our legislative duties which we felt would best honor his legacy.

Chairman Richard Smith Remembered

Born in Wrightsville, Georgia, Chairman Richard Smith devoted his life to public service, holding various roles at both local and state levels. With 20 years of service in the General Assembly, he was a steadfast representative for his constituents. On Tuesday morning, just a couple of hours after receiving the news, the House, joined by Governor Kemp, paid tribute to Chairman Smith's life and service. With heavy hearts, we collectively remembered Chairman Smith and extended our thoughts to his grieving family.

In response to this heartbreaking news, the House adopted a revised adjournment resolution, House Resolution 978, modifying our session schedule. This adjustment allows members of both the House and Senate to attend Chairman Smith’s funeral and pay respects. Consequently, the House will not be in session on February 5, and an additional day has been scheduled for Friday, February 16, to accommodate this change.

Restoring Election Confidence

Last Wednesday, the House achieved notable progress by passing House Bill 976. This legislation addresses concerns related to election security. The bill mandates that all election ballots be printed on paper featuring a visible watermark security feature, distinguishing them as official Georgia ballots. While current ballots bear an invisible watermark, this bill ensures that the watermark security feature is visible to the naked eye. If this legislation attains final passage and is not vetoed by the governor, the enhanced security feature will be implemented in time for the general election in November 2024. Election security remains a pertinent topic for discussion among the General Assembly and the state's voters. This legislation addresses concerns and bolsters confidence in our electoral system by introducing tangible measures to secure the integrity of the voting process.

Movement on Important Bills

HB 1019 would increase the Georgia homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000. If passed through the General Assembly with the required votes, the question will appear on the ballot in the November general election. This bill has been approved by committee and is eligible for a full vote in the House.

HB 1015 would reduce the state income tax from 5.75% to 5.39%. This bill has been approved by committee and is eligible for a full vote in the House.

HB 881 would allow the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission to proceed with its work and begin operating as passed with SB 92 last year. The Commission already has its appointees, funding, and rules and regulations ready to go. With HB 881, it can begin its work to help keep Georgia communities safe by giving citizens somewhere to turn when prosecutors aren’t enforcing the law against dangerous criminals. This bill passed out of the House along party lines and has moved over to the Senate.

HB 1026 – the Soapbox Derby bill. I presented this bill in the House Special Rules committee last week where it was unanimously passed. It is now eligible for a vote of the full House.

HB 1128 defines clearly what a woman is and what a man is. It would require the replacement of the word “gender” in Georgia law with the word “sex” to ensure a clear definition. 

Visitors to the Capitol


  • Last Monday was Georgia Municipal Association Day at the Capitol, and Mayor Doug Roper of Vidalia, City Councilmen Loyd Mobley and Bob Dixon, Bill Bedingfield, and Patricia Glover were in town to attend. Newly sworn-in Mayor John Koon of Soperton also visited.
  • Last Thursday was Probate Court Judge Day at the Capitol. It was wonderful to see Toombs County Judge Tina Lindsey there.
  • Several members of the Jeff Davis Hospital administrative team including CEO Barry Bloom were in Atlanta to advocate for their hospital and joined me for Rural Caucus luncheon on Wednesday.

The upcoming week holds further legislative deliberations and work. I’ll continue to provide updates on our proceedings. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns, as your input is essential to our efforts. You can contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thank you for your ongoing trust and allowing me to serve as your representative.

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