Georgia lawmaker calls on governor to take up antisemitism bill during special session

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Late Monday afternoon, Georgia’s governor said lawmakers will not be taking up an antisemitism bill during next month’s special legislative session despite a call from the state’s only Jewish legislator that it be included.

The bill failed to pass the General Assembly earlier this year.

The special session has a couple of specific purposes: to redraw Congressional and legislative district lines and to approve the gas tax suspension and some appointments.

But Sandy Springs Democrat Esther Panitch wants them to take up her antisemitism bill.

Democrat and Republican lawmakers crowded into a small state Capitol committee room Monday to hear from six Israelis who say Hamas kidnapped their loved ones and are holding them hostage.

“We are not OK,” Shani Segal told the group.

It was after their emotional testimony that Panitch took the podium and asked Gov. Brian Kemp to include her antisemitism bill in next month’s special legislation session.

“I’m respectfully requesting Gov. Kemp bring up the antisemitism bill in our new, in the special session that he just called on November 29, 2023,” Panitch said.


Channel 2 Action News was there in February when House Republicans and Democrats joined Panitch in the well in support of Georgia’s Jewish community and her antisemitism bill.

Her bill would give antisemitism a legal definition in Georgia law and prosecutors could use that definition to charge those targeting the Jewish community with a hate crime.

Even with pushback from some Democrats and Republicans, the bill passed the House though it later got stuck in the Senate and failed to pass.

Monday, Dawsonville Republican Brent Cox reiterated his full support of Panitch’s bill.

“It doesn’t solve all the problems and lets people know that we have laws in place that will protect these people,” Cox said.

Panitch believes the governor could add the bill to his special session, and she called out those lawmakers who opposed it.

“For those who voted no last time or who tried to block it, but say that you are against antisemitism, I haven’t heard from any of you,” Panitch said.

Kemp was out of the state Monday, but sent a statement, saying since the agenda for the special session is already set, the governor looks forward to lawmakers “thoughtfully considering and debating HB 30 come this January for the regular session.”