State Sen. Max Burns

ATLANTA – The Republican-controlled Georgia Senate gave final passage Wednesday to legislation prohibiting local elections offices from receiving private donations to help run their operations.

Senate Bill 222 cleared the Senate 32-21 along party lines. The House passed the bill on Monday in another primarily party-line vote.

The bill was sparked by complaints from Republicans in Georgia and elsewhere that private donations have flowed into elections offices in Democratic counties in recent elections, including a $350 million contribution by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the nonprofit Center for Technology and Civic Life.

Those out-of-state private dollars were contributed in an effort to influence the outcome of those elections, Sen. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, told his Senate colleagues Wednesday.

“This issue is one of basic fairness,” he said.

But Democrats argued Senate Bill 222 is an Republican effort to choke off financial assistance Georgia’s large Democratic counties need to make their elections run smoothly.

“Why are we removing a tool to help our elections officials run better elections?” asked Sen. Nabilah Islam, D-Lawrenceville.

But Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, the bill’s chief sponsor, said private funds will still be available to local elections officials. The legislation centralizes the distribution of private donations to local elections offices by authorizing the State Election Board (SEB) to distribute the money.

“You can get all the third-party funding you choose from the SEB,” Burns said.

Senate Bill 222 now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.