ATLANTA – The Republican-controlled Georgia Senate has passed legislation that would prohibit city, county, and regional libraries from using either tax dollars or private funds on any materials offered by the American Library Association (ALA).

Senate Bill 390 cleared the upper chamber in the General Assembly 33-20 along party lines Thursday on Crossover Day, the deadline legislation had to pass either the state House or Senate to remain alive for the year.

The ALA has become controversial in right-wing circles in recent years for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the selection of library materials and for opposing book banning and other forms of censorship. Its president, Emily Drabinski, became a lightning rod two years ago when she characterized herself as a “Marxist lesbian.”

“They’re pushing a radical agenda,” Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, the bill’s chief sponsor, told his Senate colleagues Thursday. “Their agenda and politics don’t match with conservative Georgia values.”

Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, opposed Walker’s bill as a “knee-jerk response” in the culture war being waged by Republicans that takes attention away from efforts to improve Georgia’s literacy rate, one of the 10 lowest in the nation.

“We should be spending our time encouraging more libraries and access to books,” Parent said.

Walker said significant changes were made to the legislation as it made its way through the Senate. A key amendment would ensure that Valdosta State University, which boasts Georgia’s only master’s degree program in library sciences, retains the ability to certify students and working librarians through the ALA until another accrediting organization can be formed.

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives.