Cam­pus gun bill passes, adop­tion up­date stuck in cham­ber at Sine Die

The Covington News - - LOCAL - KATH­LEEN FOODY AND EZRA KAPLAN

Ge­or­gia law­mak­ers agreed to al­low con­cealed hand­guns on col­lege cam­puses but failed to up­date the state law on adop­tion be­fore the gavel fell on this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion early Fri­day.

At­ten­tion now turns to Gov. Nathan Deal, a Repub­li­can in his fi­nal term. Ge­or­gia law gives Deal 40 days to de­cide whether to sign or veto leg­is­la­tion, or al­low it to be­come law with­out his name.

Law­mak­ers rushed to pass dozens of bills, but each cham­ber of­ten waited for the other to act. The House and Se­nate ad­journed more than 30 min­utes af­ter mid­night, which used to be con­sid­ered a hard dead­line to end the ses­sion.

In re­cent years, law­mak­ers have worked be­yond it.

Here’s a look at some of the top is­sues at the Capi­tol:

Guns on cam­pus

For the sec­ond year, Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties in the leg­is­la­ture ap­proved leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing peo­ple with con­cealed hand­gun per­mits to carry on pub­lic col­lege cam­puses.

Deal ve­toed a sim­i­lar bill last year but se­na­tors in­volved in the last-minute ne­go­ti­a­tions say they are “con­fi­dent” that the bill will get signed into law this time. Deal’s of­fice didn’t im­me­di­ately com­ment.

Un­der the bill, guns would still be banned from dor­mi­to­ries, fra­ter­nity and soror­ity houses, and build­ings used for ath­letic events.

Ad­di­tion­ally, of­fices where stu­dent dis­ci­plinary hear­ings are held, on-cam­pus child­care cen­ters and ar­eas where high school stu­dents at­tend col­lege classes would be ex­cluded.

Deal was con­cerned about those is­sues in last year’s bill.

Op­po­nents say they plan to lobby the gover­nor for an­other veto.

Adop­tion law up­date

Changes to Ge­or­gia adop­tion law that pro­po­nents call long over­due stalled in the Se­nate de­spite a last-minute ef­fort to force a vote.

The 100-page bill made dozens of tech­ni­cal changes to the state’s 27-year-old law gov­ern­ing adop­tions, in­clud­ing the elim­i­na­tion of a six-month res­i­dency re­quire­ment for adop­tive par­ents and al­low­ing adop­tive par­ents us­ing a pri­vate adop­tion agency to pay for a birth mother’s pre­na­tal care and other liv­ing ex­penses. Sup­port­ers say it would make adop­tion eas­ier and pro­tect the rights of all in­volved.

Two weeks ago, Repub­li­can se­na­tors amended the bill let­ting adop­tion agen­cies refuse place­ments based on re­li­gious be­lief or other pri­or­i­ties.

Gov. Nathan Deal and House lead­ers called for the Se­nate to act on a bill with­out amend­ments, to no avail. On Tues­day night, House mem­bers added the adop­tion lan­guage to an­other bill, pre­serv­ing its chance of pass­ing.

Se­na­tors brought that mea­sure up for a vote past 12:30 a.m. and af­ter a testy de­bate, sent it to a com­mit­tee for fur­ther de­bate. The move killed the bill for the year.

Vot­ing rights

In­for­ma­tion on Ge­or­gia vot­ers’ regis­tra­tion forms would have to match state or fed­eral data­bases for them to be el­i­gi­ble to cast a bal­lot un­der leg­is­la­tion sent to Deal’s desk.

Vot­ing-rights ad­vo­cates op­posed the bill, ar­gu­ing that the re­quire­ment will dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect mi­nori­ties and un­der­mine the re­cent set­tle­ment of a law­suit against Sec­re­tary of State Brian Kemp.

The law­suit chal­lenged a sim­i­lar match­ing pro­ce­dure Kemp’s of­fice im­ple­mented in 2010 and used un­til Septem­ber, say­ing the process pre­vented thou­sands of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers from reg­is­ter­ing based on data-en­try er­rors, ty­pos or other is­sues.

The bill would give re­jected ap­pli­cants 26 months to re­spond if their in­for­ma­tion doesn’t match. Law­mak­ers ap­proved it af­ter adding lan­guage say­ing the process is in­tended to ver­ify an ap­pli­cant’s iden­tity.

Med­i­cal mar­i­juana

An ex­pan­sion of Ge­or­gia’s pro­gram al­low­ing pa­tients with cer­tain con­di­tions to pos­sess an oil de­rived from mar­i­juana is headed to the gover­nor’s desk

Af­ter House and Se­nate lead­ers an­nounced a com­pro­mise, the bill adds new di­ag­noses to the list of qual­i­fy­ing con­di­tions for med­i­cal cannabis oil, in­clud­ing autism, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

How­ever, many di­ag­noses will be re­stricted to when the con­di­tion is se­vere or in the end-stage.

Ad­di­tion­ally, any­one in a hospice pro­gram, re­gard­less of di­ag­no­sis, will be al­lowed ac­cess to mar­i­juana oil as long as it’s low on THC, the chem­i­cal re­spon­si­ble for the mar­i­juana high.

Self-driv­ing cars

Self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles could be used legally in Ge­or­gia un­der an­other mea­sure.

Sup­port­ers said car and tech­nol­ogy companies, in­surance providers and in­jury at­tor­neys signed off on the pro­posal and warned that Ge­or­gia would be left be­hind as other states pass sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.

The pro­posal re­quires driv­ers of the ve­hi­cles to have a higher amount of in­surance cov­er­age than what is re­quired for tra­di­tional ve­hi­cles un­til the end of 2019.

Photos by Bob An­dres | Associated Press

Sigma Lo­gis­tics con­ducted a ground­break­ing cer­e­mony to­day for their new fa­cil­ity off of Bob Wil­liams Park­way in Cov­ing­ton. Pic­tured from left to right are Cham­ber Pres­i­dent Ralph Staffins, Deputy City Man­ager Billy Bouch­illon, Sigma Lo­gis­tics owner David Hous­ton, Mayor Ron­nie Johnston, Sigma Lo­gis­tics owner Tar­rence Hous­ton, Coun­cil­man Ken­neth Mor­gan and United Bank rep­re­sen­ta­tives Thomas Kephart and Dar­rell Whid­don. The 50,000-square-foot lo­ca­tion will em­ploy 60 and will rep­re­sent more than a $7 mil­lion in­vest­ment.

As the hour passes 10 p.m. Tues­day, House Rules Chair­man John Meadow, left, rises with Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague as she an­nounces she wants to go home.

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