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