Georgia General Assembly | WABE 90.1 FM

Georgia General Assembly

Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

All 236 members of the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives convene at the state capitol in Atlanta for the state legislative session. WABE will keep you informed on news and updates throughout this year's session.

At Emory University, several students said they support the University adopting sanctuary policies even if it means losing state funding.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

State lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would strip state funding from private colleges in Georgia that adopt "sanctuary policies," meaning the schools limit cooperation with immigration officials. 

So far, no colleges have said they won't cooperate. 

At Emory, students have protested, trying to get the university to declare itself a sanctuary campus.

campus carry
Jaime Henry-White, File / Associated Press

The Georgia State Senate voted Tuesday to let licensed gun owners carry concealed weapons on most places on public college campuses.

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The state Senate voted 32-22 on the bill, which needs final agreement by the state House before being sent to the Governor for his signature.

Martha Dalton

A bill that would require Georgia colleges to report sexual assaults to police is advancing in the Senate. That mandate is controversial.

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Currently, victims can report assaults to law enforcement, but they aren't required to. A federal law, called Title IX, also lets them file a complaint on campus that’s handled by the school. Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is the bill’s sponsor. He said colleges aren’t equipped to manage such serious cases.

Decatur Gets Help From Ga.'s Senate To Purchase Land

Mar 8, 2017
The City of Decatur needs help to possibly purchase the United Children's Methodist Home.
Al Such / WABE

The city of Decatur is getting help from the state legislature to buy the United Children's Methodist Home. But that doesn't guarantee a sale.

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Lawmakers passed a bill that would create the Decatur Public Facilities Authority, which the city needs to buy the 77-acre property. It would enable Decatur to purchase any property not within city limits.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Thousands of metro Atlanta voters would find themselves in different state House districts under a Republican plan that Democrats allege reduces the influence of minority voters.

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Similar moves in other states have been challenged in federal courts, according to experts in voting law. If the Georgia plan is approved by the Republican dominated legislature, and Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, it could also be open to legal challenges.  

campus carry
Jaime Henry-White, File / Associated Press

The Georgia House of Representatives approved a bill Friday that would allow people with weapons licenses to carry concealed guns on public college campuses.

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The measure passed 108-63 after more than an hour of debate on the day of a key deadline, called Crossover Day. The bill now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

Georgia Capitol Building
Al Such / WABE

A bill aimed at turning around struggling schools easily passed the Georgia House Wednesday.

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The measure is Gov. Nathan Deal’s second attempt to address the state’s lowest-performing schools. Georgians voted down a proposal that would have let the state take over struggling schools. Opponents of that plan said it would override the authority of local school boards.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia lawmakers plan to consider dozens of bills on Wednesday, staring down a key deadline at the end of this week. Chamber rules require bills to pass at least one chamber by a certain point in the session. This year, the deadline falls on Friday.

There are ways to revive proposals past that deadline, but lawmakers make every effort to get their bills through the easy way.

Some of Tuesday's key developments and what's coming up on Wednesday:

Deadline Approaching

David Goldman / Associated Press

When it comes to sexual assault claims on college campuses, there are many gray areas. Cases are often based on “he said, she said" testimony.

Monday, a Georgia House committee passed a bill that aims to establish fair processes on campus for both parties. Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, sponsored House Bill 51 because, he said, too many male college students in Georgia are wrongly accused of sexual assault.

Jason Getz / Associated Press

A Georgia House committee approved a measure Monday that would require the phrase “ineligible voter” printed on licenses issued to people who don’t have U.S. citizenship.  

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The bill originally required the term "noncitizen,” but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said he reconsidered after the legislation faced backlash.

Elly Yu / WABE

A Georgia House committee approved a bill Monday that would allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons on public college campuses.

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"This is changing the dynamic, and it's allowing people and affording the opportunity to defend themselves," said Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, sponsor of the bill. 

John Bazemore / Associated Press

By day, Jamey Adams works as a forensic chemist for the U.S. Army crime lab in Atlanta. But at night he trades his fatigues for a pint as he steps into the role of brew master at Arches Brewery, one of Georgia's up and coming craft enterprises.

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"This is my professional hobby," said Adams who founded the company with four friends and is already getting ready to expand their capacity within their first year of operation.

Toby Talbot / Associated Press

Georgia has become the opioid treatment program capital of the South as loose regulations have led to an explosion of new clinics opening around the state.

But Senators are working to tamp down the booming business with a licensure program that will require new clinics to demonstrate a need in the community before being allowed to open.

"We wanna make sure we have quality treatment facilities in all of Georgia and help run off the riffraff," said Sen. Jeff Mullis, R- Chickamauga, sponsor of the legislation.

Private colleges that don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities would lose state funding for scholarships and research under a bill approved by the Georgia House.

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The chamber voted 115 to 55 on Wednesday, sending the bill to the Senate.

Pixabay

A group of Georgia senators are working on a package of bills designed to support law enforcement.

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One bill aims to addresses complaints that law enforcement officers in rural areas are undercompensated for their work. Two others would impose tougher penalties for crimes against officers. The fourth measure would create a special license plate that reads "Back the Badge."

Seth Wenig / Associated Press

Licensed gun owners could carry concealed handguns on public college campuses under legislation advancing in the Georgia House.

A panel approved the bill on Thursday after about an hour of testimony, sending it to the House's full Public Safety Committee. The measure would allow anyone age 21 and up to carry a concealed handgun on campus with a state-issued permit.

Georgia's Republican Gov. Nathan Deal last year vetoed similar legislation. The University System of Georgia also has opposed past efforts.

Ga. Lawmakers To Vote On Cannabis Oil Bill

Feb 16, 2017
The new bill would decrease the maximum level of THC in cannabis oil.
Jeff Chiu, File / Associated Press

State senators are scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would decrease the maximum level of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis oil allowed in Georgia, from 5 percent to 3 percent.

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Lisa Ganser is an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Kennesaw State. She does research on how cannabis oil relieves symptoms of spasticity - like Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. 

Al Such / WABE

It would be illegal to secretly take films or photos under a person's clothes, under a bill passed by the Georgia Senate.

Senators voted unanimously Wednesday to pass the proposal and sent it to the House where it will likely get a vote in the coming weeks.

Lawmakers decided to take action last summer after a divided state Court of Appeals found that a man didn't break any Georgia laws when he filmed up a woman's skirt while she shopped at a grocery store - a practice known as "upskirting."

Tom Krause and Morgan Penland stand by the cabinet where they file messages that come into Georgia senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Cowsert's office.
Johnny Kauffman / WABE

President Donald Trump’s election energized many Georgians to get politically involved and contact elected officials.

Harry Lightsey, GM's executive director of public policy on emerging technologies, spoke at the Senate Science and Technology Committee’s hearing on self-driving cars on Thursday.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

There is a lot of fear around self-driving cars, but it's not just the public that is unfamiliar with these cars of the future.

Georgia lawmakers are trying to figure out how to regulate autonomous vehicles and what to regulate.

Minimal Regulations

At the State Capitol, more than 50 people gathered around Heather Maxfield. 

"We want to be able to test autonomous vehicles here in GA in controlled situations,” Maxfield said. “What we would not want to see is regulation that would hamper them from testing or utilizing the autonomous vehicles.”

David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia lawmakers are trying to work on a plan to get more donations to struggling rural hospitals. A state House committee Thursday passed a bill that would increase the amount of tax credits people can claim when donating to rural hospitals.  

State Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, sponsored a bill last year creating the tax credit program. His bill this year would increase the tax credit amount from 70 to 90 percent.

Pixabay Images

A proposal to lower the amount of THC allowed in medical cannabis oil used by Georgians has cleared a state Senate committee.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill that would cut the legal level of THC — one of the intoxicating chemicals found in marijuana — to 3 percent. Qualifying patients have been able to legally possess cannabis oil with 5 percent THC since 2015.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia state lawmakers are trying to figure out how to stop surprise medical billing.

It happened to Vicki Willard. She went to the emergency room to check on a heart issue.

“I was admitted to the hospital, in network, things went well,” Willard said.

Then, weeks later, she got something unexpected in the mail.

“After I’ve paid all my regular bills, I see a bill come across my desk for $700,” Willard said.

It turns out, one of the cardiologists who treated her was outside her insurance network.

Alison Guillory / WABE

Georgia lawmakers want fire departments to provide additional insurance coverage for firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer.

Tuesday's House vote comes months after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed changes to state workers' compensation law letting firefighters diagnosed with cancer make a financial claim.

Local governments feared that approach was too expensive.

Groups representing local governments and firefighters met this year to compromise. The House approved the resulting bill, 171 yes votes to 1. It goes to the Senate.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

 

 

The U.S. House of Representatives is trying to roll back an Obama-era rule that sought to restrict firearms access to some people suffering with mental illness.

Meanwhile in Georgia, lawmakers are working to close a gap in an existing state law on gun possession for those with serious mental illness.

NICK NESMITH / WABE

Proposals to change gun laws usually spark contentious debates at the state legislature, but some Republicans and Democrats have found a bill they agree on.

“It has something in it for everybody, which is why it’s been a bipartisan, successful bill,” said Democratic state Senator Elena Parent from northern DeKalb County, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Johnny Kauffman / WABE

A long-standing dispute at the state capitol may be near its end. Lobbyists for dentists and hygienists say they’ve reached a deal that would give hundreds of thousands of Georgians with low incomes better access to teeth cleanings, including many children.

A 2016 Georgia Tech study found 865,000 children on public insurance would have to travel further than the state standard for cleanings: 30 minutes or 30 miles in the city, 45 minutes or 45 miles in rural areas.

Bill Allows Direct Beer Sales At Georgia's Craft Breweries

Jan 26, 2017
AP Photo/Dave Martin, File

Georgians could buy beer directly from craft breweries under a proposed bill.

Existing law largely requires beer wholesalers to distribute breweries' products to retailers. Breweries can sell tours that included a beer sample but small brewers have complained that the restrictions limit their ability to grow.

A bill introduced Thursday in the Senate would allow brewers to sell up to 3,000 barrels per year directly to customers at the brewery with no tour requirement. Within that annual cap, brewers also can sell to-go cases.

Wayne Parry / Associated Press

Supporters of casino gambling hope to legalize the industry in Georgia after several failed attempts in recent legislative sessions.

Backers argue that casino gambling is the solution to high demand for Georgia's merit-based college scholarship program, known as HOPE. Georgia's lottery has struggled to keep up with demand for those awards, which are used to cover expenses to attend the state's public colleges.

A school bus in front of the Georgia Capitol
Alison Guillory / WABE

Georgia lawmakers will be looking at a record $25 billion budget when they hold joint budget hearings Tuesday and Wednesday.

The budget for fiscal year 2018 includes pay raises for state employees, money for autism treatment services for children under Medicaid, and resources for various construction projects.

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