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Georgia General Assembly

Georgia state capitol
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Some new state laws take effect Jan. 1.  

Limousine carriers will be required to follow the same registration rules as taxi services. Limo companies need to apply for licenses, which have to be renewed each year. They’ll be charged a registration fee of up to $100.

In this Dec. 11, 2013, file photo, brewer Stefano Daneri holding up a beer at Good People Brewing in Birmingham, Ala.
AP Photo/Dave Martin, File

Georgia's craft brewers spoke before a House committee Thursday, saying a change in the state's beer laws would help their bottom line.  

In 2015, the General Assembly passed a law that would allow breweries to distribute beer directly to customers as part of a tour package. The take-home beers would come as “souvenirs” and capped at 72 ounces, or about a six-pack, but breweries cannot sell directly on premises.

David Goldman / Associated Press

State lawmakers have launched an effort to help funnel money to Georgia’s rural hospitals through a state tax credit program.

Joe Gratz / flickr.com/joegratz

The executive director of Georgia's judicial watchdog agency is stepping down, according to the office of the commission’s chairwoman Brenda Weaver. The resignation comes as the agency faces a potential overhaul that critics said would strip it of its independence and power.

Mark Dehler, the executive director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, will serve until Aug. 16, according to the commission, though it’s unclear why he resigned. Dehler didn’t immediately respond to messages Tuesday left at his office for a comment.

US Department of Education / flickr.com/departmentofed

There could’ve been a lot of steam coming out of the Gold Dome this year if lawmakers had taken up some heated education issues. But legislators managed to sidestep thorny proposals this election year and focused on measures that seemed to please teachers.

In December, before the session started, a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended several changes to the state’s education system. Two proposals were bound to spark debate: overhauling the way the state funds schools and paying teachers based on how “effective” they are.

Ga. Legislature Passes New ‘Sanctuary Policy’ Bill
John Bazemore / AP Photo

  

The Georgia General Assembly has sent a bill to Gov. Nathan Deal that requires local governments to certify they’re cooperating with federal immigration officials in order to get state funding.

Georgia Capitol at Night
Al Such / WABE

Gov. Nathan Deal has said he opposes any legislation that even appears to discriminate.

So will does the new religious exemptions bill pass the governor's test?

Soon after lawmakers approved House Bill 757 Wednesday night, Gov. Deal's office issued a one-sentence statement: "The governor has been clear as to his position on this issue and will assess the legislation in April during bill review."

This story has been updated at 3:20 p.m.

House Speaker David Ralston has postponed a vote on a set of measures that could bring casino gambling to Georgia.

House leadership added the bill Friday afternoon to the day's calendar. Ralston then delayed it, saying members needed more time to discuss with constituents.

A House committee heard the details for the first time on Thursday.

The bill and accompanying constitutional amendment would allow four casinos maximum around the state, with two in the metro Atlanta area.

Alison Guillory / WABE

Expanding Atlanta's transit options would inject more than $5 billion into the economy and create thousands of jobs, according to a new report from the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Transportation Alliance. 

The report focuses on three proposed MARTA expansions: the Clifton corridor, Georgia 400, and along Interstate-20 Eastbound toward the Mall at Stonecrest. It also includes a fourth set of projects, yet to be named.

Brenna Beech / WABE

The Georgia House of Representatives approved changes Thursday to the state’s budget, adding about $1 billion in spending through the middle of 2016.

Three-fourths of that additional money is for transportation projects. It comes from new taxes on gas and hotel stays.

The mid-year budget changes also include an extra $91 million for public health care programs and about $100 million for education.

The adjustments passed the House without any “no” votes, and they are expected to move quickly through the Senate.

John Bazemore / Associated Press

Georgia Democrats responded to Gov. Nathan Deal's State of the State address, saying the governor's plan doesn't do enough for the everyday people of Georgia. In its Democratic response, the party called on the state to expand Medicaid, fund mass transit and raise the minimum wage. 

A pre-filed bill was revised to apply only to restrict Georgians with a petition or protective order against them from buying guns while they are filing for divorce.
Seth Wenig / Associated Press

A Cobb County lawmaker has modified his bill that would prevent Georgians going through a divorce from buying guns. 

Marietta state Senator Michael Rhett pre-filed a bill last week trying to stop anyone filing for divorce from buying a gun without their divorce judge's permission. 

Alison Guillory / WABE

The state legislative session will begin next week, but some issues, like performance-based pay for teachers, are already causing a buzz.   

Georgia currently pays teachers based on their level of education and years of experience. The state pays a base salary, and school districts can supplement that if they choose.

Last month, a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended revising the salary system. Chairman Charles Knapp said the commission proposed asking school districts to come up with their own pay scales instead.

Looking Forward To 2016: Legislative Changes

Dec 31, 2015
ken fager / flickr.com

As the new year approaches, we are asking the WABE news staff what topics they plan to watch in 2016.

Reporter Johnny Kauffman says he will be following discussions about bringing casino gambling to Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal has signaled he does not support the idea, but some state legislators are all for it.

US Department of Education / flickr.com/departmentofed

A state representative has pre-filed a bill ahead of the upcoming legislative session that would increase the mandatory school age in Georgia.

Democratic Rep. Keisha Waites of Atlanta has authored legislation that would require students to start school at age five instead of six.

Under the bill, students would also have to stay in school until age 17, instead of 16.

State Capitol building
Brenna Beech / WABE

The state of Georgia filed a lawsuit against the owner of the website, Public.Resource.org, for publishing the annotated version of the Georgia State code online. 

The owner of the website, Carl Malamud, argues these notes to the law should be free and accessible to the public.

Annotations

The annotations include important notes ─ like when laws were changed and short summaries of court cases that help judges and lawyers interpret state laws. 

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, left, speaks with Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, on the floor of the House at the Capitol in Atlanta,
Ric Feld / AP Photo

When he first entered the Georgia General Assembly in 1968, Harry Geisinger was among a small handful of Republican lawmakers who were anything but a threat to Democratic Party dominance.

By the time he returned to the Gold Dome in 2005, he had joined a solid GOP majority in the legislature and across state government.

Geisinger, who died last Friday at the age of 81, is being remembered as an architect of his party’s rise to power and a leader on issues including horse racing, solar energy and economic development.

Ga. Analyst: Lawmakers Missed Opportunities In 2015 Session

Apr 16, 2015
atlexplorer / flickr.com/atlexplorer

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign a $21.8 billion state budget soon. The fiscal plan includes tax breaks and spending that lawmakers inserted in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session.

During the session as a whole, legislators addressed transportation funding and school issues, but the president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation,  Kelly McCutchen, said on the organization’s website “several opportunities to address critical economic issues were missed.”

Stephanee Stephens and her students use tablets during an eighth grade Spanish class at Autrey Mill Middle School in Johns Creek, Ga. on Thursday, May 9, 2013.
John Bazemore / Associated Press

    

Georgia’s legislative session wrapped up last week. Several education bills were introduced this year. So which ones made it and which ones didn’t?

You could say this session was a win for Gov. Nathan Deal. Lawmakers passed his school recovery plan and approved a ballot measure asking voters to make it part of the state constitution.

Georgia state capitol
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Georgia lawmakers have approved a $40 billion state spending plan for the next year. The budget gives raises to the state's top judges and pushes $103 million in costs for some part-time school employees' health insurance to local districts.

The state's economy has shown signs of growth after the recession, giving lawmakers more flexibility as they negotiated the spending plan.

Lobbyists and lawmakers walk through the Georgia Capitol with a just a few days remaining in the 2015 legislative session Thursday, March 26, 2015, in Atlanta. Several major items still are being negotiated by House and Senate members including a transpor
David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia lawmakers plan to adjourn the 2015 session at midnight Thursday. That goal leaves only two working days left for the year but plenty to accomplish.

A transportation funding package aimed at raising $1 billion for road and bridge maintenance remains in a conference committee. Its six members are charged with resolving significant differences between the House and Senate proposals, including a gap of about 5 cents on excise taxes per gallon.

Ga. House Committee To Reconsider 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Mar 27, 2015
Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, confers with House Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, during this morning’s Senate session.
Denis O'Hayer / WABE

There may be new life for Georgia’s "religious liberty" bill. Lawmakers have scheduled a committee meeting on Monday, and the topic is expected to be the controversial legislation.

The move comes a day after a key House committee tabled it. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said Friday the fight isn’t over.

"We are undeterred. We are not going to stop. We are going to keep working," he said on the Senate floor. "We’re going to prevail in this debate. It may be this year or next year, but we’ll get there."

Andrew Davis Tucker / Courtesy of the University of Georgia

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would effectively ban state buildings from being certified by LEED, a green building certification program.

Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, is concerned because most lumber from Georgia isn’t considered sustainable by LEED. So he’s proposing that all state buildings – including those on university campuses – can only use green building standards that do consider Georgia lumber to be sustainable.

Lyft passenger Christina Shatzen gets into a car driven by Nancy Tcheou in San Francisco.
Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Crossover Day is fast approaching for this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly.

That is the day when a bill must win passage from one of the legislative chambers or lose any chance of becoming law this year. Some of the bills that could have wide-ranging effects are running out of time.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to turn around failing schools is moving ahead. The Senate Education Committee approved the controversial bill Monday.

The plan would let the state set up an Opportunity School District, which would help run failing schools. State officials could apply different interventions, like turning the schools into charters. They could also shut them down.

But that’s not the goal, says the governor’s floor leader, Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville.

Martha Dalton / WABE

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it" is a phrase often quoted by historians. 

Republican lawmakers in some states, including Georgia, are worried students taking a new AP U.S. History exam won’t learn the “right” lessons.

Jose Gregory’s Advanced Placement U.S. history class at the DeKalb School of the Arts begins with the Pledge of Allegiance. Today’s topic is World War I, specifically America’s entry into the war.

Brennan Linsley / Associated Press

Some Georgia lawmakers say the new Advanced Placement U.S. History exam downplays American exceptionalism. Wednesday, they heard from members of the College Board, which issues the test.

Some lawmakers contend that the new AP exam presents a negative, slanted view of American history. They complained students aren’t expected to know documents, like the Articles of Confederation, the Federalist Papers and the Constitution.  

College Board Vice President Trevor Packer said the documents are included, but different exams refer to different historical documents.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Should immigrants with federal deportation relief be able to pay in state tuition rates at Georgia’s colleges? That’s the question a state Senate committee considered during a hearing Tuesday.

Georgia treats those with temporary deportation relief as undocumented immigrants, and undocumented immigrants are banned from Georgia’s top five public colleges.

cajWebmaster / flickr.com/62426095@N07

Georgia high school students no longer have to pass a graduation test to earn their diplomas. But some former students who had trouble passing the exam have been stuck in limbo. Lawmakers are trying to fix the problem. 

Georgia’s high school class of 2015 will be the first in 20 years that won’t have to take a graduation test. The state has phased out the requirement and replaced it with end-of-course tests.

  However, students who had trouble passing the exam before that change couldn’t graduate.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston at the state Capitol, Jan. 8, 2015
Brenna Beech / WABE

Yesterday, Rep. David Ralston talked with Denis O'Hayer about upcoming transportation proposals facing the Georgia General Assembly. 

Ralston also defended law enforcement officers, stating that he would not allow them to become "Enemy Number One" in discussions about body cameras and other surveillance tools. 

The speaker shared his views on controversial bills on religion and the fight over which schools should receive state money.

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