Georgia Legislature 2014 | WABE 90.1 FM

Georgia Legislature 2014

State Lawmakers Examine Medical Marijuana

Aug 28, 2014
Michelle Wirth / WABE

State lawmakers began studying the effects of marijuana as a medical treatment Wednesday. The meetings come after a bill that would have allowed Georgians with seizure disorders to legally use an oil-based form of marijuana did not become law this year.

Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill Tuesday to place a statue of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol. Governor Deal called the signing historic.

“It’s appropriate for us as Georgians to once again claim the legacy of our native son. He fought against prejudice and for equality, and he did so peacefully. He spoke eloquently and acted courageously."

Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a state House bill that critics say would make it easier to lock up those who are poor for low-level offenses.  

The bill would allow private probation companies to shield details from the public about how much they’re charging in extra fees and how many people they supervise. The companies are hired by local governments.

Deal also told reporters the fate of a number of other controversial bills. Tuesday was the last day for him to sign or veto legislation.

King Family Weighs in on MLK Statue Bill Signing

Apr 29, 2014

Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign a bipartisan bill Tuesday to place a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol. Family members of Dr. King gave WABE their thoughts on the statue.

Several members of the King family say they're pleased there will be a statue honoring Dr. King on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol. Dr. Christine King Farris is Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's sister.

"I think about his life and his work, and I think he deserves it."

Under current state law, only a licensed medical practitioner can administer naloxone. But that could change under proposed legislation about to hit the Georgia House.
Courtesy Hospira

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal Thursday signed into law a bill aimed at protecting those who report a drug or alcohol overdose.

The bill protects those who call 9-1-1 to report a drug overdose and who may also have been using drugs from arrest or prosecution. The same applies to those under 21 years old who report an alcohol overdose. With Deal’s signature, Georgia joins at least 17 other states that have passed similar “Good Samaritan Laws.”

Republican state Rep. Sharon Cooper of Marietta, the bill’s sponsor, hopes people will now make potentially life-saving emergency calls.

Opponents Speak Out Against Gun Bill Signing

Apr 23, 2014
Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Today, Governor Nathan Deal signed a sweeping bill to expand gun rights in Georgia. Opponents have dubbed it the “guns everywhere bill” and protested the signing during a press conference held at a church near the Georgia Capitol.

Deal Signs Controversial Gun Bill

Apr 23, 2014
In Ellijay, Gov. Deal, signed the new gun legislation into Georgia law on April 23, 2014.
Jonathan Shapiro/WABE

Gov. Nathan Deal Wednesday signed into law a sweeping gun bill attracting national attention.

House Speaker David Ralston introduced Deal at the bill signing ceremony in Ellijay. He did so before a friendly crowd of at least 200, several of whom were openly carrying.

“This is the apple capitol of Georgia and, yes, it’s a community where we cling to religion and guns,” said Ralston.

Governor to Sign Bill Easing Gun Restrictions

Apr 23, 2014

[Update: Gov. Deal has now signed the gun bill along with several others. More details to follow.]

Governor Nathan Deal will sign a bill today that greatly expands where Georgians can legally carry guns.

Autism Advocates Continue Push for Treatment Coverage

Apr 3, 2014
Michelle Wirth/WABE News

On Autism Awareness Day, a group of state lawmakers and advocates spoke about the rising prevalence of autism. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimates 1 in 64 Georgia children has autism spectrum disorder. Advocates say that’s why private insurance companies need to cover autism treatment for young children. However, efforts to provide the coverage failed this year in the state legislature.

Anna Bullard says her daughter Ava was 2 and a half years old when she was first diagnosed with autism.


One of the most talked-about issues of this year’s Georgia General Assembly session was the medical marijuana bill.

The original bill focused on making available an oil-based form of marijuana for medical purposes. That failed. So did a watered-down measure that would have prevented prosecution for medicinal use.

Governor Nathan Deal today named the members of his new Child Welfare Reform Council, tasking the group with finding ways to improve the state’s troubled child welfare system.

  A bill in the Georgia legislature creating a pilot program privatizing part of the state’s child welfare system died right after the governor announced the establishment of the council.

After a medical marijuana bill failed to reach his desk, Governor Deal said he would explore whether anything can be done before the next legislative session to allow Georgians with seizure disorders to legally use an oil based form of marijuana.

Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears says she thinks it would be difficult for the governor to accomplish that through an executive order. But she says there might be something that can be done administratively.

A Summary Of What's In Georgia's New Gun Law

Mar 27, 2014
A summary of the provisions of Georgia's new gun law, which Gov. Deal plans to sign this morning.
Robert Aaron, WABE

Web Exclusive.

We have put together a summary of the key provisions of the new gun law that was passed in the waning hours of this year's General Assembly and which is now awaiting Gov. Deal's signature. The summary appears below as an image.

This is not an exhaustive summary of the bill's contents, and we are not lawyers. For more information and for the exact wording, please check the full text of the bill (HB 60) as passed by the Legislature (PDF).

State Rep. Roger Bruce (D-61st District, Atlanta) discussing the South Fulton cityhood proposal with members of the Georgia Senate in early March, 2014.
Jonathan Shapiro, WABE

The state lawmaker who sponsored the push for South Fulton cityhood says the City of Atlanta scuttled his bill at the last minute.

State Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) says, diplomatically, he is “disappointed” the South Fulton cityhood bill died on the last day of the legislative session.

Michelle Wirth/WABE News

The Georgia Municipal Association says a gun bill passed by state lawmakers could be costly for a number of Georgia cities. The Association is also worried the bill could leave cities open to lawsuits. The bill is also drawing some concern from law enforcement officials.

Four years after budget issues forced its transit service to shut down, Clayton County appears poised to offer transit once again. 

State lawmakers this year passed legislation allowing Clayton to increase its sales tax to fund transit.

A referendum would have to be held first, but there’s confusion over the steps to get there.

The consensus was the Clayton Commission had final say over whether the ballot measure would go before voters, but commission chair Jeff Turner says he’s been told otherwise by his attorneys.

Ga. State Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia)
Ga. General Assembly

  On March 20, 2014, in the final hours of the legislative session, Georgia lawmakers passed HB 772, a bill which would require some food stamp recipients to submit to drug tests--if state officials have a reasonable suspicion that the recipients are using drugs.

The measure is a response to a recent Federal court ruling that threw out a Florida law requiring drug tests for welfare recipients.  Georgia had passed a similar bill in 2012, but had decided not to enforce it while the Florida challenge was pending.  The court's ruling means that the 2012 Georgia bill remains in limbo.

Keith Parker

State lawmakers passed two MARTA-related bills this year. 

MARTA CEO Keith Parker said the bills will help the transit agency improve and attributed their passage to a stronger relationship between MARTA and state lawmakers. 

“The most important piece is what's not in the legislation and what’s not in there are additional mandates and oversight requirements and additional regulations that would make it difficult in some cases to run the agency as the leadership of the board and as the staff leadership sees fit,” said Parker.

Bill Easing Gun Restrictions Heads to Governor Deal

Mar 21, 2014
Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Unlike last year, House and Senate lawmakers this year reached a deal on legislation to expand gun rights in places like bars, churches, and some government buildings.  The bill now goes to Governor Deal’s desk.

The Georgia House agreed with the Senate Version of the bill during the last hour of legislative session. That led to this announcement by Senator Bill Heath:

“Mr. President I believe that the House has finally come along in representing Georgia’s gun owners and protecting themselves.”

Michell Eloy

Plans to privatize most of the state’s child welfare system failed Thursday night when House leaders opted not to take up a bill approved by the Senate earlier in the day.

Privatization looked poised for passage earlier Thursday when the Senate passed a plan that looked similar to the House’s version.

It laid out a three-year pilot program to privatize services like adoption and foster care rather than a statewide rollout, as had previously been pushed for by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Senate lawmakers.

 The Georgia General Assembly has revised a law on drug-testing welfare recipients.

 A law passed two years ago allowed drug testing for anyone in Georgia who applied for welfare or food stamps. State officials never implemented the law, and a federal court struck down a similar measure in Florida, ruling it unconstitutional.

The new, Republican-backed bill allows state officials to test recipients if they have what is called in the measure “a reasonable suspicion” the person is using drugs.

Ga. House of Reps.

A popular bill that would have allowed the limited use of medical marijuana to treat seizure disorders failed to gain passage on the final day of this year's legislative session.

As the clock neared midnight, Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, spoke one last time from the House floor.

"There is an opportunity for the Senate to act on a bill that would provide relief and hope for hundreds of families in our state, if they would just take up the vote," said Peake.

Ga. House of Reps.

On the 40th and final day of legislative session, state lawmakers signed off on a pair of bills related to MARTA.

Currently, the Fulton and DeKalb County Commissions appoint seven of the 11 voting members to MARTA’s board. Under HB 264, some of that appointment power beginning in 2017 would be shifted to a group of mayors in DeKalb and north Fulton.

  [Final Update: 12:10 a.m., Friday, March 21, 2014]

This is the continuation of our ongoing updates of the closing day of the 2014 Georgia Legislature.

The updates from earlier today can now be found separately. Below, you will find the rest of our updates through adjournment, which we expect to be at midnight tonight.

This continuation begins immediately after the earlier updates, so there is no gap in our coverage.

The Georgia Senate

Efforts to change the way MARTA can operate passed the state Senate Thursday. 

Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, made headlines when he used public transit to get from Kennesaw State University to Gwinnett Arena. It took him three and a half hours. Beach, a Republican from Alpharetta, has called for more continuity between transit systems. Beach said one MARTA bill would give the transit agency more flexibility.

Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Mar 20, 2014

The Georgia Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill 54-0 that would allow for those with seizure disorders to legally use an oil based form of medical marijuana in Georgia. But because of language attached for autism treatment coverage, the bill is expected to have an uphill climb in the House.

Under the Senate version of the bill, it would be legal for those with seizure disorders and their families to obtain an oil based form of marijuana called cannabidiol from states where marijuana is legal like Colorado.

Ga. House of Reps.

The Georgia Senate Thursday passed a scaled-down version of a plan to privatize the state’s child welfare system, one that closely mirrors a separate version passed by the chamber’s counterparts in the House earlier this week.

Instead of privatizing services like adoption, foster care and case management statewide, as Senate lawmakers had been pushing for up to Thursday, the latest version sets up a three-year pilot program in three of 15 proposed districts starting July 2015.

Cover of 2012 child death report
Georgia Department of Human Services

Georgia's child welfare system, which includes foster care, has been struggling for years.  This past year, after several deaths of children in the system--and amid a backlog of investigations of abuse--House and Senate lawmakers rolled out competing reform proposals.  Some called for an immediate privatization of much of the child welfare system; others advocated a slower approach, involving pilot privatization programs in parts of the state.

Scenes From The Legislature

Mar 20, 2014
Scenes from the Capitol: House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta, right) and Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) look over legislation.  Behind them is Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus). In front is Phil Tucker, House Postmaster and Sergeant at Arms.
Denis O'Hayer/WABE

Here is a slide show of photos taken by Denis O'Hayer at the state capitol on March 20, the final day of the 2014 Georgia General Assembly. This is what your day would look like if you were a member.

Georgia Legislature 2014 Final Day: Earlier Updates

Mar 20, 2014
The dome of the Georgia State Capitol.

[Latest Update: 6:10 p.m.]

This is now Part 1 of our updates from the Legislature.  For Part 2, click here.

Today the Georgia General Assembly adjourns "sine die," or without a day to reconvene.