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Mary Margaret Oliver

In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, a custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine is displayed at TDS Guns in Rocklin, Calif.
Rich Pedroncelli,File / AP Photo

Monday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Michell Eloy / WABE

A Georgia Democratic lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban assault rifles and ideally ask people to surrender them.

Democratic Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver's bill, HB 731, would end the sale and possession of assault rifles and certain kinds of ammunition in the state. The proposal includes banning automatic rifles, though those are already heavily regulated by the federal government. The bill would also ban the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles.

Georgia House Votes To Legalize Fireworks

Mar 9, 2015
Stephen Gunby /

The Georgia House Monday approved a bill that would legalize fireworks statewide. Currently, only sparklers are allowed.

Supporters complain Georgia is losing out on business to neighboring states. They say selling fireworks would create more than 1,000 jobs.

Opponents, however, have safety concerns. Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, referred to it as the "blow the child's hand off" bill.

On the House floor, Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, said the concerns are valid, but he’s still voting for legalization.

LaVista Hills proposed map from Lakeside Yes and City of Briarcliff Initiative
Lakeside YES & City of Briarcliff Initiative / special to WABE

Legislation that would allow residents to create two new cities in DeKalb County is a step closer to a vote by the Georgia House, but border disputes remain unresolved.

A House committee Wednesday approved bills that could pave the way for the new cites of LaVista Hills and Tucker in central DeKalb. Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, is the sponsor of the LaVista Hills bill and says residents want a more efficient and responsive government.

Bill Cutting Early Voting Days Clears House Committee

Feb 11, 2015
Georgia voting
Chris Ferguson / WABE

A bill that would shorten Georgia's early voting period cleared a state House committee Wednesday. 

The bill would reduce the number of early voting days from 21 to 12. Initially, it also mandated Sunday voting, but lawmakers revised the bill to keep it optional.

The vote fell along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, noted huge swaths of Georgians take advantage of early voting.

"If we found something voters like, why are we taking it away from them?" said Oliver.

John Bazemore / Associated Press

Among the issues facing new state schools superintendent Richard Woods is an effort to make his position appointed, rather than elected.

Woods, who officially started the job this month, says Georgians shouldn’t give up the right to vote for a schools chief.

"You're looking at really surrendering your rights or your voice to express your opinions as the people of Georgia. That means you're losing liberty and once you surrender your liberty it’s probably lost forever," said Woods.

Plans to privatize the state’s child welfare system are gridlocked in the Georgia General Assembly, with both the House and Senate set to take up different versions of the bill in the waning days of this year’s legislative session.

Under the Senate version, the state dives into privatizing services like foster care, adoption and case management through a competitive bidding process, with statewide rollout beginning as early as July of next year.

Ga. House of Reps.

State lawmakers are considering adding drug tests to the process of applying to and receiving food stamp and welfare benefits. That's despite past legal issues over similar legislation.

House Bill 772 calls for welfare and food stamp applicants and recipients to take drug tests if a state case worker has a “reasonable suspicion” the person is using drugs.

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a new leader for the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate.

The governor Wednesday named Ashley Wilcott to head the agency that watches over the child welfare system.

Wilcott is a child welfare law specialist with her own private practice and has two decades of experience in the juvenile justice system. She’s also serves as special assistant attorney general representing the Department of Human Resources, as well as Rockdale and Dawson counties’ Department of Family and Children Services.

A state representative wants to change the way child deaths are reviewed and has pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver’s bill would change oversight of the Child Fatality Review board from the Office of the Child Advocate to the Department of Public Health.

“I think there seems to be a growing consensus that the Office of Child Advocate is too small an agency or doesn’t have the professionalism of epidemiology and resources around it to best carry out this function,” The Decatur lawmaker said.

Tax Credits/Flickr

State House lawmakers on both sides of the isle say they support Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to expand the Division of Family and Children Services.

Republican state Rep. Terry England, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and holds a key position in annual budget negotiations, says DFCS is ripe for a funding boost after years of budget cuts.  

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services says it's making some changes to how it investigates abuse claims, after the death of a 10-year-old Lawrenceville girl prompted questions about its current policies. 

DFCS Director Sharon Hill says in light of the Emani Moss case, the division is reviewing claims that were reviewed over the phone, or “screened out,” with little to no investigation. She says the division is also consulting with both internal and external officials who aren’t directly involved in open cases to make sure nothing is looked over.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)
Ga. General Assembly

    On Monday, October 28, 2013, Georgia Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles announced the state will not renew the contract with Youth Services International to manage the Paulding County Regional Youth Detention Center, and the facility will close at the end of the year.

A house bill filed Monday calls for the beginning of a process to create another city in DeKalb County.

The bill comes amid discussions of cityhood in the Tucker, Northlake, Druid Hills, and Briarcliff areas.

Because the bill is a so-called “placeholder,” the legislature will not consider it until next year.

Representative Mary Margaret Oliver says she filed the placeholder bill so her constituents in the Briarcliff and Druid Hills areas can be further involved in cityhood talks.

Recently, metro Atlanta has seen an explosion of new cities, and advocates in other areas are trying to start cityhood drives in their neighborhoods.  

But one Georgia lawmaker says the process is too careless, failing to take into account the effect new cities have on their counties, and on surrounding cities.  

Democratic Decatur Representative Mary Margaret Oliver has proposed a bill, placing new hurdles in front of supporters of future new cities.  

WABE's Denis O'Hayer spoke with Rep. Oliver, and with J. Max Davis, mayor of Georgia's newest city, Brookhaven.

Brookhaven Reporter

On July 31st, residents of the Brookhaven area of DeKalb County will vote on whether to create their own city.  The debate has raised issues of local control, public services, taxes, race and class--among others.  WABE's Denis O'Hayer got a preview of the vote from Melissa Weinman, a staff writer with the Brookhaven Reporter.  (For broadcast version, click the top button; for expanded version, click the bottom button.)

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