Georgia General Assembly Week in Review: March 25 – March 29

April 1, 2013

Pardon Our Dust

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Budget Passes Both Chambers


The only bill that members of the General Assembly are required to pass is the 2014 fiscal year budget, which takes effect July 1, 2013. The biggest differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2014 budget were over education spending. The final $41 billion state budget is fundamentally similar to what Deal proposed in January. Deal’s proposals included new investments in pre-kindergarten programs and a plan to avoid steep cuts in Medicaid insurance. Deal also supported Democrats’ push for larger HOPE grants for technical college.


House Bill 402 Unanimously Passed Both Chambers


HB 402 revises provisions relating to permit activities and procedures in Georgia’s coastal waters, beaches, and sand dunes. The sponsor of the bill, Representative Ron Stephens, claimed that “by amending the Shore Protection Act and the Coastal Marshland Protection Act, this legislation will spur the growth of temporary filming along our coastal beaches, as long as there is not any environmental impact. It will also significantly reduce the time required to get authorization to film along Georgia’s coastline; currently, a permit can take up to six months.” Atlanta has become the new mecca for film and entertainment production due to the city’s low costs and tax incentives for businesses.


Speaker David Ralston’s Ethics Bill Passes Both Chambers


Arguably the most drastic ethics reform ever to take place at the Georgia General Assembly passed the Georgia House unanimously. House Bill 142 will prevent lobbyists from spending more than $75 at a time on lawmakers. The bill also bans most non-food related expenditures such as international travel and concerts.


Georgia Lottery and HOPE Scholarship Bill Passes


Lawmakers approved an overhaul of who regulates video poker and other similar coin-operated machines. The legislation moves oversight of the machines to the Georgia Lottery Corporation from the state Department of Revenue. The bill had garnered opposition from anti-gambling groups, but supporters say the goal is to crack down on illegal gambling by making it easier to identify rogue machines. The machines provide non-cash prizes, including merchandise and vouchers. The bill calls for five percent of net receipts to be retained and directed to the HOPE scholarship program, reaching a maximum of 10 percent over time.


Gun Legislation Failed to Pass Both Chambers before Midnight


Gun laws in Georgia will not change in 2013. Senate Bill 101 would have allowed guns in churches, allowed school districts to train and arm administrators, and permitted guns on public college campuses. The bill was stalled in committee for most of the night; house leaders said they could not come to an agreement with key senators over whether to expand gun possession rights on college campuses in Georgia. Both sides had agreed to allow local K-12 school boards to choose whether to arm certain school employees and allow churches to choose whether to allow concealed weapons on their property.


Georgia Lawmakers Approve Bill Combatting Pill Mills 


The Georgia House and Senate approved House Bill 178, legislation to reign in the operation of illicit pill mills in Georgia. HB 178, sponsored by Representative Tom Weldon in the House and Senator Renee Unterman in the Senate, will provide the Georgia Composite Medical Board the authority to license and regulate pain management clinics. Attorney General Sam Olens applauded the passage of the much-needed legislation to combat the surge of pill mills and prescription drug abuse in communities across Georgia.


Further Reading


Ethics, Budget Marked Session


Guns Fail, Ethics Bill Passes on Legislature’s Final Night


Legislature Passes $19.9 Billion Budget for 2014


What Survived, What Sank