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House majority OKs expansion of gun-carry laws

Legislative update

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POSTED: March 12, 2013 9:12 a.m.

A majority of the House of Representatives voted March 7 to approve legislation that would allow gun owners to carry weapons in many areas where they are now prohibited.

Under HB 512, guns could legally be carried into churches, bars, non-security areas of airports, some government buildings and college campuses, although not into dormitories or athletic events. The proposal would also allow designated administrators in Georgia’s K-12 school systems to carry weapons on campus.

The proposal would retain the right of private property owners to exclude or eject those possessing guns.

Also, the bill would allow mental health patients who had voluntarily sought treatment to obtain gun carry licenses. Those involuntarily hospitalized or treated for mental illness would still be prohibited from carrying weapons.

Even though I support the 2ndAmendment, I voted against this legislation because it does nothing to address the real problem of gun violence: keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists and other dangerous individuals who have inflicted so much tragedy on our nation in recent years.

HB 512 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Diversion of Fee Revenue: House members voted March 4 to approve legislation to end the practice of diverting fee revenues from specially designated funds to other state programs. HB 127 would require that revenues generated by fees such as the $1 per tire that consumers pay for the cleanup of tire dumps, and other fees intended for programs including hazardous waste site cleanups, indigent defense, law enforcement training and driver’s education be spent only on those intended purposes.  The proposal now goes to the Senate, where similar legislation approved by the House last year stalled at the end of the session.

HOPE Grant Assistance: The House voted overwhelmingly March 7 to approve legislation that would lower the grade point average requirement for the HOPE Grant in Georgia’s technical colleges from a 3.0 to a 2.0.  HB 372 would put the requirement back to where it was prior to sweeping changes to HOPE made in 2011. It was estimated that about one-quarter of all technical college students had left school after the HOPE Grant requirement was raised. The state’s economy needs technical college graduates to build a skilled workforce, and lawmakers came together in a bipartisan manner to address the problem. HB 372 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Other House Action: Also last week, the House approved and sent to the Senate the following legislation:

HB 123, which would require local school boards to consider a petition for converting a traditional public school to a charter school when a majority of the school’s student households or a majority of teachers and staff request it. I voted against this legislation because of its potential to further damage our existing K-12 schools.HB 125, which would allow individuals to renew business and professional licenses by submitting citizenship documentation only one time, instead of annually. The bill also would require homeowners to prove their citizenship before qualifying for a homestead exemption on their local property taxes.HB 164, which would extend for two years the sales tax exemption on equipment purchased for the repair and maintenance or aircraft, to protect the jobs of employees at Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace.HB 188, which would help military veterans obtain state licenses in fields where they have training, including plumbing, electrical work and heating and air conditioning. I strongly supported this legislation.HB 189, which I co-sponsored to protect rural tourism by requiring mandatory advance notice to local governments before the closing of state parks or historical sites in their communities.HB 199, which would enable the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to use its funding for water conservation efforts in addition to developing reservoirs.HB 207, which I co-sponsored to establish a special turkey-hunting permit and an extended turkey season for young and mobility-impaired hunters.HB 276, which would reauthorize the trust fund fee to clean up hazardous waste sites for another five years. The bill would also stop the practice of diverting environmental fee revenues to be spent on other areas of the state budget.HB 287, which would transfer the state archives from the Secretary of State’s Office to the University System of Georgia.HB 361, which would authorize Georgia as a right-to-work state where union membership is not compulsory for workers. I strongly opposed and voted against this partisan attempt to destroy unions in Georgia, as well as HB 362, which would prohibit state and local government agencies from requiring that a bidder for a public contract use union labor.

Final Passage: The House and Senate both voted unanimously March 5 to give final approval to an amended $19.3 billion state budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2013, which ends June 30, as well as legislation to clarify the state’s new automobile title tax law. Under HB 105, the supplemental budget includes $167 million for local school systems to account for student enrollment increases, as well as funding to address a shortfall in revenue for the Medicaid program. Minor differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget were worked out by a conference committee. The amended budget now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. Lawmakers are still working on the proposed $19.8 billion annual budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.

The House and Senate also approved a final version of HB 266, which corrects some errors in the automobile title tax law approved last year, specifically addressing problematic language that would have caused double taxation of leased vehicles. The law, which took effect March 1, phases out the annual ad valorem “birthday tax” on car tags and replaces it with a one-time title fee of 6.5 percent. The governor has already signed HB 266 into law.

It is an honor to represent you at the State Capitol. Please contact me with your views on the issues, or whenever I can be of service.

Williams (D-Midway) represents District 168 in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 511 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; by phone at 404-656-6372; or by email at al.williams@house.ga.gov

 

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