The 2013 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly is scheduled for final adjournment Thursday. Needless to say, the past few days have been busy.
• Gun laws: On March 22, the House of Representatives voted to approve consolidated legislation that would expand the rights of people with licenses to carry guns in public places. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee had combined provisions of House Bill 512, passed earlier by the House, and Senate Bill 101, passed earlier by the Senate into a new version of SB 101.
Under the new legislation, license-holders could bring firearms to college campuses, except to dormitories or athletic events. Guns would also be allowed in unsecured government buildings and K-12 schools, although not into areas designated as school-safety zones, where only authorized school administrators could carry weapons. Churches would be able to “opt in” to allow guns but would not be required to allow people to bring in firearms.
The SB 101 substitute would prohibit people who have been involuntarily hospitalized or treated for mental illness to obtain a gun license but would allow those who were voluntarily treated to do so. The bill also would prohibit the creation of a database that includes information about people who have firearms licenses. Those between 18 and 21 years old who have completed basic military training would be allowed to apply for a gun licenses as long as they were honorably discharged from the military.
Provisions that were dropped from the previous legislation include those allowing guns in courthouses and public-housing projects. The current law empowering bar owners to decide whether to allow firearms on the premises would remain in effect as well.
SB 101 now goes back to the Senate for consideration of the House changes.
• Boating safety: The House voted March 20 to approve an amended version of legislation that would lower the blood alcohol level to .08 for the offense of boating under the influence. SB 136 also includes increased safety and education measures for younger boat operators and passengers. The bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration of House changes.
• Final passage: Last week, House members voted to approve the following Senate legislation and accept Senate amendments to the House legislation, sending these bills to the governor’s desk:
• SB 14 creates a task force on Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia.
• SB 76 establishes the Returning Veterans Task Force to assist Georgia veterans returning from active duty.
• SB 170 adds medical fraud to the state’s identity fraud laws.
• SB 179 sets aside the requirement for a bid bond in public contracts if a sealed competitive proposal is requested and price or project cost is not a selection factor.
• SB 212 requires schools to provide training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
• HB 234 requires businesses that sell service contracts to give consumers 30 to 60 days’ notice before any service agreement is automatically renewed.
• SB 236 requires insurers to disclose the amount of any premium increase attributed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
• HB 255 transfers administrative responsibilities related to motor carriers from the Department of Revenue to the Department of Public Safety.
• Video gaming: I have been appointed to serve as one of three House members on a conference committee that will work to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of HB 487, which seeks to place video-gaming machines under the direction of the Georgia Lottery Corp., with tax proceeds on the machines going toward HOPE scholarship funding. The bill also would broaden law enforcement on the machines, often found in convenience stores and gas stations.
It is an honor to represent you at the state Capitol. Please contact me with your views on the issues, and let me know when I can be of service.
Editor's note: Lawmakers are scheduled to wrap up the 2013 session Thursday. This column was written at the end of last week. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.