ATLANTA (AP) — HEADLINES:
House lawmakers endorsed big changes to Georgia's gun laws this week just ahead of a key internal deadline.
Under internal rules, most bills had to be approved by at least one chamber of the General Assembly by Thursday or risk failing for the year. There are some exceptions.
House Republicans voted to allow people with a license to carry a firearm to take their weapons into bars, churches and parts of college campuses. The bill would also allow school administrators to arm employees, a response by Georgia leaders to a massacre in a Connecticut school. The provision would also allow residents who have voluntarily received inpatient treatment at a hospital or substance abuse treatment center to receive a license to carry a weapon.
Under the plan, backed by a gun owner's group called GeorgiaCarry.org, judges would have to check whether a person seeking permission to carry a gun has ever received involuntary treatment for mental health issues.
It remains unclear how the bill will fare in the Senate, which earlier adopted a somewhat less controversial bill backed by the National Rifle Association. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal said he supports conducting more background checks for mental health issues, though his spokesman would not comment on other aspects of the plan.
ODDS AND ENDS:
— The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday approved a bill to allow parents and teachers to petition a local school board to make management and operations changes in poorly performing schools. The 97-74 vote sends House Bill 123 to the state Senate, where it is expected to pass in some form. The final tally included several Republicans abandoning the GOP leadership to vote against the measure, and Democrats flouting their party position to vote in favor. The so-called "parent trigger" in House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey's measure is one of the latest policy pursuits of the school choice movement. Some version of the idea has passed in six states, starting in California three years ago.
— The state Senate approved changes to a tax credit program that provides scholarships for children to attend private schools. State senators voted unanimously Thursday to support the changes, which include a reporting requirement on the average household income of recipients and requires eligible students to have attended public school for at least six weeks with a few exceptions.
— Law enforcement agencies could not set minimum waiting periods before acting on a reported missing person under legislation approved by the Senate. Senate Bill 13 also clarifies the statewide alert system can be used for a person whose medical conditions could explain their being lost. The measure passed without opposition and now goes to the House.
— Those seeking HOPE grants to attend the state's technical colleges would have to meet lower grade requirements under a plan approved by House lawmakers. Lawmakers voted 169-1 on Thursday to approve the plan and send it to the Senate for consideration. The bill is likely to pass since it has the backing of legislative leaders and Gov. Nathan Deal. The plan would return the qualifying grade point average to 2.0. Backers say the move could benefit several thousand students at an estimated cost of $5 million to $8 million annually.
— "... Until our government can unconditionally ensure our safety, I will fight for your right and my right to protect ourselves and our family. And as long as bad guys have guns, I'll fight for good guys to have guns," House Major Leader Larry O'Neal, R-Bonaire, speaking about this week's gun legislation.
— "I have a hard time understanding why we are responding to a series of tragedies by expanding the likelihood of danger. ...Carrying a gun makes one more likely to be shot. Policy should be based on facts, not on rhetoric or assumption," Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, later in the same debate.
DAYS IN SESSION: 10 days remain in the legislative session.
Lawmakers are expected to vote next week on the state budget for the coming financial year and begin evaluating bills from the opposite chamber.