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Lawmakers pass bills on gun rights, delay debate on casinos
AP 17063000211466
House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, watches the votes come in as the House passes a bill Friday, March 3, in Atlanta. Legislative rules require bills to pass at least one chamber by the end of Friday to stay alive for the year. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers passed dozens of bills Friday, rushing to meet a key deadline for the 40-day session.

Legislation had to pass at least one chamber by the day's end to remain alive for the year. There are ways around the deadline but lawmakers still try to get proposals through in time.

Here's a look at some of the day's top items:

Gun purchase rights

People who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital will be able to request the right to purchase a gun before the end of the standard five-year ban under a bill approved by the Senate.

The proposal creates a mechanism that allows courts to verify whether a person is of sound mental health before being removed from the five-year ban list. Currently that list is purged automatically.

In a late amendment before Friday's vote, senators added a provision that will change the definition of a knife from 5-inches to 12-inches, meaning that a person does not need a weapons permit to wield a blade shorter than a foot.

The bill received bipartisan support. It now goes to the House.

Casinos delayed

Supporters of casino gambling made a last-ditch effort to move a House bill Friday but ultimately fell short.

The House Regulated Industries Committee canceled a meeting to hear the proposal from Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, after several hours of speculation.

House Speaker David Ralston says an effort to legalize casino gambling in Georgia is unlikely to get a vote as lawmakers face a legislative deadline.

Stephens' proposal would allow two "resort destinations" that could offer gambling, one in metro Atlanta requiring $2 billion in investment and another requiring $450 million. Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, sponsored a similar bill in the Senate but said earlier this week that he didn't have enough votes to pass a committee.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Friday "was probably not the most appropriate time" to consider a bill when members still disagree on important details.

"We're going to take a deep breath and come back and look at it some over the interim," he said. "It's an issue I think deserves discussion. I'm not advocating for the issue, but I think it's one a lot of House members have an interest in."

Legislative rules require bills to pass at least one chamber by the end of Friday to stay alive. Though there are ways around the deadline, Ralston said he "wouldn't bet on it" for casino legislation.

Lead testing

Georgia schools will be required to test their water for lead by the middle of 2019 under a bill approved by the Senate.

Schools would be required to report the results of the tests to parents and teachers as well as fix the problem.

The concern mainly lies with some old drinking fountains that the bill's sponsor says can have lead in the welding that bleeds into the water.

The measure now goes to the House.

Pipeline Regulations

Georgia senators approved a bill lifting a yearlong moratorium on new oil pipelines being constructed in the state while establishing a "rigorous" licensing process.

The bill also sets up a process to allow for limited eminent domain, or the involuntary seizure of private land.

The bill was amended on the floor to forbid the construction of any pipeline construction within the Georgia Coastal Zone. Senators said that an oil spill in such an area could be "catastrophic."

The proposal now goes to the House for review.

Ride-hailing taxes

The House approved collecting sales taxes on trips through ride-hailing services including Uber and Lyft.

Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, said the 4 percent sales tax hasn't been collected on rides using the services as limousine services and taxi companies do.

The House voted the bill down — 88 votes no to 82 yes — early Friday. When Powell brought it back for a second vote, members voted 106-60.