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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Keeping an eye on Sine Die

On this, the final day of the legislative session, Georgia lawmakers are scrambling to tie up any legislative loose ends in disturbingly hasty fashion. By tonight, the floor of the Capitol will be littered with bills both failed and successful, and it will be like it was all a dream - a dream that (might) impede on the rights of pregnant women, (could) restrict the ability to protest, and (maybe) screw jobless workers.

Here are the things to keep an eye on as the end of the insanity draws nigh. Or is it just the beginning ...

SB 469
The cause celebre among Occupiers, union leaders, and - oddly enough - tea partiers, the bill would prevent picketing in front of private homes. The tea party argues it's tantamount to a violation of constitutional rights. Debbie Dooley of the Atlanta Tea Party says, "This bill is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. It's in violation of the Georgia Constitution, Article I, Section I, Paragraph V: 'No law shall be passed to curtail or restrain the freedom of speech or of the press.'" Church leaders are also up in arms, worried that religious institutions could be crippled by fines of up to $10,000 a day for peaceful protests. Current full text here.

SB 447
Another focus of labor unions and Occupiers, the bill would reduce unemployment benefits for the jobless. Georgia State AFL-CIO President Charlie Flemming says, "This bill is an attack on working Georgians ... the corporate community was given a tax holiday when times were good, and they didn't have to pay into insurance. Now they want to make up for the hole on the backs of the people who can lease support it." Current full text here.

HB 954
Georgia's fetal pain bill stalled a couple days ago - but that doesn't mean it's dead. Lawmakers are at an impasse because the super-pro-life House thinks the just-about-as-pro-life Senate weakened the bill - which, among other things, outlaws abortions after 20 weeks - when they amended it. They decided it should be legally OK for a woman to abort a baby after 20 weeks if the pregnancy is not viable, and the child would not survive once it was born due to fatal chromosomal or congenital defects. The House doesn't agree (which basically means they think women should carry a fetus to term even if it will absolutely die outside the womb). Current full text here.

Then there's HB 1176, Georgia's criminal justice reform legislation, which needs final approval by the House (which it will get) before it's signed by the Governor (which he will do). We'll be writing more about the final product in the next few days.

Also, there's SB 458, which originally would have prevented illegal immigrants from attending Georgia's public colleges, but was stripped of that language yesterday. Now, according to the AJC, "it's a housekeeping bill that tweaks the sweeping illegal immigration legislation that the General Assembly passed last year."

CL's annual Golden Sleaze issue will be in print next Thursday (but online sooner)!

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