Dozens of bills are in jeopardy on the final day of Georgia’s 2019 legislative session Tuesday, including proposals to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, raise the minimum age to get married and take over Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Lawmakers will make dozens of votes before the midnight deadline for all bills to either pass or fail.
Bills that win approval from both the state House and Senate advance to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature or veto. Measures that fall short will have to wait till next year for further consideration.
The General Assembly has already passed major bills that would effectively ban most abortions, increase public school teachers’ pay by $3,000, consider changes to Medicaid services and replace the state’s voting machines.
Here’s a look at bills that will be considered on the last day of the General Assembly’s annual 40-day legislative session:
It’s been legal for registered medical marijuana patients to use the drug since 2015, but they’ve never had a legal way to buy it.
More than 8,400 people in Georgia are already registered with the state to legally use medical marijuana oil, which is allowed to treat conditions including severe seizures, deadly cancers and Parkinson’s disease.
If approved, medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to sell to licensed patients, and the legislation would ban vaping and edible marijuana products. Medical marijuana oil in Georgia has less than 5 percent THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high.
The proposal would put Georgia among a handful of states that forbid 16-year-olds from marrying. Most states, including Georgia, currently allow 16-year-olds to marry if they have permission from their parents.
Lawmakers supporting the proposal say it would help protect children from domestic violence, high divorce rates, child abuse and human trafficking.
There’s little opposition to the bill, which has already passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. The proposal needs a final vote because it was amended in the Senate.
Shackling pregnant inmates
Georgia lawmakers are looking to prohibit the practice of shackling pregnant inmates and placing them in solitary confinement after giving birth.
While officials from the Georgia Department of Corrections and a representative for the state’s sheriffs said neither group has a policy of shackling, pregnant women told lawmakers it was done to them while they were incarcerated.
If House Bill 345 is approved, it would ban the practice of shackling women around their wrists, ankles and waists while they are being transported to appointments at court or to see a doctor. Supporters of the measure say restraining the pregnant inmates can lead to falls that cause them to lose their babies.
The bill passed the House unanimously but was changed in the Senate, where only one senator voted against it.
Lawmakers are haggling over a sprawling bill that would create state oversight of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, reduce fuel taxes for Delta Air Lines and other air carriers, and expand transportation services in rural areas.
The measure, which is now being called the “Frankenbill” because it was stitched together from several different proposals, could be a key point of contention between the Senate and House.
When Senate Bill 131 passed the Senate, the bill called for a state government takeover of the Atlanta airport. Then the House rewrote the measure, instead calling for creation of a state airport oversight committee with limited power and a 20-year suspension of jet-fuel taxes on airlines, saving them $35 million to $40 million a year. They also tacked on a rural transit bill that had stalled in the Senate.
Legislators will have to decide whether to negotiate passage of some parts of the bill or abandon it altogether.
The legislation covers so-called “marketplace facilitators” of businesses, such as ride-share and short-term home rental companies. The proposal comes after the General Assembly approved proposals last year that required many online retailers to charge sales taxes on their products.
If approved, the new tax proposal could raise up to $157 million a year in state and local sales taxes by the 2024 fiscal year.
Lawmakers backing the proposal say that online businesses should be taxed similarly to brick-and-mortar companies, but critics of the legislation say the tax would hurt low-income Georgians, such as those who rely on ride-sharing services to get to work.
Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.