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Legislative roundup for Feb. 26 March 2
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(Editor’s note: This is a look at recent action in the Georgia Legislature and how Bryan County’s legislators voted. It was compiled by Correspondent Corey Barnes.)

Hands-Free Driving Bill

The House on Feb. 28 approved, 151-20, HB 673 which stipulates that Georgia drivers are prohibited from using mobile phones while driving unless in a hands-free capacity. Violations will result in a $300 fine and either two or three points on the guilty party’s license. The bill moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Voting yes: Jesse Petrea, Ron Stephens.

Excused: Jan Tankersley.

Adjustment to Concealed Carry Law

The House on Feb. 28 approved, 161-4, HB 999 which changes the language of the state’s concealed carry weapons policy for people who were involuntarily committed for mental instability. The state will no longer automatically purge a person’s involuntary hospitalization information after five years from the Georgia Crime Information Center for the purposes of background checks. The bill moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Voting yes: Petrea, Stephens.

Excused: Tankersley.

Traffic Cameras in School Zones

The House on Feb. 28 approved, 94-76, HB 978 which allows for the implementation of speed detection devices and automated traffic enforcement safety devices in school zones. The bill moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Voting yes: Petrea.

Voting no: Stephens.

Excused: Tankersley.

Taxes on Tobacco Products

The House on Feb. 28 rejected, 59-109, HB 877 which would have reduced by 50 percent any taxes levied on modified risk tobacco products.

Voting no: Petrea, Stephens.

Excused: Tankersley.

Adjusting Scholarship Eligibility

The House on Feb. 28 approved, 146-25, HB 713 which stipulates that any student who graduated from a home study program or ineligible high school would be eligible for the HOPE scholarships and grants if he or she received a score in the 92nd percentile (reduced from 93rd) or higher on the ACT or SAT. The bill moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Voting yes: Petrea, Stephens, Tankersley.

Changing Police Reporting Requirements

The Senate on Feb. 26 approved, 36-17, SB 452 which requires a peace officer, in the event he or she receives verification that a suspect is in the country illegally, to inform the prosecuting attorney of that information. The bill moves on to the House for consideration.

Voting yes: Ben Watson.

Requiring Recess Bill

The Senate on March 1 approved, 50-0, HB 273 which requires elementary schools to schedule recess time for all students in kindergarten and grade five. Local boards of education would write policy in time for the 2018-19 school year. The bill moves on to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

Voting yes: Watson.

Changes to Tax Rate

The Senate on March approved, 44-10, HB 918 which reduces Georgia’s top income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.75 percent and increases the standard deduction among other changes. The Senate removed language in the bill that would have provided a sales and use tax break to jet fuel. The House agreed to the changes, and Gov. Deal signed the bill into law on March 2.  

Voting yes: Watson.

University Free Speech Policy

The Senate on March 1 approved, 33-19, SB 339 which requires the Board of Regents in the University of Georgia system to develop and adopt a free speech policy. The bill would, among other requirements, compel campuses to accommodate any speaker whom students, student organizations or faculty members have invited to speak.

Voting yes: Watson.

If you want to read about other bills before the General Assembly please visit

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