‘Concealed Carry’ Act among big bills at Georgia Legislature

Published 6:32 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tuesday was Crossover Day in the Georgia Legislature, the final day where bills move from one chamber to the other.

Major bills under discussion include HB 859, or the “Campus Carry” bill, and HB 919, a bill addressing rural health care, as well as hammering out the next year’s budget.

The state House of Representatives voted Monday to approve the “Camus Carry” Act, a bill that will legalize concealed guns on college campuses in Georgia. HB 859 allows those with a legal permit to carry guns anywhere on a campus except for sports events, dormitories or sorority and fraternity houses.

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The bill also requires weapons to be concealed.

“The gun bills are always controversial,” Senator Dean Burke said. “People have already concealed permits that you could carry to certain places on campuses. I see both sides.”

Last Thursday, the House passed HB 919, which would allow an individual or corporation to receive a state tax credit for donating to a rural hospital. The organization that receives the donation must be a nonprofit, must treat patients who are indigent or on Medicaid/Medicare and must be located in a rural county.

Legislators in support of the bill, including sponsor Rep. Geoff Duncan (R) of Cumming, believe this will help the local economies.

Before making a contribution to a rural health care organization, the donor will notify the organization the amount they will donate. The organization has 30 days to approve or deny the requested amount and the donor has 60 days to make the contribution to receive tax credits.

Though is has been a hot topic among residents and some politicians, all bills for gambling in Georgia were shot down, including a bill that would use gambling to increase funding for the HOPE Scholarship.

Another important bill is HB 757, which gives businesses religious freedom and provides religious officials the legal right to deny marriage ceremonies that violate their beliefs.

On Feb. 18, the Georgia General Assembly approved the 2016 Amended Budget, which focuses on healthcare and education needs. A record $23.7 billion budget for fiscal 2017 was also approved 167-1. Much of the spending will come from revenue generated by last year’s transportation bill.