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Ga. Capitol roundup: Bills target defunding of police, push parental leave and more

Here’s a look at some recent developments out of the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta
Georgia state Capitol
Georgia state Capitol(WALB)
Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 11:19 AM EST
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Legislation aims to block ‘defunding’ of police

A Republican-backed bill advancing in the Georgia House would block “defund the police” movements in cities and counties. It comes after Atlanta and Athens debated plans to cut or redirect spending following racial injustice protests last year. The measure is a response after many protesters nationwide argued that minority communities were suffering from overpolicing and that governments should spend less on law enforcement and more on social services. House Bill 286 says cities and counties can’t cut spending on their police departments by more than 5% a year. Similar bills have been offered in Florida, Iowa and North Carolina. Lawmakers in Indiana voted such a bill down.

Senate approves Kemp plan aimed at increasing teachers

Georgia state senators are agreeing with Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to encourage more military veterans to become teachers and the change what teachers learn in college. The Senate voted 50-0 to approve Senate Bill 88 on Wednesday, sending it to the House for more debate. The measure would also place Georgia’s teacher of the year on the state Board of Education as a nonvoting member. A separate proposal by Kemp to allow some retired Georgia teachers to return to work and collect both a full salary and a full pension is unlikely to become law until next year.

Senators again seek term limits, balanced budget

Some Georgia state senators want the state to call for conventions to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and limit the terms of members of Congress — again. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution calling for a convention of states to propose balanced budget and term limits amendments. It would be at least the fourth time that Georgia has called for a convention to consider a balanced budget and at least the second time it’s called for a convention to consider term limits. Both measures passed the committee on 4-3 votes, sending them to the Senate for more debate.

House pushes anew for paid parental leave for state workers

Georgia’s House of Representatives is trying again to give paid parental leave to state workers, teachers and university employees. The House voted 155-2 on Tuesday to pass House Bill 146. It would offer three weeks of paid parental leave any time to those nearly 250,000 workers after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. The measure mirrors a bill that sailed through the House last year and failed in the Senate in the final hours of the session. House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, has made the measure one of his priorities. Currently, state employees in Georgia are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave as required by federal law. The measure doesn’t affect private employers.

Biden administration puts Medicaid overhaul on hold

Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to reshape Medicaid in Georgia has been put on hold by President Joe Biden’s administration only four months after the plan won approval under Donald Trump. Biden’s acting director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Elizabeth Richter, sent Georgia officials a letter said work or related activity requirements in Kemp’s proposal are “unreasonably difficult or impossible” for people to meet during the coronavirus pandemic. Kemp’s plan seeks to add 50,000 low-income or uninsured adults to Medicaid rolls over the next two years. Democrats continue to call for a full expansion of Medicaid services under the Affordable Care Act. Kemp’s office has 30 days to respond to the decision from Washington.

Governor wants to overhaul citizen arrests after Arbery case

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced legislation Tuesday that aims to overhaul Georgia’s citizen arrest statute. Kemp said this proposed bill looks to close several “loopholes” in the old statute that allowed for possible vigilantism. Part of the impetus was last year’s slaying of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County. The father and son accused in the killing have claimed they thought he was a burglar. “Ahmaud was a victim of vigilante style of violence that has no place in Georgia. Some tried to justify the actions of his killers by claiming they had the protection of an antiquated law that is right for abuse,” Kemp said. Arbery has family ties to the CSRA and is buried near Waynesboro.

Winter weather delays COVID-19 vaccine shipments to Georgia

Georgia health officials say that snowy and icy weather across much of the nation has “significantly” delayed shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to the state. The Georgia Department of Public Health said Wednesday that both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that normally would have arrived the first part of this week were held back by the manufacturers due to the weather. The agency says that health departments and other vaccine providers have been forced to reschedule appointments. Health officials say when those shots can be administered will depend on when vaccine shipments resume and when they arrive in Georgia.

Atlanta council overrides veto of street closure near Capitol

Atlanta’s City Council is moving ahead with a plan to let the state permanently close part of a street between the Georgia Capitol and a legislative office building. The council voted 10-4 on Monday to override Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ rejection of the ordinance. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports it was the first time the council has overridden a mayor’s veto in more than 10 years. Council Member Michael Bond says he worked out a deal for the state to close the block of Mitchell Street to enhance security in exchange for sidewalk and safety improvements along a state-owned road. Bottoms says it was improper for Bond to negotiate on behalf of the city. She says no city-state deal exists.

From reports by The Associated Press, WTOC and WRDW/WAGT