Ga. Capitol roundup: Lawmakers move to end no-excuse absentee voting
ATLANTA - Georgia’s state Senate has narrowly passed a Republican-backed bill that would end no-excuse absentee voting.
The bill passed 29-20 on Monday, as Republicans moved to roll back voting access after record turnout led to recent Democratic victories.
Senate Bill 241 would limit absentee voting to people 65 and older, those with a physical disability and people who will be out of town on Election Day. It would also require an ID for those who are able to vote absentee, among many other changes.
The bill is likely headed to a Senate-House conference committee, where the chambers will hash out their difference on the issue.
Georgia House votes to bump adult criminal age from 17 to 18
ATLANTA - Georgia’s House has approved a measure that would raise the age for charging most people from 17 to 18.
The House voted 113-51 on Monday to pass House Bill 272, sending it to the Senate for more debate. House Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman Mandi Ballinger has been pushing the idea for years.
The Canton Republican cites testimony from experts that teen brains are still developing to full adulthood and lack the impulse control of older people. Advocates say 17-year-olds should go before juvenile courts, where judges can decide cases while promoting growth without giving them a permanent criminal record.
House votes to end hands-free violator exception
ATLANTA - The Georgia House is moving to eliminate a loophole that allows some people to avoid citations for violating the state’s hands-free cellphone law.
House members voted 119-52 for House Bill 247 on Monday. It says drivers can’t avoid penalties by telling judges they have purchased hands-free devices for their cellphones.
Republican Rep. John Carson of Marietta says the current provisions are intended to excuse people from first-time offense but are unenforceable.
State law lets first-time violators appear before a judge with proof they bought a phone holder or wireless headphone and escape a fine.
Supporters say people can get caught in multiple jurisdictions and escape multiple fines because courts can’t keep track.
Georgia first passed its hands-free law in 2018
House bill: Allow at least 1 visitor in medical facilities
ATLANTA - Georgia House members want to allow at least one designated person an hour of daily access to hospital and long-term care facility patients.
The House passed the proposal on Monday, sending it to the Senate for more debate. The measure responds to facilities banning visitors during the pandemic.
Gov. Brian Kemp implemented a ban on visitors at long-term care facilities in April by executive order. Kemp eased those restrictions in September, allowing visitors based on the severity of a local outbreak.
Under the bill, a patient in a hospital or long-term care center could name a “designated legal representative” that would get at least one hour of contact each day.
Senators reject plan to increase pay for lawmakers
ATLANTA - Georgia senators have rejected a plan that would nearly double pay for lawmakers and also boost pay for all statewide officials except the governor.
The Senate voted 33-20 to reject Senate Bill 252 on Monday. The vote raises questions about whether plans for increased salaries will advance.
The House could still vote Monday on House Bill 675, which is a nearly identical proposal. But if the measure does not advance by the end of Monday night, it’s unlikely to survive this year.
Base pay for the 180 House members and 56 senators would have risen from $16,200 a year to nearly $30,000. Lawmaker pay hasn’t changed since 1999.
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