The Georgia General Assembly finished its work late Thursday night, on the final day of the 2013 session. Here’s a recap of action on significant issues.
— LOBBYING RULES: Leaders in the House and Senate reached a compromise on lobbying rules. Under the plan, lobbyist expenditures would be limited to $75 at a time. People would have to register as lobbyists if they are paid to influence public officials or if they accept more than $250 in reimbursements for their lobbying expenses. Both chambers approved the measure, sending it Gov. Nathan Deal, who is expected to sign it.
— ABORTION: The Senate made a last-minute play to prohibit state employee health insurance from covering elective abortions. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told reporters early in the day that there was likely not enough time left to debate the matter — and the House never did.
— BUDGET: Lawmakers settled on a $41 billion state operating budget composed of state and federal money for the next fiscal year. The document cuts many state agencies, but includes new education spending and bonds for new public projects.
— GUNS: House lawmakers earlier approved a more sweeping bill, one that would have allowed students with a license to carry a gun to take their firearms onto parts of public colleges and universities. Higher education leaders strongly opposed that plan, and the Senate backed a much less expansive proposal. Top senators ostensibly agreed to a compromise late Thursday, but too late for a vote.
— VIDEO POKER: Lawmakers have approved an overhaul of who regulates video poker and other similar coin-operated machines in the state. The plan opens the door for some proceeds to be directed to the HOPE scholarship program. The legislation moves oversight of the machines to the Georgia Lottery Corp. and away from the state Department of Revenue. The bill had garnered opposition from anti-gambling groups, but supporters said the goal was to crack down on illegal gambling by making it easier to identify rogue machines.
— PRIVATE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS: Legislators agreed to raise the cap from $50 million to $58 million on a program that gives tax breaks to individuals and corporations who give money to third-party groups that, in turn, provide grants for to private school students. Donors give directly to the organizations, then claim dollar-for-dollar tax credits that reduce their income tax liability to the state.