Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Georgia Legislators Filing Bills for 2015; General Assembly's Session Doesn't Start until Next Month, but There's Already Action

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Georgia Legislators Filing Bills for 2015; General Assembly's Session Doesn't Start until Next Month, but There's Already Action

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA | Marijuana, horse racing, driving with cellphones, child sexual abuse, the minimum wage and college athletics are some of the topics of pre-filed legislation in the General Assembly so far.

With campaigns concluded, Georgia lawmakers are filing bills ahead of the legislative session that starts Jan. 12. As of Wednesday, 17 general bills and one constitutional amendment had been filed in the House of Representatives while senators have only filed two bills and one amendment.

Marijuana was one of the most talked-about topics in the last session, and it is likely to be again. House Bill 1 by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is his second attempt to legalize medicine derived from marijuana for the control of a limited number of health conditions. The House and Senate each passed different versions last year but couldn't agree on one in common, making him confident of success this year.

"I think we're better prepared," he said. "Last year, we kind of hit the ground running."

Peake headed a temporary committee this fall that held hearings across the state, attempting to air all concerns and emphasize his opposition to legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

However, two of the three Senate bills deal with pot, both by Sen. Curt Thompson, D-Tucker. Senate Bill 7 would also allow its medical use, and Senate Resolution 6 would permit recreational use.

The other Senate bill would bar undocumented residents from getting a driver's license, sponsored by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

Typically, lawmakers introduce 1,500 pieces of legislation by the end of a 40-day session of the General Assembly. Two out of every three won't pass, most of those never even getting a public hearing.

"Any elected official can introduce any legislation they want," Peake said.

And they can also tack amendments onto other lawmakers' bills, sometimes preventing them from passing, as happened to Peake's medical-marijuana bill last session. …

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