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Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 3:52am

Lawmakers Rush Through Final Day

Sine Die is here. Day 40 of the 40-day General Assembly session is underway from the state Capitol. And it’s the final day for lawmakers to pass bills that would then be sent to the Governor's desk for his signature.

Perhaps the highest profile bill still unresolved--the legislation on illegal immigration.

A major sticking point is whether to require employers to verify new hires are here legally. The provision would make many companies use the federal E-Verify database to check the legal status of newly hired workers. Earlier this week, the Senate removed the requirement after much debate on how it would affect small businesses and farmers.

As of early Thursday afternoon, here are some other bills that have now received final passage:

Health Care Compact - The state Senate has voted to join a proposed interstate health care compact, an effort to defy the federal health law. The bill would allow Georgia to create alliances with other states on health care. Compact bills have been popping up in several states, pushed by tea party groups as part of a national states' rights push. Democrats argued that supporters of the bill are simply trying to snub President Barack Obama and his federal health reform law. Republican Sen. Charlie Bethel of Dalton, who carried the bill in the chamber, says the legislation is in line with Obama's challenge to states to demonstrate they have a better plan. The bill passed 35-18 and now heads to the governor for his signature.

Gulfstream Tax Breaks - A bill extending a hefty tax break for Savannah, Ga.-based Gulfstream Aerospace is headed to Gov. Nathan Deal's desk. The bill squeaked-by in the House Thursday after Speaker David Ralston cast the deciding vote. The state Senate tacked-on an amendment providing a tax break for tourist attractions, Rep. Ron Stephens, a Savannah Republican, said it encourages tourist attractions in the state "similar to Disney World."

Anitfreeze Bill - Legislation requiring that antifreeze sold in Georgia be made bitter tasting is headed to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. The House on Thursday gave the measure final approval by a vote of 126-48. It mandates that the bitter-tasting chemical denatonium benzoate be added to antifreeze sold in Georgia. More than a dozen other states have passed similar laws. The legislation is designed to protect dogs and other pets who consume antifreeze, which smells and tastes sweet.

Hunting Baiting Restrictions - Lawmakers have given final approval to a bill that removes baiting restrictions on south Georgia deer and hog hunters. The House on Thursday voted 110-39 to agree to changes made in the Senate. It now heads to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. The measure inspired passionate debate in both the House and Senate. Currently, hunters can lay bait for deer and hogs but may only hunt them from 200 yards away. The bill removes the distance restrictions. Opponents labeled such hunting unsportsmanlike and unethical.

Make sure to tune into GPB Radio Thursday afternoon and Friday morning for the latest on the General Assembly’s end. And get the latest anytime by logging on to


Melissa Stiers, Associated Press