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Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 3:48pm

Deadline Looms For Bills To Live Or Die

Today is the last day of the 2013 legislative session, and state lawmakers are busy passing bills before the midnight deadline.

As of early evening, lawmakers have still not voted on the two most controversial bills: a bill that would lift gun restrictions and a measure that would instate a cap on lobbyists’ spending. A bill that contained a provision about abortion appears to have died. But they did pass the 2014 budget.

In the early afternoon, House Speaker David Ralston said lawmakers had reached a compromise on the gift cap bill. It would limit lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers at $75 per expenditure. The Senate had been pushing for a $100 cap, while the House had favored banning all gifts to individual lawmakers.

Lawmakers are also continuing to negotiate the gun measure. A sticking point is college campuses. In the current version, the bill would allow university students to carry firearms on campuses. That provision has provoked strenuous objections from the Board of Regents, including namely chancellor Hank Huckaby, a former lawmaker.

A bill that would have barred state employees from using their insurance plan for most abortions appears to have died.

The bill originally pertained to employee benefits for Georgia World Congress Center employees. But the state Senate added the abortion clause at the last minute, leading to its holdup.

The House rejected the amendment, and sent it back to the Senate.

Gov. Nathan Deal said there wasn’t enough time to fully vet that provision.

“That is an issue that probably needed more time and discussion to make the members familiar with the situation,” he said. “And I think over the recess we will all be looking at in terms of what our state health benefit plan provides and whether there are other ways short of legislation that this could be addressed.”

Lawmakers in the House finally voted on the 2014 budget around 8 p.m. The $19 billion spending plan boosts the number of days in the pre-K program, funds school enrollment growth and pays for construction projects. Mainly, however, it’s a modest increase from last year as state tax collections continue to lag.

The budget is the only Constitutionally-mandated task lawmakers must complete each session.

The last day of the 40-day session, known as Sine Die, is often hectic, with lawmakers and lobbyists wheeling and dealing into the final hours of the night.

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