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Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 8:32pm

Dozens of Bills Clear Senate

The state Senate heard 30 bills on an important day in the state legislature, commonly called Crossover Day.

Bills had to pass must pass at least one chamber by midnight Wednesday. Otherwise, they died and will have to start all over again next year.

The Senate voted to pass more than a dozen bills that will next be forwarded to the House for their vote.

With Republicans holding the majority in the Senate most measures easily passed along party lines.

Bills that passed included a measure require welfare recipients to submit to drug testing. Similar legislation also passed in the House. The law would require that welfare recipients pass a randomly scheduled drug test at least once every two years. Those who fail a first test could reapply, but additional drug tests could make them ineligible for benefits.

Lawmakers also want to require food stamp recipients to earn their GED, pursue technical education, attend self-development classes or enroll in adult literacy classes.

Senators approved a bill prohibiting state health insurance from covering abortions and a proposal allowing church-affiliated health care providers to opt out of providing contraception. Similar bills filed recently in Idaho, Missouri and Arizona echo a separate proposal in the U.S. Congress that would exempt insurance plans from the contraception requirement if they have moral objections.

The legislation is a response to a recent Obama administration decision that seeks to guarantee employees of religion-affiliated institutions reproductive health coverage, which would include contraception.

The Senate also passed legislation making some types of mass picketing illegal. Teachers and police officers would be exempt from the ban on mass picketing at private residences or at the site of labor disputes when such protests are blocking or threatening business entrances or certain public areas.

Another bill headed to the House will, in certain cases, allow teens as young as 18 to carry firearms. It lowers the concealed carry gun permit age requirement from 21 to 18, provided the permit seeker completes certified training and meets other qualifications. Sponsor Sen. Barry Loudermilk said there are returning soldiers who could get jobs with private investigators or executive protection or private security companies if the law is changed.

Senators voted only one measure down: an educational bill that proposed prohibiting local school boards from using standards based grading past the third grade.

Lawmakers have 10 session days remaining to consider legislation passed by their colleagues in the other chamber.

Click here for a recap of Crossover Day action in the House.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.