Tag Archives: gun control

2014 Georgia Legislative Session Update 4

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned sine die as scheduled on Thursday, March 20.

The General Assembly took action on the following bills in its last days. Governor Deal has forty days after the end of the session to sign or veto bills that have passed.

Abortion Funding in Insurance Exchanges.  Both the Senate and House of Representatives adopted SB 98 to prohibit funding of abortions under health insurance policies issued through  the health insurance exchanges established in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act. The bill also enacts into statutory law the action of the Department of Community Health in eliminating abortion funding from the State employees’ health plan. The Conference strongly SUPPORTED SB 98.

Gun Control. Although the Senate Judiciary Committee initially made favorable changes to HB 875 related to the availability of guns and other weapons, the Senate ultimately accepted the House version of the bill with only limited changes.

The final bill continues to prohibit weapons in houses of worship “unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship  permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders.” The bill, however, diminishes the penalty for carrying weapons to a $100.00 fine with no arrest permitted for a license holder. A person carrying a weapon without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Beyond houses of worship, the bill is wide ranging and, among numerous provisions, will allow carrying weapons in bars; in any government building not restricted or screened by a security officer; and, in school safety zones if authorized by a duly authorized officer. The bill also provides a judicial licensing  process for those adjudicated mentally incompetent or not guilty of certain crimes by reason of insanity; prohibits local governments from regulating gun dealers or guns shows; protects those who claim to have inadvertently entered restricted parts of commercial airports; prohibits law enforcement from requiring production of a carry license when someone is carrying a weapon; and, provides that defense of self and others is an absolute defense of any violation of weapon regulation.

The Georgia Catholic Conference, along with other religious and civic leaders, OPPOSED HB 875.

Insurance Coverage for Autism. The General Assembly failed to pass any legislation that would have required state-regulated health plans to cover the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism through age six. In the next plan year, however, the State employee benefit plan will provide some coverage for autism to State employees. The Conference SUPPORTED the coverage for autism.

Drug Testing for Food Stamp Recipients. The General Assembly passed HB 772 which will require body fluid drug testing for food stamp recipients any time that a “reasonable suspicion exists that such applicant or recipient is using an illegal drug.” The Conference OPPOSED HB 772. Similar legislation passed several years ago has been enjoined and, despite some modifications, many lawyers believe that this bill is unconstitutional.  Our opposition is based on the dignity of the human person and the need for protection of children, many of whom could lose food stamp subsidies if the law goes into effect.

Child Testimony. The General Assembly adopted HB 804 which will allow children under 17 years of age, who are victims of violent crimes, to testify against their perpetrators by video rather than in person. The Conference SUPPORTED  HB 804.

Immigration. For the first time in several years, the General Assembly has not passed adverse legislation specifically directed at immigrants.

 

2014 Georgia Legislative Session Update 2

The coming week is critical for legislation in the Georgia General Assembly as it approaches “cross-over” day on Monday, March 3, the day when bills must be adopted by at least one house to be viable for this session. Thus, we will lose favorable bills if they are not through one house or we will have to continue opposing unfavorable bills that do pass one house.

Opportunities for Personal Participation:

Reminder — Rescheduled Catholic Day. Catholic Day at the Capitol has been re-scheduled for March 6. Participation remains open to all. Revised details and registration information is available on the website for the Georgia Catholic Conference.

Tuesdays at the Capitol. I remain available for informal discussion of legislative issues at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception each Tuesday morning while the General Assembly is in session. Details are available on the Georgia Catholic Conference website.

Participation by Priests. In order to accommodate the schedules of priests, I continue to extend an offer to any priest who would like to come to the Capitol as his schedule permits to receive a briefing on pending issues, meet with legislators and enjoy lunch at the legislative office building. Please contact me at fmulcahy@georgiacc.org or (770) 490-4244 to make arrangements.

Abortion Funding in Insurance Exchanges.  The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee recommended passage of SB 98 to prohibit funding abortions under health insurance policies issued under the health insurance exchanges established in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act. We now seek support from the Rules Committee so that the bill can be debated by the full Senate and moved to the House by cross-over day.

Gun Control. The House of Representatives has adopted HB 875 proposing changes to the control of individual weapons in Georgia. Although we are disappointed in the outcome, we will continue our advocacy in the Senate which has assigned the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 826 would have changed the definition of “school safety zone” to eliminate private schools from the safety zones where weapons are prohibited.  The author accepted our suggestion that this part of the bill be changed to keep the current definition which is favorable to our Catholic schools.

Statute of Limitations Expansion. HB 771 proposes to make the statute of limitations for various forms of child abuse unlimited. A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee approved the bill with some generally favorable amendments. The bill will be considered by the full committee where additional changes will likely be made.

Religious Liberty. House Bill 895, like its Senate counterpart Senate Resolution 808, proposes void the effectiveness of foreign laws, including religious laws. Along with the Anti-Defamation League and members of the State Bar of Georgia, I spoke against the resolution in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will speak this week in the House Judiciary Committee. Among other things, the bill could affect the ownership of church property in Georgia.

We support Senate Bill 377 and House Bill 1023 which would enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA is intended to exempt from generally applicable statutes regulations which burden freedom of religion unless the law is supported by a compelling government interest of a high order. Congress enacted a federal version of this law for federal law with bi-partisan support in 1993 and this statute forms an important basis for our position in the HHS mandate cases. These bills would provide similar religious liberty protections in state law. SB 377 has been recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be heard by a House subcommittee in the next few days.

HB 861 would provide an extensive protocol allowing students to express religious views in public school forums, class assignments, graduation ceremonies and other public gatherings. The bill is being heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

Parental Choice in Education. There has been no action on legislation to increase the cap on tax credits to support student scholarship programs, such as G.R.A.C.E Scholars.  There is, however, some consideration being given to alternative structures for the student scholarship program, not all of which would benefit G.R.A.C.E Scholars.

New Americans Act. There has still been no action on SB 312 which would require the Department of Human Resources to identify and assist legal immigrants in obtaining citizenship through the naturalization process.

Child Testimony. The House Judiciary Committee will consider HB 804 proposes to allow children under 18 years of age who are victims of violent crimes to testify against their perpetrators by video rather than in person. This type of legislation has passed in other states to make prosecution of violent criminals more feasible for young victims.

Note: Because legislation on cross-over day can have such dramatic effect on the status of much legislation, my next report will be held until immediately after March 3.

2014 Georgia Legislative Session Update 1

Including the snow emergency days which had to be included in the allotted forty (40) legislative days, the Georgia General Assembly has now completed nineteen (19) days of its calendar.

Upcoming Opportunities. The Eighth Annual Catholics at the Capitol has been re-scheduled due to weather. Details on the re-scheduled day will be posted on the website as they are made available.  Participation is open to all. Details and registration information is available at the Archdiocese website at http://www.archatl.com/catholicday

Opportunities for Priests. In order to accommodate the schedules of priests, I am extending an offer to any priest who would like to come to the Capitol as his schedule permits to receive a briefing on pending issues, meet with legislators and enjoy lunch at the legislative office building. Please contact me at fmulcahy@georgiacc.org or (770) 490-4244 to make arrangements.

Abortion Funding in Insurance Exchanges.  We continue discussing with legislators the need for prohibiting abortion funding from insurance policies issued under the new federal insurance exchanges to the  fullest extent possible. The Affordable Care Act allows such elimination and other states have adopted similar legislation.

Gun Control. HB 875 proposes changes to the control of individual weapons in Georgia. Archbishop Gregory and Bishop Hartmayer have issued a press statement in opposition to the bill. In addition to a release to the press, I delivered the statement at a press conference in partnership with an interfaith panel of religious leaders. The Georgia Baptist Convention did not join us and has formally supported expanded weapons availability.

The thrust of the bill is that those who have obtained a carry license should not be restricted from carrying weapons except under limited circumstances.

We oppose provisions which:

    1. eliminates the long standing prohibition of weapons in houses of worship and eliminates the prohibition of weapons in bars. In the future, houses of worship and bars would have only the same rights as other property owners to request that those possessing weapons leave the premises.
    2. makes carrying weapons on public college campuses a civil offense with a fine of  $100.00.
    3. expands the scope of those who may be authorized to carry weapons in a school safety zone, at a school function or on a school bus.
    4. permits carry concealed weapons in all public buildings unless those buildings have security procedures operated by certified peace officers. Unless certified peace officers are present, concealed weapons will be permitted in public libraries, senior centers, recreations centers and the like.
    5. permits issuance of weapons licenses to persons under 21 years of age who have had military training and are currently on active duty or have been honorably discharged and allows a carry license even if a person has been convicted of previously pointing a gun at another in violation of criminal law.
    6. provides an “absolute defense” for any person in defending self or others whether or not that person has a carry license.
    7. prohibits creating or maintaining a database of weapons carry license holders.
    8. specifically does not require that school boards and administrators adopt any policy governing weapons usage in schools. Documentation of license holders authorized by a school are exempt from public disclosure.
    9. prohibits all local regulation of gun shows, possession of firearms and weapons, or firearms and weapons dealers. Any person may bring a lawsuit against local governments that violate this prohibition.
    10. prohibits Stare government restriction on possession of any weapons even in case of national emergency.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security recommended passage of the bill and the bill will likely be debated in the House of Representative in the next few days.

Statute of Limitations Expansion. HB 771 proposes to make the statute of limitations for various forms of child abuse unlimited. Under the proposal, a civil claim for damages from child abuse may be brought at any time in the future. Currently, such claims can be brought no later than five (5) years after the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age. The proposed change would apply only to abuse that occurred after June 30, 2014.

Religious Liberty. Senate Resolution 808 proposes a constitutional amendment ostensibly intended to prevent application of foreign law in Georgia jurisdictions. This legislation appeared as a bill in 2012 and is supported by several conservative religious groups because of their fear that Georgia courts will adopt Islamic Sharia law principles. We opposed the bill in 2012 because it is so broad that it could preclude application of our Canon Law in many unknown situations as well as the laws of other religious denominations. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League will oppose the legislation as interfering with their religious laws. We have a particular concern in Georgia because Georgia law related to property ownership by religious institutions incorporates the directives of church law in defining ownership. The Episcopal Church in Georgia recently had lengthy litigation over ownership of a church building in Savannah and relied on this statute. We will oppose the constitutional amendment as unnecessary.

Parental Choice in Education. We continue to support school choice with emphasis on the continued viability and expansion of student scholarship organizations (SSO), such as G.R.A.C.E. Scholars. The program is so popular with taxpayers that the contributions up to the $50 million state-wide annual cap for all organizations was reached after only 22 days! HB 7was introduced to increase the cap to $100 million.

New Americans Act. SB 312 would require the Department of Human Resources to identify and assist legal immigrants in obtaining citizenship through the naturalization process. Much legislation in the past has targeted immigrants with penalties in the past bill this is an affirmative bill to help those eligible for citizenship to obtain their goal. We support the purposes of this bill as a positive step toward welcoming those from other countries.

Child Testimony. HB 804 proposes to allow children under 18 years of age who are victims of violent crimes to testify against their perpetrators by video rather than in person. This type of legislation has passed in other states to make prosecution of violent criminals more feasible for young victims.