Sine Die 2019: Live Updates From The Gold Dome

Apr 3, 2019

SINE DIE. 12:00 a.m. April 3. Sine Die! The House and the Senate are done with the 2019 legislative session, using the final minutes to pass a medical marijuana cultivation bill years in the making. 

All bills not passed by both chambers today will be on hold until next session begins January of 2020.

One notable set of measures that did not pass? A jet fuel tax break for Delta and other airlines, a rural transportation plan and a proposal for the state to take over Atlanta's airport. 

Medical Marijuana Clears Senate

11:24 p.m. Georgia Senators have approved a bill that would give more than 8,000 patients access to medical marijuana.

It’s currently illegal to grow or sell the drug here but it is legal to use. The legislation calls for six commercial licenses for growers and one each for the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State.

The bill will allow pharmacies to serve as dispensaries. It must still be agreed on by the House.

Medical Marijuana And School Safety

11:00 p.m. As the clock strikes 11, the Senate is voting on a conference committee's version of a low-THC medical marijuana bill. The House would still have to discuss and vote on the bill. 

Meanwhile, the House sent a school safety bill back over to the Senate. SB 15 would require schools to have updated safety plans to deal with certain threats, among other things.

Still outstanding is a final report on a "Frankenbill" that would give airlines a tax break on jet fuel, plus some proposed combination or rural transit, a state takeover of Atlanta's airport or a legislative oversight committee that can look at 10 commercial airports.

Rural Broadband 

9:20 p.m. Lawmakers have approved a plan to expand broadband access to parts of rural Georgia. 

SB 2 would allow electric membership corporations who sell power to customers to also offer internet service. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Sexual Assault Evidence Passes

9:15 p.m. The Georgia legislature has unanimously passed a bill that would extend the time law enforcement agencies keep rape kits.

A bill passed tonight would require agencies to keep collected evidence like stains, fluids, or hair samples for 30 years from the time a suspect is arrested.

Law enforcement must hang on to the evidence for seven years after a sentence is completed and for 50 years if no arrest is made. The previous requirement was just a decade after the alleged assault. 

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Governor Kemp Speaks

7:56 p.m. Gov. Brian Kemp addressed both the House and the Senate after dinner. He thanked them for their hard work and commended passage of the state's budget. "I think all Georgians can be proud of this great state of Georgia and this body's broad bi-partisan support on our balanced budget. So, congratulations to you all on that and I think that this is a budget that is putting Georgians first and that’s really the most important thing that we do here.”

Medical Marijuana, Transit Measures in Conference Committees

7:30 p.m. It's dinner time at the Capitol, where several big bills have yet to pass

Measures dealing with medical marijuana, rural transit, apprenticeship hours for cosmetologists and a jet fuel tax have been sent to conference committees, which are smaller groups of lawmakers from both chambers who meet to iron out a final version of legislation.  

Before dinner, actress Alyssa Milano and several local film and television workers held a protest against HB 481, which would tighten abortion restrictions if Gov. Brian Kemp signs it.

Conference Committees Underway

4:40 p.m. The House and Senate are in recess as smaller conference committees meet in attempts to agree on final versions of bills.

In the waning hours of the session, these committees are meeting because the full House and Senate have irreconcilable views on how a bill should read. The newest iteration of the jet fuel tax break "Frankenbill" is headed to a conference committee, which is where medical marijuana cultivation and an overhaul of hunting regulations also sit.
A number of bills passed earlier today head back to their original chambers for final passage, including a bill that would require law enforcement to keep evidence from sexual assault cases, or rape kits, up to three times longer.  

The House and the Senate have already passed a budget for next fiscal year. 

Fuel Tax

2:55 p.mA new attempt to preserve a jet fuel tax break for airlines has emerged from the House. 

The original language of SB 200 covered contract bids for the Georgia Department of Transportation. But in last-minute fashion, a "frankenbill" proposal rolls several other bills into SB 200.   In addition to the jet fuel tax break, this version, which passed the House, adds in parts of a rural transit bill that creates a 50 cent fee on taxis, limos and ridesharing apps. The proposal also removes a plan by Republican lawmakers from Gwinnett County to prevent another referendum on MARTA for several years. Last month, voters defeated a measure to expand transit to that county. Also missing from this bill? Any sort of language suggesting legislative oversight or a state takeover of Atlanta's airport. It heads to the Senate for their consideration.

Sexual Assault Evidence

2:35 p.m. Law enforcement agencies could soon be required to keep evidence from sexual assault cases, or rape kits, up to three times longer. 

A bill passed by the Senate would require agencies to keep collected evidence like stains, fluids, or hair samples for 30 years from the time a suspect is arrested.

Law enforcement must hang on to the evidence for seven years after a sentence is completed and for 50 years if no arrest is made. The previous requirement was just a decade after the alleged assault. 

The bill goes back to the House for final approval.

Marriage Age

2:30 p.m. Georgia lawmakers agreed to raise the minimum age for marriage from 16 to 17 years old. People who are 17 must present proof they've been emancipated. 

The bill requires at least six hours of premarital education for people under 18 and their potential spouses during the year before applying for a marriage license. It also aims to reduce the age gap between the two parties. If a 17-year-old wants to marry, the potential spouse can be up to four years older. 

Added protections for minors were added to the bill to prevent forced marriage. It lays out instructions for when the court is supposed to deny a marriage license, including if the younger party has been a victim of a sex crime. 

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Midday Update

2:30 p.m. It's lunchtime at the Capitol, and several bills are headed to the Governor. Roughly 20 measures have cleared the House and the Senate in rapid fashion, ranging from local bills addressing governance in Twiggs County to codifying the farming and production of industrial hemp.

The flurry of activity can be hard to follow, as each chamber votes to agree or disagree with substitutes and changes wrought by the other. Several conference committees already met in attempts to work out differences on issues like medical marijuana and a statewide business court approved by voters last November. 

9 a.m. It's Sine Die, the final day of Georgia's 2019 legislative session.

After the House and Senate convene at 10 a.m., it's a frenetic race to the finish as lawmakers try to pass bills out of both chambers and onto the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp.

Once the day ends, which is not always at midnight, anything that isn't passed by the legislature is paused until next year's session, the second in a biennial schedule.

Lawmakers have been busy this session, approving a record-setting state budget including a $3,000 pay raise for teachers, passing the most restrictive abortion law in the country, paving the way for Medicaid waivers and closing a loophole that allowed drivers to pass a stopped school bus, among other things.

Dozens of bills still need to be voted on, including a jet fuel tax break for airlines, that may or may not include rural transportation funding and a state takeover of Atlanta's airport, new rules regarding patients and access to medical marijuana, and taxes for ridesharing companies and more.

Bookmark this page for updates from the GPB News team at the Capitol throughout Sine Die.

This post was originally published at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 2.