By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA — Bills to establish term limits, waive gun-permit fees for veterans, to place the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds and to make “Merry Christmas” legal in public schools are among those that lawmakers considered important enough to file before next year’s legislative session begins Jan. 13.
The next session is expected to be a quick one since a federal judge ordered an earlier primary election to give soldiers stationed overseas time to receive absentee ballots. A quick session gives lawmakers reason to introduce their proposals early so they’ll have time to make it through the complex legislative process.
Since the 2014 session will be the second of the two-year term, bills not passed in the 2013 session can also be considered.
The first of the new crop was introduced Nov. 15 by Rep. Sheila Jones, D-Atlanta. House Bill 696, to be called the “Shatikey and Demiya Predatory Violence Prevention Act,” would require police to attempt within 12 hours to arrest any two-time felon accused of murder, armed robbery, rape and child molestation.
Another bill introduced the same day is the only one in this year’s early batch sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican, and the Republican is the only member of the House leadership to have a pre-filed bill. HB 697, by Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, and Higher Education Appropriations Chairman Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, would raise the amount of HOPE Scholarships to cover the student’s full tuition.
Among the 10, pre-filed House bills are HB 702 by Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, requiring a granite monument outside the Capitol with the Ten Commandments on one side and the preambles of the state and U.S. constitutions on the other. Meanwhile, HB 700 by Rep. Kisha Waites, D-Atlanta, also concerns the Capitol by requiring the removal of obstacles that make it difficult for the blind to find their way around.
Senators have only filed three bills so far.
Senate Bill 282 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is an update to the state’s laws concerning child support. It’s the type of bill requested by a state agency that legislative leaders assign to freshmen like Hofstetler to gain some experience because it’s likely to pass easily.
Another freshman, Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, has two bills certain to stir passions.
SB 283 dealing with “traditional winter celebrations” allows schools to display a menorah, Christmas tree or nativity scene as long as there’s also a symbol of another religion or a at least one non-religious symbol. Plus, it would “allow students and school system staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ and ‘Happy holidays.'”
Dugan also filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit legislators to 14 years in office. It would also double the length of senators’ terms from two years to four.
He isn’t the first freshman senator with that idea over the years, but he may be the one to get it passed.
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