The General Assembly listed through a brief period of calm last week, a resetting of sorts after the drama of Crossover Day. Most of the legislation that advanced, either in committee or on the floor, did so on broad consensus.
On Friday, the Senate took action to satisfy one of the Governor's final legislative priorities—voting to double the Georgia World Congress Center's authorized bonding capacity. The new $400 million cap will finance an estimated $260 million hotel on the Center's campus. The bill, which the House had had already passed, now moves to Governor Nathan Deal, who is expected to approve the measure.
The Senate separately approved, by unanimous vote, a bill to require that fire departments maintain insurance coverage and pay claims on cancer diagnoses for fire fighters who have served at least 12 consecutive months. Because the House passed a similar but not identical measure, it will need to either agree to the Senate version or the two chambers will have to go conference to come up with a compromise version to send to the Governor's desk.
Today marked the culmination of local craft brewers' and distillers' years-long effort to persuade lawmakers to update their craft distilling laws to allow for on-site retail sales. The House took up and passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 147-14 a compromise Senate proposal green-lighting sales. Georgia and Mississippi are the only two states in the union that still prohibit craft brewers from selling direct to consumers. The legislation represents the most significant change in years to the state's three-tiered system of alcohol sales, though both key stakeholders—brewers and distributors—support the proposal. Because the House expanded the scope of the Senate-approved bill by adding distillers to what had been a brewers bill, a second green light from the Senate will be needed.
The Governor's failing schools bill—his second attempt to improve chronically failing schools across the state—continues to wind its way through Senate committee with the expectation of reaching the floor by a week's time. There remains significant disagreement between the Governor and the state's schools superintendent as to who would exert oversight.