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State & Regional Govt & Politics
How will Georgia governor deal with major bills from the 2019 session?

How will Georgia governor deal with major bills from the 2019 session?

How will Georgia governor deal with major bills from the 2019 session?
Photo Credit: Alyssa Pointer

How will Georgia governor deal with major bills from the 2019 session?

The end of the legislative session triggers the start Wednesday of another 40-day period — this time for Gov. Brian Kemp to sign measures into law or veto them.

Over the next few weeks, the Republican will set a tone for how he will handle some of the state’s most contentious debates, including an overhaul of election policy, an expansion of medical marijuana programs and what would be one of the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions.

His immediate predecessor, Gov. Nathan Deal, was never shy about using the red pen: He nixed dozens of measures over eight years, including a “religious liberty” bill and legislation that would allow gun owners to legally carry firearms on most parts of college campuses.

Live: Use AJC tracker to follow Georgia bills

Photos: Sine Die at the Georgia legislature

Kemp has until May 12 to decide whether to issue vetoes or allow bills to become law, but he has already staked a position on many of the highest-profile measures that cleared the General Assembly. But each piece of legislation must first go through an extensive legal vetting that could jeopardize legislation that may otherwise have broad support.

“I’ve always tried to be a governor who lets people know when we have issues early, so we’re not in a position to veto bills,” Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There may be things we didn’t realize there’s an unintended consequence, but I’ve been pretty consistent in letting legislators know where we are.”

Here’s a rundown of where the biggest bills stand: 


In a series of votes packed with drama and tension, Georgia lawmakers narrowly adopted House Bill 481, which would outlaw most abortions from the moment a doctor can detect a heartbeat in an embryo – as early as six weeks.

The measure passed over the objections of a broad coalition that included influential medical groups, Hollywood celebrities and a small band of suburban Republicans. Supporters promised it would preserve the sanctity of life — if it first survives a legal challenge.

Will Kemp sign it? Certainly. The governor pledged on the campaign trail to sign the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions, and he told the AJC this measure fits the bill.

“I can’t govern because I’m worried about what someone in Hollywood thinks about me,” Kemp said.


State lawmakers approved a record $27.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year that includes $3,000 pay raises for public school teachers and 2 percent hikes for tens of thousands of state workers.

It would be one of the largest teacher pay raises in state history, and increases have been small or nonexistent for many years since the Great Recession crippled the state’s budget in the late 2000s. It passed with broad bipartisan support.

Will Kemp sign it? Yes. He’s called the spending agreement a “balanced, conservative budget” that reflects the state’s values and funds priorities.

Certificate of need

After a decade of debate, lawmakers approved legislation designed to free up some competition for hospitals and ease state certificate of need restrictions.

The compromise over House Bill 186 would allow the Cancer Treatment Centers of America to expand, while also protecting hospitals from the threat of a new wave of outpatient surgery centers they fear would gut their bottom line.

But they don’t go far enough for critics of the regulations, who say they are an obstacle to free-market competition.

Will Kemp sign it? It seems likely. After negotiations stalled, Kemp threatened to take “executive action” if the General Assembly failed to pass legislation.

Elections law

Legislation to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines with a touchscreen system that spits out paper ballots was approved after a polarizing debate over how to protect the integrity of the vote while ensuring accurate election results.

House Bill 316 also would rewrite election laws dealing with voter registration cancellations, recounts and precinct closures that surfaced during the 2018 governor’s race between Kemp and Stacey Abrams.

She and other Democrats fought the legislation, saying it would leave Georgia’s elections vulnerable to hacking and doesn’t include meaningful changes to encourage more voter participation.

Will Kemp sign it? Yes. As secretary of state, Kemp created a panel that recommended that the state move to these types of ballot-marking devices. He said the measure “ensures our elections remain secure, accessible and fair.”

Medical marijuana

Georgia lawmakers struck a deal hours before the legislative session ended to allow medical marijuana patients to buy the cannabis oil they’re already legally allowed to use.

The compromise on House Bill 324 would for the first time legalize the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana through small growers, state universities and licensed sellers.

Will Kemp sign it? Likely. The governor helped broker the deal between House and Senate leaders who struggled to strike a balance between providing access to legitimate patients while preventing illegal marijuana distribution. But he still seemed torn over it.

“It’s a very, very tough issue. But there’s a lot of legislative support for it. I respect the legislative process, and I understand why people are doing it, and I understand why people have grave concerns about this,” he said in an interview. “I have all of those feelings. It’s a really tough spot.”

Health care waivers

Shortly after he was sworn into office, Kemp sought to regain broad powers to allow his administration to pursue two separate waivers with the federal government that could set a path toward limited Medicaid expansion and create new funds to stabilize private insurance premiums.

The proposal sets a limited timeline for him to fulfill the plan — and bans pursuit of a full Medicaid expansion, which he opposes in any case. Still, it would allow Kemp’s office discretion to seek vast changes that could reshape how hundreds of thousands of Georgians get health care coverage.

Will Kemp sign it? He did so last month, promising “this process will remain transparent” as his administration negotiates changes with the federal government that are no sure thing, despite Kemp’s alliance with President Donald Trump.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.

Read More


  • A member of the U.S. intelligence community said a phone call between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader so alarmed them that a “whistleblower” complaint was filed. >> Read more trending news  While not much is known for sure, news reports say the complaint involved a “promise” involving Ukraine. Here’s a look at what we know, what we don’t’ know and what is next. What happened? On Aug. 12, a whistleblower filed a complaint with the Office of Intelligence Community Inspector General over a phone call made by Trump to a foreign leader. Who is the whistleblower? We do not know the name of the whistleblower or if he or she heard the phone call or read a transcript of the call. What did the complaint say? The details of the complaint have not been made public. News reports say it has to do with a promise Trump made to a foreign leader. What kind of promise? Again, nothing has been made public. The New York Times is reporting that the complaint is related to Trump and Ukraine and that it involved “multiple actions.” The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump pushed the recently elected Ukrainian President ‎Volodymyr Zelensy, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter. Hunter Biden served as an independent director of the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma Holdings Ltd. He has not been accused of legal wrongdoing related to his work for Burisma. He was paid as much as $50,000 per month in some months for his service on the board of the directors, according to The New York Times. Why hasn’t Congress seen the complaint? After the member of the intelligence community filed the complaint with the Office of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson decided the complaint was credible and of “urgent concern.” An “urgent concern,” according to the Department of Defense inspector general’s website, means 'a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of the law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters.' The complaint was forwarded to Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national security.According to federal law, the DNI is required to send any complaint deemed of urgent concern to congressional intelligence oversight committees within seven days. Maguire has not shared the complaint with Congress. According to a Washington Post story, Maguire has sent a letter to Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, informing him that he is not required to share the letter because the complaint was not of urgent concern. Maguire wrote that he does not have to forward the complaint to Congress because it involved “conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any ‘intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the DNI.' When did this start? When was the complaint filed? Here is a timeline of the complaint: A complaint was filed Aug. 12 with the office of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. Aug. 26: Atkinson’s office decided the complaint was credible and of “urgent concern.” It is forwarded to Maguire. Sept. 2: Maguire misses his seven-day deadline to report a complaint deemed of “urgent concern” to Congress. Sept. 9: Atkinson reported the complaint to congressional intelligence committees. Sept. 10: Schiff requested the full, unredacted complaint and the ICIG’s findings. Schiff also asked for records from the office of the director of national intelligence's involvement, 'including any and all correspondence with other Executive Branch actors including the White House.' Sept. 13: The ODNI declined those requests. Sept. 13: Schiff subpoenaed Maguire to turn over the information. Schiff also said that the ODNI had consulted with the Department of Justice. “The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or administration officials. This raises grave concerns that your office, together with the Department of Justice and possibly the White House, are engaged in an unlawful effort to protect the President and conceal from the Committee information related to his possible “serious or flagrant” misconduct, abuse of power, or violation of law.” Sept. 15: Two days later Schiff said his committee was told by Maguire that he was ordered not to turn over the whistleblower’s complaint by a “higher authority.” Sept. 17: Schiff received notification from the ODNI that the agency had overruled the ICIG and determined the complaint did not meet the definition of 'urgent concern' under the law. Sept. 18: Schiff sent a letter to Maguire informing him that the subpoena to appear before his committee on Sept. 19 had been postponed by one week to Sept. 26. Sept. 18: The Washington Post reported that the whistleblower complaint centered on Trump and a phone call he made to a foreign leader. The whistleblower said the call involved a promise Trump made. Sept. 20: The Wall Street Journal reported that two weeks before the complaint was filed, Trump had a phone call with Zelensky and that he repeatedly pushed Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden. The story said that it was not believed that Trump offered anything to the Ukrainian leader in exchange for the investigation.  Sept. 21: Trump tweets that the media is not looking into allegations against Biden over the Ukraine issue while again defending his own conversations with Ukraine's president. Sept. 22: Trump tweets on Sunday: “The real story involves Hunter Biden going around the world and collecting large payments from foreign governments and foreign oligarchs.”  What is the latest Trump is saying? On Monday, Trump suggested there could be a link between the review of military aid to Ukraine and his call to persuade the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden. “It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” During the weekend, Trump confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that he discussed Biden with Zelensky in a July phone conversation.  The Journal reported last week that the call included pressure from Trump for the Ukrainian president to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on an inquiry into Biden and his son.  Will we see a transcript of the call? Trump said Sunday he would consider releasing a transcript of a phone call he had with Ukraine’s leader. Members of his Cabinet have said that is not a good idea since the president needs to be able to conduct some aspects of foreign policy in private.
  • Days after his release from the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown has reportedly enrolled back in school. MLive.com reported that, according to a Monday post on Brown's Instagram story, he's taking four classes at his alma mater. >> Read more trending news  'Antonio Brown is currently enrolled in online degree completion coursework at Central Michigan University,' Heather Smith, a school spokeswoman, told MLive.com. 'He does not attend classes on a CMU campus.' According to the image Brown posted on social media, he appears to be taking an introduction to management class, a class on technical writing, a sociology class on racism and inequality and a religion course in death and dying. ESPN reported Brown played football at Central Michigan from 2007 to 2009. In 2010, he was a sixth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown was released from the Patriots after 11 days on the team. He is facing multiple lawsuits in which he is accused of sexual assault and rape. Brown said he was 'done with the NFL' after he was dropped by the Pats.
  • If you believe cats are antisocial, think again. The animals can develop bonds with their caregivers just like children, according to a new report. >> Read more trending news  Researchers from Oregon State University recently conducted a study, published in the Current Biology journal, to explore the attachment bonds between cats and humans. To do so, they observed more than 100 cats and kittens that underwent a “secure base test,” an examination often given to infants and dogs to assess their attachment behaviors. During the test, the cats spent two minutes in a new room with their caregiver before being separated from their owner for two minutes and then reunited with them for another two minutes. After analyzing the data, they found cats with a secure attachment seemed less stressed during their reunion, compared to cats with an insecure attachment. They said cats with a secure attachment were more likely to balance their attention between their caregiver and surroundings. For example, they continued to explore the room while also interacting with their owner. On the other hand, insecure cats showed more signs of stress by twitching their tail or licking their lips. They would also either avoid the person completely or cling to them by jumping on their lap but not moving. “In both dogs and cats, attachment to humans may represent an adaptation of the offspring-caretaker bond,” co-author Kristyn Vitale said in a statement. “Attachment is a biologically relevant behavior. Our study indicates that when cats live in a state of dependency with a human, that attachment behavior is flexible and the majority of cats use humans as a source of comfort.” Overall, they said 64.3% of the animals were categorized as securely attached, while 35.7% of them were insecurely attached. The percentages remained relatively the same even when the team put the cats through a six-week training course. The goal was to determine whether socialization coaching would significantly alter their initial results. “Once an attachment style has been established between the cat and its caregiver, it appears to remain relatively stable over time, even after a training and socialization intervention,” Vitale said. The scientists said they were surprised by their findings and noted this is the first study to prove cats can display attachment styles that are similar to dogs and babies. “Cats that are insecure can be likely to run and hide or seem to act aloof,” Vitale said. “There’s long been a biased way of thinking that all cats behave this way. But the majority of cats use their owner as a source of security. Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed out.”
  • A Missouri couple were horrified to learn their house had once been a methamphetamine lab after discovering their unborn child had tested positive for amphetamines. >> Read more trending news  Elisha Hessel and her husband, Tyler Hessel, had been trying to have a child for three years, WFAA reported. The couple were elated to learn Elisha was pregnant, but when she went for her recommended blood tests she was in for a shock: the unborn baby had tested positive. 'When they called me, I didn't know what that meant. So I asked the nurse if that meant like, drugs in general,” Elisha Hessel told WAND-TV. “She basically just said 'Yes,' and asked me if I could explain that.' Neither one of the Hessels had taken amphetamines, so after researching several scenarios, they decided to have their house tested for traces of the drugs, CBS News reported. Thinking back, they recalled some hints the neighbors had made about the home. 'Just through normal conversations as we got to know them a little better they said they were so happy to finally have 'normal' people move in next door,' Elisha Hessel told CBS News. 'They had also mentioned that the police were there for a possible drug bust type situation.' The tests showed the home's ventilator system was heavily contaminated with meth and residue used to make the drug, WFAA reported. Most states, including Missouri, require home sellers to disclose any material defects in their property to prospective buyers, according to Nolo Press, a database of legal articles. The state of Missouri specifically requires sellers to disclose if their property was used to produce meth, CBS News reported. However, state and county law does not have a penalty for anyone who fails to disclose a home’s meth contamination to a buyer or who doesn’t clean a property, WFAA reported. The Hessels said they were never told. After digging through records in Jefferson County for meth seizures, Elisha Hessel told CBS News she found her property listed in the database. On Oct. 3, 2013, authorities in Jefferson County responded to a tip at the home about a possible meth lab, WFAA reported. According to a police report, authorities found a burned barrel in the backyard when they apprehended a man at the residence, the television station reported. The barrel was full of empty allergy pillboxes, empty drain opener and camp fuel bottles and other supplies often used to make meth, according to the report. “When you look at the numbers, Jefferson County led the St Louis region, the state and the nation in meth lab seizures,” Jefferson County Undersheriff Timothy Whitney told WFAA. “We could have looked the other way, but as an agency, we decided to go headlong at the problem.” “There wasn't evidence that day at that time to suggest that distribution or manufacturing was going on,” Whitney told the television station In 2016, the house became the property of a bank, then it was sold to another buyer before the Hessels bought the property, WFAA reported. The Hessels have abandoned the house and have moved in with Elisha Hessel's mother, WAND reported. 'We have moved out and really do not know exactly what to do at this point,' Elisha Hessel told CBS News. She said the insurance company denied their claim, and their attorney says the best option is to pursue the insurance company to cover the remediation of the home. That will be expensive. The Hessels said they got an estimate of approximately $100,000 -- what the house is worth -- to clean it up. While Elisha Hessel said her blood tests have been clean lately, the baby will be tested again when she is born in January, WFAA reported. If the child's amphetamine levels are detected that day, the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services will get involved, the television station reported. “Everybody wants to have their own home when they bring their baby home,” Elisha Hessel told WFAA. “A lot of it's the disappointment and being upset over it, but I have definitely been angry over it as well.” Relatives of the Hessels have set up a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of cleaning up the house.
  • Four baby squirrels will survive but may be scarred after someone tied their tails together.  The incident is being called a case of animal abuse, The Associated Press reported. The Kensington Bird and Animal Hospital in Berlin, Connecticut, said someone brought in the squirrels when they were found on train tracks.  >> Read more trending news  The animals' tails had been tied together intentionally, but hospital employees do admit that tail knotting can happen naturally, according to the AP. In this case, it was a man-made object that kept the animals bound and their tails were broken and braided together. The squirrels, according to hospital employees, were 'tangled, braided, and purposefully tied together,' the AP reported.  Officials also say since the animals were found on train tracks, that could be an indicator of animal cruelty. As for the squirrels themselves, the tails may have to be amputated because of the damage done to them.
  • Authorities in California on Monday canceled an Amber Alert issued over the weekend for a 2-year-old boy in Merced County. >> Read more trending news  Officials with the Merced County Sheriff's Office said John Weir, 2, was last seen Friday with his father, Steven Weir, and that the pair might be headed for Tuolumne or Calveras County. Update 2:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 23: Authorities with the California HIghway Patrol said an Amber Alert issued over the weekend for a 2-year-old boy had been deactivated. Authorities did not immediately provide information on why the alert had been canceled. Original report: Authorities are searching for a missing 2-year-old boy who may be with his 'armed and dangerous' father, the California Highway Patrol and Merced County Sheriff's Office said in an Amber Alert released Saturday. According to KTLA, police believe Steven Weir, 32, abducted John Weir from Merced County, where they were last spotted Friday evening. The pair 'could possibly be heading to the Tuolumne or Calaveras County areas,' the Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post. Authorities described John Weir as a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who was last seen wearing a blue T-shirt with tan shorts. Steven Weir, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 300 pounds, has brown hair and eyes, the Amber Alert said. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with cargo shorts and may be traveling in a red 2005 Hyundai Elantra with California tag 5SKT544, police said. Authorities are urging anyone who sees the Weirs or their vehicle to call 911. Read more here or here.