This Week Under the Gold Dome: Week 7

Today marks day 30 under the Gold Dome! On day 30, also known as Crossover Day, any bill that has not passed its original chamber will not continue in the legislative process. However, there are creative ways to amend bills that have survived by inserting the legislation that did not pass, thus keeping the idea alive. This means Rep. Frye and other legislators must be vigilant in order to ensure that legislation they support is not altered in ways they no longer believe will benefit the state. Keep reading to learn more about what happened during this decisive week of the Georgia General Assembly.

Casino Gambling Bill 

A vote on legalizing casinos in the state must occur today if sponsors hope to be successful with the bill this session. Last week, a House committee approved the bill which would allow up to four casinos around the state with two located in the metro Atlanta area.  At least 90 percent of the revenues from casinos would be directed towards education. This includes funding for the HOPE scholarship.  Currently, the HOPE scholarship is funded by the state lottery, but legislators have struggled to continue funding the scholarship with increased demand in the state for the the scholarship. In addition to the bill, there is an accompanying resolution. The resolution must pass by a two-thirds vote in the House, and if the resolution passes, voters around the state will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum to decide to legalize the casinos or not. Opponents argue that casinos will not have a strong enough economic impact, will cause social problems, will cause an increase in gambling addictions and will cause an increase in crime.  In November 2015, a poll was conducted asking if casino gambling should remain against the law in Georgia.  According to poll results, 38 percent said yes, 54 percent said no and 8 percent were undecided.  If the bill doesn’t reach the House floor for a vote by today, it will be off the table until next year.

No In-State Cultivation of Medical Cannabis

The House Judiciary Committee removed the provision to grow medical cannabis in the state from HB 722 last week. Currently, those with approved medical conditions must travel to states where cannabis is legal in order to obtain their medication.  Cultivating medical cannabis in Georgia would eliminate the need to travel from state to state for these patients.  Medical conditions that will be eligible for the medical cannabis registry include Tourette’s Syndrome, HIV/AIDS and terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than two years.  Originally, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was eliminated from eligibility from concerns over the broadness of the disorder, but this provision was added back last week.  The bill is now headed to the House for a vote.

Religious Liberty

The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) passed the Georgia Senate and is now being sent back to the House.  This newly proposed legislation combines FADA  and the Pastor Protection Act, and it will grant faith-based organizations the right to withhold services if they so choose.  The bill states that no discriminatory action shall be taken against people believing “that a marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”  The legislation also allows “religious adoption agencies, schools, government workers and others to refuse services to same-sex couples without being penalized.”  Employees of faith-based organizations could be terminated from positions due to their sexual orientation, and the organization could not be held liable for that decision.  Some projections state that this bill could result in a potential a loss of revenue as some businesses will not choose to remain in Georgia with this legislation. Those opposing the bill feel it is an attempt to use religion to divide Georgians.  This controversial bill will continue to be a hot topic under the Dome.

With only 10 days left in the Legislative Session, make sure to stay informed about what is happening in your district by following Rep. Frye’s efforts as he advocates for  your causes this session.