GA lawmakers prep for new session- voting machines, medical marijuana laws, and more to be reviewed

GA lawmakers prep for new session

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Georgia lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Jan. 14 for the 2019 legislative session. Here is a look at some of the issues and trends to watch for:

NEW GOVERNOR ACTIONS

On the same day that lawmakers are sworn in at the Capitol, Kemp will be sworn in as Georgia’s 83rd governor. Kemp has yet to reveal exactly what legislation he will pursue in his first year in office.

During the primary, Kemp supported right legislation such as more gun rights and stricter abortion laws. But recently, Kemp has sounded more moderate, pledging to work across the aisle to increase teacher pay and expand access to health care.

NEW VOTING MACHINES

Georgia’s electronic touchscreen voting machines, in use since 2002, have garnered widespread criticism due to the machines lack of accountability and security.

While almost everyone acknowledges the need for a replacement, debate is taking place over exactly what the new system should be.

Democrats have vowed to continue pushing for hand-marked paper ballots tabulated by an optical scanner, citing that they are the most secure, cheapest, and allow voters to verify their choices before casting a ballot.

Many Republicans have come out in favor of a costlier touchscreen ballot-marking machine that prints a paper record.

ATLANTA AIRPORT MANAGEMENT CHANGES

In December, a Georgia Senate committee recommended that state lawmakers consider creating an authority to oversee Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

They say the current management structure, with power consolidated with the City of Atlanta, isn’t working. They pointed to past corruption and scandals as proof.

However, others in the Capitol may be more reluctant to mess with the success the airport has seen- becoming one of the world’s busiest under the city’s management.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW CHANGES

The Georgia legislature also appears ready to consider bills allowing for the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana. Currently. Georgia has some of the toughest marijuana laws in the country.

Current state laws allows individuals with 16 specific conditions to possess low potency marijuana oil. However, marijuana remains illegal to grow, process, buy, sell and transport.

This has created an odd legal loophole where about 6,000 Georgia patients are registered to legally possess the drug but can’t legally obtain it. Many want this loophole fixed.

However, some critics in the state fear that expansion of medical marijuana could lead to recreational sales in the future.

MORE WOMEN IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

This legislative session will include a record number of women lawmakers under the gold dome.

According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, women will hold 72 of 236 seats in the Georgia General Assembly. That equates to just over 30 percent of the legislature.

In 2017, women held 58 of 236 seats, around 25 percent of the legislature.

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