State Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) said things have been a whirlwind so far, but progress is being made even though many have predicted the session would be quick.
“We’re still covering the same ground; we’re just going faster,” she said Thursday. “We’re still passing a balanced budget, we’re doing everything we need to do, and we’re doing it very well, but we’re just running at a faster pace.”
Ballinger is working on several bills, including a revised version of the Safe Carry Protection Act, which passed the House in 2013 but didn’t make it through the Senate.
The 2013 version of the bill would have allowed licensed gun owners to take their weapons into churches, restaurants, bars and other privately owned places, though the establishments could make their own call about allowing the firearms.
Ballinger, who was also a signer on the bill in 2013, declined to go into much other detail about the law, as it was being discussed and could see changes in the next few days.
She simply described it as “Second Amendment rights bill.”
Ballinger, who is in her second session in office, is also a signer on the Fair Taxation Act of 2014, which would abolish the state income tax in favor of consumption taxes, although she isn’t hopeful it will pass this year.
“We’re probably not going to be able to move forward, just with it being an election cycle this year,” she said. “It’s a complete overhaul of how our state pays its bill. With an election year, a lot of balls in the air, a lot of things in flux right now, that’s probably honestly not something that’s going to move forward this year.”
But Ballinger said that bill isn’t dead forever.
“As far as I’m concerned, I certainly plan on pursuing that,” she said. “I think as a state, it’s vital to our economy and our economic development to have a fair tax system in place.”
Ballinger is also working on multiple pieces of legislation that would impact public safety, including one that would require strangulation always be charged as a felony and another that would establish the crime of home invasion.
Ballinger’s Cherokee colleagues in the House are also working on a number of bills, including the Health Care Freedom and ACA Non-Compliance Act, which Reps. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) and Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) have been pushing. That bill would bar state agencies in taking part in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and has been discussed in committee meetings this week.
In the state Senate, Bruce Thompson (R-Cartersville) said he has been working on about eight or 10 pieces of legislation.
Thompson said those include a bill that would stop insurance providers from having to fund certain abortions through qualified health plans.
According to the most up-to-date version of the bill on the state Senate’s website, “no abortion coverage (would) be provided by a qualified health plan offered through a state or federal law or regulation,” if it passes.
Thompson, who is in his first session, is working on another bill that would require the Georgia High School Association, which school districts pay to organize high school sporting events, to be more transparent by disclosing annual audits.
“They make a fortune off our schools. It was said today they get 8 percent of gate receipts and so on, and they have no transparency,” Thompson said Thursday of the bill that passed the Senate earlier in the day. “GHSA has no financial oversight and they’re not forced to be transparent. It almost seems like they’re strong-arming.”
Thompson has also signed onto a resolution which would allow schools to celebrate winter holidays.
“If it’s Christmas and you want to call it Christmas, you can call it Christmas without any persecution,” he said. “If you want to say ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ you can say ‘Happy Hanukkah” without persecution.”
Although such statements aren’t against the law, Thompson said some may fear lawsuits, and the resolution aims to formally state that schools can recognize the holidays.