- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - The Georgia General Assembly’s session is in full swing following Monday’s inaugural ceremonies. Here’s a look at some of Tuesday’s developments:

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Hundreds of supporters of Atlanta’s former fire chief held a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. Kelvin Cochran’s firing revved up supporters of legislation who believe Georgia needs a “religious freedom” bill.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended and then fired Cochran after learning he had self-published a book that described homosexuality as a “perversion.”

The bill prevents government entities at all levels from “burdening” an employee’s religious expression. Opponents say the bill opens the door to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and more than 60 clergy members or religious leaders released a letter Tuesday opposing it.

Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the bills are discriminatory, while House Speaker David Ralston has said he’s not convinced the bills provide protection beyond the Constitution.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Deal told reporters that he plans to say more in Wednesday’s State of the State address about long-term plans for medical cannabis. Republican state Rep. Allen Peake announced Friday that he would scale back planned legislation to give immunity to people possessing the oil purchased in other states.

Peake had discussed allowing regulated growth and retail sales of medical marijuana in Georgia, and some families remain worried about being arrested with the oil while traveling across state lines. Several parents told reporters that they will fight to pass this year’s bill and work to expand it next year.

TECHNICAL SCHOOLS

Deal said Tuesday morning that he wants the name of Georgia’s Technical College System changed to the Georgia Career College System. Deal said the change better reflects the system’s mission to train students for fields with job openings.

FILM ACADEMY

Deal also told attendees of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Eggs and Issues” breakfast that he will propose creating a film academy run jointly by the state’s technical college and university systems to train people interested in in the film and TV industry. Deal said the addition will prevent another state from knocking Georgia off Hollywood’s radar when choosing production locations.

EARLY GRADUATION

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told the breakfast attendees that a bill to be introduced this year will allow high school students to take an entry exam for state colleges or universities. If accepted, students could take college courses to count toward their high school and higher education degrees, Cagle said.

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