- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - This week brings a major deadline for Georgia lawmakers in their aggressive schedule to wrap up the legislative session by April 2. To maintain a chance of becoming law, bills must be approved by the chamber they originated in by midnight Friday. Yes, that’s Friday, March 13. No, legislative leaders say, that’s not symbolic.

Here’s a look at where some chief priorities and attention-getting bills stand entering the week:

TRANSPORTATION AND SCHOOLS

Two issues quickly took prominence at the Golden Dome since the session began in January: Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to allow state takeover of “chronically failing” schools and a bill aimed at raising millions for the state’s transportation needs.

The transportation bill passed out of the House on Thursday and now goes to the Senate where members of that chamber are expected to make their own changes.



The school takeover plan passed the Senate, also on Thursday. The constitutional amendment requires two-thirds approval in the House to get a statewide vote in 2016. Deal’s administration could face a tougher fight uniting Republicans in the House, but will still need support from the other side of the aisle to reach the two-thirds margin. Democrats in that chamber have not taken an official stance.

STATE BUDGET

The state budget -the only task lawmakers constitutionally must approve each year- passed the House in February. The Senate has begun its own hearings and plans to send the bill with its changes back to the House by March 20.

The House version followed much of Gov. Nathan Deal’s recommendations. But the chamber broke with the governor on eliminating part-time school employees from state health insurance coverage. Also, the House version requires school districts to take on employer contributions now paid by the state.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

A proposal in the Senate would set up a four-year study of cannabis oil for treating children with seizure disorders. A broader House bill sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, already has passed that chamber, allowing doctors to prescribe the oil to people of any age with nine medical conditions.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Lindsey Tippins of Marietta, passed a Senate committee on Friday on its way to a floor vote.

Parents of children diagnosed with those conditions and other supporters of the House bill are lobbying hard for the Senate to drop its proposal and take up the broader bill.

REGULATING RIDE-HAILING, CRAFT BEER SALES

A House bill that would require ride-hailing services including Uber and Lyft to register with the state and tighten driver requirements remains available for a floor vote. The House already has passed a bill that would require drivers have insurance covering the entire period from the driver turning on the app until a passenger is dropped off.

Drivers and users of the ride-hailing services use an application to connect.

On the Senate side, a committee scaled back a bill on Friday that initially allowed direct sales by craft beer manufacturers. Georgia currently has a three-tier system that requires manufacturers to sell to wholesalers, who then work with retail stores, restaurants and bars.

Supporters recently began a social media campaign to push for a committee vote after weeks of no movement on the bill. The committee’s version would allow brewers to charge for tours and only allow sales in a single container.

EARLY VOTING

Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, filed a bill early this session shortening the early voting period from 21 days to 12.

It has remained in the powerful House Rules committee, which sets the daily floor calendar, since mid-February.

The proposal makes Sunday voting optional for all counties.

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