- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ATLANTA (AP) - The Latest on activity inside the Georgia Capitol during the final days of the 2018 legislative session (all times local):

11:15 p.m.

The city of Stockbridge could be broken in two after the Georgia House passed a proposal allowing a new city to be carved from it.

The proposal, passed by a vote of 102 to 67 late Tuesday, would incorporate the new city of Eagles Landing from land currently in Stockbridge.

Proponents say the bill will give residents the right to self-determination.

Opponents say that the move is racially motivated. Stockbridge, located approximately 20 miles southeast of Atlanta, is predominantly black, while Eagle’s Landing would have a greater proportion of white residents.

The measure must return to the Senate to approve changes made by the House. If the bill is signed into law, voters in the area that would become Eagles Landing would need to approve the idea before the new city is formed.

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10:30 p.m.

Lawmakers are close to preventing Georgia drivers from holding their cellphones while behind the wheel.

The Senate voted 55-0 on Tuesday to have Georgia become the 16th state to enact a hands-free driving law.

Republican Sen. P.K. Martin says drivers are “intoxicated by the glow of their smartphones.” He says distracted driving has led to a recent spike in fatal crashes, which has in turn caused insurance premiums to rise across the state.

It is already illegal to text while driving, but law enforcement officers say the law is hard to enforce because they cannot tell whether a driver is texting or merely dialing, which is currently legal.

Under the proposal, drivers would still be able to use their phone through a hands-free device.

The measure heads back to the House, which overwhelmingly approved an earlier version of the proposal last month.

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6 p.m.

A controversial cybercrime bill focused on deterring “online snoopers” is nearing final passage in the Georgia legislature, despite the objections of cybersecurity researchers who fear it would have a “chilling effect” on their industry.

The House on Tuesday voted 107-63 in favor of a bill that targets hackers who break into a computer system but don’t disrupt or steal data. The measure has been backed by Attorney General Christopher Carr.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Wallace, a software development manager, argued against the bill, saying researchers who check for vulnerabilities without permission provide an important service.

Majority Whip Christian Coomer says the legislation has broad exceptions and does not apply to those who are conducting a “legitimate business activity” or employing “cybersecurity active defense measures.”

Because the bill was amended in a House committee, it must secure passage again in the Senate before session ends on Thursday.

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5:25 p.m.

The final piece of Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s years-long criminal justice overhaul has unanimously passed the House.

Backers of the measure, which passed the Senate in February, say that provisions allowing courts to consider the financial resources of the accused will stop people from being held simply because they are poor. It would give judges more leeway in forgoing cash bail for low-income offenders and more opportunities to impose community service rather than fines.

The proposal also enhances penalties for certain crimes involving firearms.

Republican Rep. Rich Golick, chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, thanked Deal Tuesday, saying that his criminal justice overhaul has become a model for the nation. Golick said the ongoing overhaul has saved the state billions of dollars and saved hundreds of lives.

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12:45 p.m.

Victims of domestic violence in Georgia would be able to terminate housing leases early in certain circumstances under a proposal that has passed the Senate.

The proposal was passed unanimously on Tuesday after seeing some revisions since the House passed the bill unanimously in February.

Under the proposal, victims who have received a domestic violence order in either criminal or civil court proceeding will be eligible for early termination of a lease.

Republican Sen. Jesse Stone said the proposal would help reduce domestic violence deaths in the state. According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, 149 people were killed in domestic violence-related incidents in the state last year.

If signed by the governor, the proposal would apply to any lease agreements signed, renewed or modified after July 1.

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12:00 p.m.

The House has passed a proposal that would establish a free-speech policy at schools in the University System of Georgia.

The measure, which passed the Senate last month, comes amid a national debate about controversial speakers - often conservative ones - being disinvited from campuses because of student disruptions.

The proposal would mandate that schools in the system establish sanctions for anyone who interferes with speakers.

Republican Rep. Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs said that the proposal is needed to stop “activists” that want to shutter open debate.

But opponents say it would actually limit students’ right to protest speakers they disagree with.

House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, a Luthersville Democrat, said that “the First Amendment to the United States Constitution needs no additional protection from the Georgia General Assembly.”


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