As the legislative session ends at the State Capitol, there were some winners and losers over a contentious forty days under the Gold Dome.

First, as time ran out on the legislative session, lawmakers reached a deal late Tuesday to allow users of medical marijuana to purchase the drug. Governor Brian P. Kemp was the power-broker because House and Senate leaders struggled to strike a balance between providing access to legitimate patients while preventing illegal marijuana sales and distribution.

House Bill 324 provides numerous methods for Georgia’s 8,400 registered patients to buy medical marijuana (CBD) oil, including through six private growing companies, state universities and pharmacies.

In 2015, Georgia legalized medical marijuana consumption for patients suffering from deadly cancers, seizures and other illnesses, but the government didn’t provide any way for them to purchase it. It remains against the law to buy, sell or transport medical marijuana oil.

“Over the years, I’ve met with children who are battling chronic, debilitating diseases. I’ve heard from parents who are struggling with access and losing hope,” Kemp said. “This compromise legislation is carefully crafted to provide access to medical cannabis oil to those in need. This is simply the right thing to do.”

Secondly, a bill that would allow a tax break for jet-fuel was piggy-backed by legislation that would add a 50 cent tax for ride-share services, failed in the eleventh hour.

Senate Bill 200 was originally legislation that would require the Georgia Department of Transportation to set up procedures to appeal rejected bids for contracts. SB 200 also included the rural transit bill the House passed earlier this year.

It sought to establish programs to aid unemployed residents who need transportation to find jobs. The tax money from rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft would have gone toward supporting rural transit. The City of Atlanta disapproved of both versions of the bill.

Next, the state’s takeover bid for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport failed in the eleventh hour. Senate Bill 131 failed in the House and it was not discussed during the conference committee on Tuesday.

Lawmakers were unable to agree on the measure that would form a state-run board to manage Hartsfield-
Jackson International Atlanta Airport. A similar board was created when the state of North Carolina fought for control over Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 2013. The City of Atlanta will remain in control.

Lastly, this year’s legislative session will be most remembered for “the heartbeat bill”. House Bill 481 would prohibit most abortions in the state after a heartbeat is detected, which can come as early as six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant. It would not apply in the case of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger.

“You can’t just say you’re the No. 1 state to do business. You have to live those values,” said state Senator and Democratic Chair Nikema Williams.
“And that includes making sure we are open for business for everyone. That includes women.”

Georgia’s film community, influential medical groups and human rights activists have voiced major opposition to the bill. HBO, Sony, Disney, Universal, Marvel and Netflix, implored Georgia lawmakers to oppose the bill. Georgia has become a major hub for the film industry because of its generous tax credits. Georgia was home to 455 productions last fiscal year, generating $9.5 billion in economic impact and $2.7 billion in direct spending.

Governor Kemp will now have forty days to review the bills on his desk and either veto or sign the bills into law.

(Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen)

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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