• Gun bill dies, budget passes as legislative session ends


    ATLANTA - While lawmakers agreed to pass a budget, they could not agree on a measure that would have allowed college students to carry guns on campus.

    Channel 2's Lori Geary spent the evening at the state Capitol where lawmakers tried to push through as much legislation as they could before the legislative session ended for the year.

    One of the big bills that did not make it through was the controversial gun bill which the board of regents lobbied hard against.

    The optimism for gun rights advocates faded as the night wore on.

    "We're waiting for midnight and then my glass slippers fall off while I'm going down the steps," Jerry Henry with GeorgiaCarry.org told Geary.

    "We're optimistic and hopeful. We're going to keep fighting," Piyali Cole with Moms Demand Action said earlier in the evening.

    Opponents of the gun bill were hoping neither chamber would take up the issue that expands the places where permitted gun owners can take their weapons, including churches and college campuses.

    The House tried a compromise, agreeing to an 8-hour training course for 21- to 25-year-olds who have their licenses and want to carry on campus. Then the Senate said anyone who wants to carry on campus would need training.

    "We don't think that's quite constitutional because you got one group of people that you single out for training," Henry argued. "When the clock strikes midnight, my pickup turns into a pumpkin."

    "More guns is going to lead to more violence and there's no way to get around that," Cole said.

    Gov. Nathan Deal said he agreed with the training component. Although, he probably won't be all that disappointed that the gun bill won't get a final vote.

    Deal told Geary at the start of the session, just after the Sandy Hook school shooting, a gun bill was not on his agenda.

    Supporters and opponents say they'll be back again next year.

    Lobbyists could not spend more than $75 at a time on government officials under a bill passed Thursday by Georgia's legislators on the final day of their annual session.

    The legislation, now headed for Gov. Nathan Deal's desk, would impose the first limits on what lobbyists can spend in Georgia. Lobbyists can now spend as much as they want to influence state legislators as long as they publicly report their expenditures.

    The plan would tighten rules, forcing people to register as lobbyists if they are paid to lobby or get more than $250 in reimbursements for their lobbying work. Both chambers voted unanimously to approve the plan one hour ahead of the midnight deadline on the General Assembly's final working day. The chamber erupted into cheers and applause after the votes.

    Any bills not approved by midnight Thursday automatically fail for the year.

    "I think it's an improvement, a historic improvement, in our law," Ralston told lawmakers. "... I think that we can leave here tonight, hold our heads high and know that we did the people's work, and kept faith with the people of Georgia."

    There are exceptions to the rules. Lobbyists could spend as much as they want on food, beverages and registration at group events where entire legislative chambers, committees and caucuses are invited. It would restrict those committee events to one per calendar year. Lobbyists could also pay to send public officials and their staff on trips within the United States. An effort to close a loophole allowing attorneys to skirt some lobbying rules failed.

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