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The legislature reconvened today after a two week break.  My day was a busy one as I focused on three issues that have attracted a lot of attention this session- taxes, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and guns.

 I began the morning at a rally in support of a $1 increased tax on tobacco.  The bill is what supporters are calling a win-win-win.  It is a win for children’s health as higher costs have been found to deter teen smoking.  It is a win because it has been projected to raise approximately $354 million annually in revenues.  And, finally, it is a win because it is popular.  73%of Georgia voters favor an increased tax on tobacco.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a substitute to SB 304 this afternoon.  Instead of the original version of the bill which would have mandated that children under 16 could not have been prosecuted for prostitution, the substitute would, instead, provide that the child be treated as an unruly child and directs the Governor’s Office for Children and Families to develop an appropriate system of care for such children.  Advocates including Georgia Women for a Change, the Catholic Conference and the Presbytery, the Fulton County DA’s office, and a Future Not a Past spoke in support of the substitute.  Others, including Concerned Women for America and the Freedom Forum continued to express opposition and stated that the girls were not always victims but engaged in sex for money willingly and deserved punishment.  Several of the opponents’ comments led Sen. Seth Harp to ask, ‘What would Jesus have done?”  The hearing concluded without a committee vote.

Finally, late this afternoon, the Senate Special Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 308 which specifies where guns can be carried in public.  The bill passed the committee with just one vote opposed by Sen. Donzella James and now goes to the Rules Committee.

Mindy

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on HB 615, a bill that would, if passed, allow concealed weapons to be carried anywhere except courtrooms and jails/prisons. The bill would provide that public buildings no longer be off-limits to concealed firearms. If this version were to pass, firearms would be allowed in bars, schools, college dormitories and all campus buildings, daycare centers, churches and all establishments that are open to the public unless the property owner prohibits weapons.

 Do you have concerns?  If so, make your voice heard by attending the hearing at 1:30 in room 132 of the Capitol .

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