ATLANTA — The House passed a budget, revised funding of charter schools, restricted scrap-metal sales and outlawed assisted suicide Wednesday while the Senate let churches limit their health insurance for religious reasons, required nurses to get continuing education and mandated job training for people on food stamps.
Some of the debates included candid, personal revelations by some of the lawmakers.
The flurry of action came on the General Assembly’s longest and busiest day so far in this legislative session. The marathon gathering was to push as many bills through before the midnight deadline that killed all proposals that weren’t passed by the chamber in which they were introduced.
The Senate scheduled 30 bills for consideration and had voted on half of them by 5 p.m. The House started with 34 on its lineup and had voted on 25 in the same time. But then, the House got a half-hour head start on the day and has rules that limit debate and amendments.
Still, the House held lengthy debates on some measures. It spent time on House Bill 797 as Democrats, mostly, tried to stop a law change that would allow the state to continue funding schools granted charters by the state.
The House has already passed a constitutional amendment to allow the state to grant more charters, but the Senate stopped consideration of it last week when it became obvious there weren’t the votes to pass it there.
Also in the House Wednesday were bills to outlaw assisted suicide — but not providing information about how to do it. During the debate, Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam, D-Riverdale, recounted how her family coped last week with an attempted suicide as she warned that the bill could make criminals of them for inadvertently providing help.
The sponsor of HB 1114, Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, urged its passage.
“This is an issue that we, as a state, cannot ignore,” he said.
The House passed a budget for the next fiscal year. It also passed a scaled-back version of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Competitiveness Initiative by expanding job-creation tax credits to fewer companies than he had proposed.
Across the Capitol, the Senate excused religious organizations from federal requirements to provide contraception in their employee health-insurance plans.
“Religious organizations and employers should have the right to accept or deny this type of coverage, especially as it pertains to the church’s main core values,” said Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.
Senators also voted to require people on food stamps to take classes for job training or to complete their education. During the debate, Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, revealed that she had been on welfare 35 years ago.
“If I had been told that I had to go through professional development (as a college graduate), I would have been totally devastated by that,” she said. “I needed money for food. I needed money for gas to even get to the office to apply for that.”