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Tea party leader gives opinions on gun, religious liberty bills to Forsyth residents

 
POSTED: January 16, 2017 4:00 a.m.

CUMMING -- A local political group is keeping an eye on what state legislators may approve in this year’s session.

On Monday, the United Tea Party of Georgia, which holds meetings in Cumming, Buford and Lawrenceville, discussed several items that could come up in the Georgia General Assembly’s 2017 legislative session.

“Many years ago, I cared about federal issues but never cared about state issues,” said the group’s leader, David Hancock. “I’ve really gotten more interested in state issues. That’s something we can affect; we can really make a difference.”

Hancock said this is a year when many controversial items may come up, as no lawmakers are up for re-election this year.

“This is an off-year,” he said, “which means that [state] senators and representatives feel a little freer about what they can do, because they know voters are going to forget by next year about what they did this year.”

He went over several bills that have been pre-filed, discussed their likelihood and gave opinions to what they could mean.

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Space flight bill

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One issue that could be tackled is bringing space flight to Camden County, the southeastern most county in the state.

“They’ve been trying for years to bring a space port,” Hancock said.

He said a previous bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate and that concerns that likely caused it to fail, such as environmental issues and waivers for noise, have been addressed.

“In December, there was a Senate study committee … they recommended that Georgia pass space flight legislation,” Hancock said.

The bill was filed by Rep. Jason Spencer of Woodbine in southeast Georgia.

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Guns legislation

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Hancock went over three proposed gun laws likely to come up this session.

The first, which Hancock said is “something that won’t go anywhere,” is a proposed ban on assault weapons.

“A lot of these that I’ve seen in the past just describe the look of a gun. [Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, who represents Decatur,] doesn’t,” Hancock said. “One of the things she does is she goes through and lists specific things [and models of guns].”

Another pre-filed bill, by Rep. Keisha Waites of Atlanta, would seek to require training before being given a state weapons permit, which he felt is more likely than the ban. Police and military would be exempt.

“She’s trying to get it where you have to have training in the last three years to not just get a license, but to renew a license,” he said. “I could see people saying this is a common sense bill. A lot of states have this.”

If passed, the bill could mean Georgia permits being allowed in South Carolina, the only nearby state that does not have an agreement with Georgia, as South Carolina has a similar law.

He said another campus carry bill — allowing those with weapons permits to carry on college campuses —was likely in the session. A bill passed the legislature in 2016 but was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

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Casinos

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Also likely making a comeback this year is legislation to allow gambling, especially horse racing and casinos.

“The problem is, from when I talk to people about it, is the market for gambling is kind of finite,” Hancock said. “There’s a lot of people involved in it, but there’s just so many [casinos]. They think that the number of casinos is pretty much saturated.”

He said allowing casinos would be a constitutional amendment and it is possible that only Atlanta would be allowed to have them.

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Religious liberty

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Another bill that passed the legislature but was vetoed by Deal involved religious liberty and may also come back.

He said it is likely that new legislation will be closer to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed in 2013. Hancock said Deal has previously said he would support legislation closer to that of federal law.

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