Could political posturing play a major role the Georgia General Assembly's 2018 session?
With dozens of current or recently resigned Georgia lawmakers seeking higher offices, the House and Senate chambers offer perfect platforms for ambitious politicians to tout their candidacies by supporting popular proposals and denouncing unfavorable ones.
Renewed interest in the religious affirmation act could become a hot topic again in 2018, an election year that has all state offices up for grabs.
State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican, introduced a religious affirmation bill two years ago. It made it through both houses, but Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it. Deal is term limited and can't seek re-election.
McKoon isn't running for re-election to the Senate. He's going for Secretary of State. But McKoon, along with dozens of other state officials, are expected to jump on a resurrected effort to get a religious affirmation bill through the legislature.
Proponents contend the bill would protect people with deeply held religious beliefs from doing things their religion prohibits. An example would be a baker would be able to deny service to a gay couple planning to marry because the baker's religion frowns on same-sex marriage.
Two years ago, the religion bill drew protests from the business and gay communities. It is expected to renew those protests again if another religious bill surfaces in the upcoming session.
Whether to grow and distribute medical marijuana in Georgia is expected to be a hot topic in 2018. State Rep. Allen Peake, a Macon Republican, already pushed through legislation that allows people with certain illnesses to use medical marijuana. But it has to be brought into Georgia illegally.
Peake hopes to change that by pushing through a proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow medical marijuana to be grown and distributed in the state. But law enforcement agencies, along with prosecutors around the state, oppose the measure.
If Peake gets it through the General Assembly, voters would decide the issue in the November general election.
During this year's session, the lawmakers approved a 20 percent pay hike for state troopers. That sparked complaints because local law enforcement officials didn't get the state hike. They're by local governments.
So the lawmakers hope to quell the storm by pushing through another state constitutional amendment that would create a permanent one-percent sales tax that would be used to increase salaries of local local enforcement. Voters would decide that in the November election as well.
Meanwhile, other state lawmakers have been conducting hearings on whether to require all drivers to use hands-free cell phones. Those hearings came about because of the growing number of accidents in which drivers were using their cell phones.
The General Assembly convenes for its 2018 session on January 8. The fate of those proposals will be determined during the 40-day session. It'll be interesting to see how the lawmakers seeking higher office respond to those and other issues.
Political posturing could become apparent, a daily feature like the morning prayer.
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