Early elections this year have lawmakers pushing to complete their 40-day session by mid-March.

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The Georgia General Assembly convenes under the Gold Dome in Atlanta Monday to kick off its 40-day legislative session.

But this year, some local lawmakers say they're expecting to complete the session by mid-March instead of hanging around until late March or early April.

That's because the 2014 election cycle begins earlier than usual, lawmakers say. Qualifying begins March 3 instead of late April, and the primary is scheduled May 20 instead of mid-July.

"One of the first items we'll do is move up the election for the coming primary elections due to some federal mandates to us. So we're going to be able to get what we need to do and leave Atlanta," said state Rep. Robert Dickey, a Musella Republican.

Dickey, along with state Rep. James Beverly, discussed several issues they expect to come before the General Assembly this year. Beverly is a Macon Democrat.

One of those issue is the proposal to expand gun-owners rights, including allowing college students 21 and over to have weapons on campus if they have a state-issued carry license.

"We certainly put armed police officers on college campuses to protect our students. We don't see any problem with that," Dickey said. "So I just think you broaden it and let some folks use good judgment."

But Beverly doesn't support guns on campus.

"No way. I mean there's no way you want to have (a state law) with those provisions in it," Beverly said. "I mean I certainly agree the Second Amendment is absolutely necessary. However, you don't want to be responsible for placing a weapon in the hands of a kid on a college campus."

Another issue is whether to tighten forfeiture laws that allow law enforcement to seize personal property during drug arrests. The proposal would require local sheriffs and prosecutors to be more transparent about how much money they take in and how they use it.

They could also be required to share that money with other agencies.

"Our party's going to have a little bit of an issue, but I think we have to really hear from the sheriffs," Beverly said. "What do sheriffs want and that's to make a big impact on my decision given where we are in Bibb County, the relationship I have with Sheriff (David) Davis, his thoughts will be important to me, and we'll see how the final draft comes out.

House Speaker David Ralston is expected to begin the 2014 session at 10 a.m. Monday when he bangs his gavel on the podium. 13WMAZ will have reporters in the Capitol to cover the opening day.

Follow 13WMAZ's Tom George on Twitter @thetomgeorge & Randall Savage @randallwmaz

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