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Georgia's legislative agenda this week includes food stamp drug testing, guns on campus & DFCS

9:12 PM, Jan 22, 2014   |    comments
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Video: DEBATE: Should people on food stamps have to pass a drug test?

  • Food stamp card
  • DFCS children who died
  • Georgia Tech campus
  • Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)
  • Georgia welfare office
  • Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia)
  • Highly censored DFCS death report
  • Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper)
    

ATLANTA - This week, as part of a busy legislative agenda, lawmakers are looking at expanding where guns are allowed, requiring drug testing for food stamp recipients and taking a closer look at how the state's Department of Family and Children Services operates.

Two years ago Georgia's state legislature passed a bill requiring drug tests for about 4,000 people receiving TANF payments, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

It's never been enforced thanks to court challenges, including a ruling last month that put a similar Florida on hold.

But now a Georgia lawmaker wants to add 1.9 million -- or 20% of the state's population -- to that drug test standard.

That's how many people receive food stamps in Georgia, one out of five.

State Representative Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) introduced a bill Thursday to require drug testing for all food stamp recipients.

"If working Georgians are required to take drug tests to get a job, then I think it's very reasonable and common sense for folks that are getting benefits, taxpayer-funded benefits, to have the same requirements," Morris told 11Alive News.

Many Democrat lawmakers call the move an unconstitutional and unfair attack on the poor.

If Morris' bill passes, Georgia will join at least 8 other states that have passed similar laws and more than a dozen more that are considering them.

But all are still awaiting an appeal of the ruling halting Florida's law.

Meanwhile, a new gun bill is about to be introduced to expand places where Georgian's who're at least 21 and have a weapons carry license can take their firearms.

Like previous unsuccessful attempts, it would include such places as churches and bars, whose owners don't object.

But the big sticking point has been including public college campuses.

Strong lobbying by Georgia's Board of Regents and many university presidents has stalled it so far.

Some are proposing a compromise that would let those college presidents have veto power on their own campuses, but the bill's author won't go for it.

"Letting college presidents decide is kinda advocating our responsibility to make decisions where they're hard and this will be a hard one," State Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) told 11 Alive.

"If we can't come to an agreement on that, it may not be in our bill," he added.

Movement also continues on attempts to reform Georgia's plagued Division of Family and Children Services.

Governor Nathan Deal has already pledged $27-million for more than 500 new DFCS social workers over the next 3 years, but there are also some bills to reform the highly criticized agency.

One would expand privatizing more DFCS services, which is getting bi-partisan review.

State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) said she's been working with the governor's office and the GBI on a bill to bring more transparency to the Child Fatality Review Commission.

"To move forward on doing a more scientific, a more workable analysis of where children die in this state, where deaths are preventable," she told 11Alive.

All of this is happening on a rushed schedule as lawmakers try to wrap up this year's session a month earlier than normal.

That's so they can begin campaigning and raising funds for the earlier May 20th primary, which they are not allowed to do during the session.

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