Lawmakers OK ethics, video gaming legislation; gun bill stalls - New York News

Lawmakers OK ethics, video gaming legislation; gun bill stalls

ATLANTA -

Lawmakers worked to reach compromises on several controversial issues on the final day of this year's legislative session on Thursday.

Legislative leaders said an ethics agreement was reached that puts a limit of $75 on lobbyist gifts and removed requirements that some volunteer advocates register as lobbyists.

"I think the people of Georgia can know that kept face with them and passed what even now is the strongest and toughest ethics bill in the history of the state," said House Speaker David Ralston.

Even before seeing details of the legislation, watchdog groups said the public had already won a victory.

"Overall, the fact that the culture down here has changed dramatically over the last few years is a victory for all Georgians. There are less lobby gifts. We're getting limits by political pressure. We'd really like to see the limits by law," said William Perry of Common Cause Georgia.

Also on Thursday, the House and Senate approved a bill giving the Georgia Lottery new authority to regulate video gaming machines with the promise that more revenue for the HOPE Scholarship.

"These machines are legal under state law. The problem is we do not have a regulatory system in place to make sure they are used legally and in compliance with the state laws and that is what we are doing here, nothing more and nothing less," said Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City).

Gov. Nathan Deal, who addressed lawmakers as they headed into the final hours of the legislative session, supported the measure.

"I do think it will be a significant tool, as was indicated by the GBI and local law enforcement , of giving us the chance to put some criteria in place so we could check on these machines, which has been very difficult to do in the past. And it doesn't hurt that we are beginning the process of having some of the revenue from that put in to the HOPE Scholarship program," Deal said.

Legislation allowing licensed gun owners to carry firearms in more places stalled on the question of required safety training to carry guns on college campuses.

Gov. Deal said he favored a training mandate.

"I did feel like the extra requirement of some type of training was something that was beneficial and that it would improve the bill," Deal said.

The state university system has strongly opposed the so-called "campus carry" measure.

Gun rights groups pushed for the bill and watched from the Capitol on the session's final night.

"If they take certain things out or make certain things requirements then we would just as soon come back next year," said Jerry Henry of GeorgiaCarry.org.

Advocates are pledging they will return next year.

To view the list of bills signed by the governor, click here!

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