Legislators advanced bills this week with restrictions on immigrants, HOPE Scholarship recipients and raised the age for children needing car seats.
The House passed legislation that would impose penalties up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for illegal immigrants who use falsified documents to get hired. It would also empower police officers to check the citizenship of anyone they arrest on other crimes.
The debate lasted for hours, and opponents staged a demonstration on the steps of the Capitol the whole time.
A similar Senate bill made it through committee and is up for a vote by the full Senate this week.
Protesters were also present while the House voted to cut the HOPE Scholarship for all but the top 10 percent of students. The goal is to save enough money in the scholarship and the Pre-K program to avoid having to dip into reserves as was required last year and this year.
House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal said Friday he thought both major debates stuck to the issues.
“It was very interesting to note how well the HOPE debate went in the House. I was very proud of both political parties. I have not seen such a cooperative spirit in my years in the legislature,” said O’Neal, R-Bonaire.
Senate Democrats intend to offer an alternative to the HOPE revisions that will allow all but the wealthiest students to keep the full scholarship by imposing a $140,000 income cap. They complained Republican leaders used heavy-handed tactics Friday to prevent their options from coming to a vote in the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Both the House and Senate approved separate bills extending to age 8 the cutoff for children to require car seats. Supporters say the current cutoff of age 6 hasn’t prevented enough child deaths. Critics dubbed it a “nanny bill” and said the matter should be left to parents.
The House approved tougher treatment of human traffickers by raising the minimum prison sentence from 1 to 10 years.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill to require zero-based budgeting, for the fourth time in eight years. The House also passed it last year, but then-Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed it. Also during the week, the Senate also passed a bill that streamlines contracting between local governments and private companies that supply water. It was described as a way to increase the construction of reservoirs to help combat at water shortage in metro Atlanta.