ATLANTA – The interim commissioner at the Georgia Department of Revenue will take over the position on a permanent basis. Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday. Kemp appointed Frank O’Connell interim commissioner of the revenue agency last November when then-Commissioner Robyn Crittenden left state government to take a job in the private sector.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia could convict more people of dogfighting-related crimes and send them to prison for longer stretches under a bill advancing in the state Senate. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted 6-3 Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 68, which would apply Georgia's racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations law to dogfighting. Applying the state RICO law would result in prison sentences of five to 20 years for convictions, up from one to 10 years now.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia senators voted Tuesday to permanently block schools and most state and local government agencies from requiring people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Senate voted 31-21 in favor of the bill, which would make permanent what had been a one-year ban enacted in 2022. Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Republican from Cumming who is sponsoring the measure, said that when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine at least, the government shouldn't be able to force anyone to get it, or refuse services to people who are unvaccinated.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Georgia's highest court Tuesday upheld an election in which coastal residents voted overwhelmingly last year to block their county government from building a launchpad for blasting commercial rockets into space. The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected a legal challenge by Camden County commissioners who sought to have the referendum last March declared invalid. The officials argued Georgia's state constitution doesn’t allow citizens to veto decisions of county governments.

ATLANTA – Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urged the General Assembly Monday to pass legislation aimed at preventing the financial exploitation of Georgia seniors. Senate Bill 84, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, would authorize financial advisors to delay transactions involving their elderly or disabled clients if they suspect fraud. Financial exploitation of seniors has been on the rise since the pandemic struck nearly three years ago, Raffensperger said Monday during a news conference at the state Capitol.

ATLANTA – Georgia political leaders including Gov. Brian Kemp Monday condemned a weekend outbreak of antisemitism in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Residents of neighborhoods in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody awakened Sunday morning to find antisemitic flyers in their driveways. Kemp offered the aid of the state’s law enforcement resources to help the Sandy Springs and Dunwoody police departments investigate the incident if requested.

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia Senate committee is advancing a bill that would instruct an agency to examine qualifications for state government jobs and not require a college degree unless truly necessary. The Senate Government Oversight Committee on Monday voted for Senate Bill 3, sending it to the full Senate for more debate. The bill calls for the state Department of Administrative Services to try to reduce training, experience and educational requirements for jobs and reduce jobs that require a four-year college degree.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A former Army sergeant has been sentenced to life in federal prison for fatally slashing and stabbing a fellow soldier dozens of times in his barracks at a Georgia base. A U.S. District Court judge in Savannah sentenced Byron Booker, 29, on Thursday. Booker pleaded guilty last fall to a federal charge of premeditated murder of a member of the U.S. military in the killing of 21-year-old Army Spc. Austin Hawk at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

ATLANTA – An effort that could lead eventually to the elimination of runoff elections in Georgia has surfaced in the General Assembly. State Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas, introduced a bill into the Georgia House this week that would allow Georgia cities to experiment with instant runoff voting in nonpartisan municipal elections. “This legislation promotes local control,” said Gullett.  “If passed, it gives cities the option to avoid the cost of expensive runoff elections while maintaining the principle of majority rule.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's elected prosecutors could face disciplinary sanctions, removals or easier voter recalls for declining to bring charges for misdemeanors under two bills introduced Thursday. Although one of the bills, which would set up an oversight commission, has failed before, Republicans have reintroduced it as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp criticizes prosecutors for not doing enough to prosecute all crimes — which sets the stage for GOP majorities to take action in 2023.

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