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Tuesday February 9th, 2016 8:48AM

Ga. Senate backs expansion of right to carry guns

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- With time running out, Georgia lawmakers are still negotiating how far to expand the right to carry a gun.

The state Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would allow people with a license to carry a weapon to take their guns into bars and houses of worship, if local congregations allow it. Illegally carrying a gun into a church would be punishable by a $100 fine.

Carrying guns in church has been a sticking point between House and Senate lawmakers. The bill now heads back to the House for consideration.

The legislation also would allow school districts to arm their employees, in an attempt to deter schoolhouse attacks. People with a license to carry could also take guns into government buildings if they are not protected by security guards.

Meanwhile, any expansion of the government-funded Medicaid system in Georgia would have to get the OK of state legislators, under a bill approved Tuesday.

The state Senate voted 35-19 to approve a bill that would restrict the executive branch from loosening the income eligibility rules so more low-income people could join the health insurance system unless the General Assembly first approves the change.

The Legislature is dominated by Republicans, making it unlikely they will buy into a signature policy from Democratic President Barack Obama. The Obama administration intended for states to let people into the Medicaid program if those people were too poor to afford subsidized health insurance plans.

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who previously said he supports

Police arrested 39 people at the Capitol Tuesday during protests over Republican refusals to allow more people to join the government-funded health care system.

The protests were organized by the Moral Monday coalition, which is pressuring Gov. Deal to ease eligibility rules and allow more low-income people into the Medicaid system.

Those arrested chanted in support of a Medicaid expansion from Senate gallery, rallied outside the Senate doors and staged a sit-in inside Deal's office. They were charged with illegally disrupting the General Assembly. First offenses are prosecuted as misdemeanors.

The arrested protesters included the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of a church formerly led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.


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