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Georgia lawmakers grapple over emergency resolution

Dispute arises over how state of emergency would end

ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers fell into political disagreement Monday over ratification of a state of emergency declared by Gov. Brian Kemp. He declared the emergency Friday to free up funding to combat coronavirus.

The House of Representatives produced a resolution that concludes the state of emergency April 13. The House resolution requires an extension beyond that date to be ratified by the General Assembly.

The Senate's resolution also concludes the state of emergency on April 13, but the Senate version allows the governor to extend it, if necessary, without legislative approval.

Lawmakers convened in special session Monday shortly after 8 a.m.

Legislative leaders promised to conclude the session as quickly as possible. However, lawmakers lingered during extended recesses as legislative leaders tried to negotiate a compromise.

When lawmakers arrived Monday morning, a doctor was standing outside the main doorway of the House chamber with a forehead thermometer, taking the temperatures of lawmakers willing to submit. Dozens did so.

Credit: WXIA
A physician checks the temperature of GA state Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) before special session to ratify state of emergency

One legislator, state Rep. Alan Powell, wore a face mask while seated at his desk. Several others wore gloves.

In all, 31 of the 180 members of the House were listed as "excused" following a roll call, an unusually high 17 percent absentee rate.

Sunday, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) sent an email to House members telling them one of the absent members had self-quarantined because of exposure to a person confirmed with COVID-19, the illness caused by the corona virus. Ralston did not identify the member.

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