Legislative Notebook: House panel kills tilapia stock

mlee@macon.comMarch 22, 2012 

A state Senate-approved bill that would let Georgia pond-owners stock tilapia has died in a House of Representatives committee over concerns that species of the foreign fish could prove as much a plague as feral hogs, kudzu or flathead catfish.

State Rep. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, author of Senate Bill 360, argued the fish would eat noxious pond duckweed, fatten up bass and prove a good crop for fish farmers.

Skeptics said they fear the tilapia would get into the wild and displace native bluegill bream or shoal bass.

The state House Game Fish and Parks Committee held a hearing, but after discussion, the chairman, Rep. Jon Burns, R-Newington, decided not to hold a vote during this year’s legislative session.

Midstate bills on liquor and intimidation moving toward law

Counting Thursday, there are just four more days in the annual state legislative session, and lawmakers are running out of time to maneuver their proposals into official Georgia code.

This week, a few midstate bills that already have passed one chamber are coming closer to law as committee success sends them toward rules committees, the last step before full-floor votes in the opposite chamber.

Georgia fruit farmers will have the chance to become liquor distillers, under Senate Bill 114. The bill, whose top sponsors include Sens. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, and George Hooks, D-Americus, removes a legal restriction against farmers making brandy and other tipples for sale out of their own produce.

Vengeful intimidation of law enforcement officers or their families may soon be a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment or a $5,000 fine or both, under House Bill 541 by state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch.

It’s a reaction to such threats against a Twiggs County sheriff’s deputy and his family that did not quite fit under other felony statutes so the suspect received only a misdemeanor charge.

Finally, Georgia colleges will be able to borrow more money for projects that would generate revenue ­-- like parking decks or student centers -- under Staton’s Senate Bill 302.

Money for such projects is borrowed through the Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority, which is near its cap of $300 million in bonds. The bill would rase the cap to $500 million.

The bills also need the governor’s signature.

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