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Senate OKs ending ban on silencers in hunting

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Senate has approved legislation that would end the ban on silencers for hunting firearms.

Senate Bill 301 was approved by a vote of 48-5. Sen. John Bulloch, the bill's sponsor, says allowing hunters to use silencers would keep them from disturbing their neighbors, and removing the ban would not create an unfair advantage for hunters.

Hunters would still need a federal permit to possess a silencer, and would be subject to a background check. The permits cost $200.

Bulloch says the legislation was brought to him by the National Rifle Association. The NRA successfully pushed for similar legislation last year in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington, and supports legalizing silencers in all 50 states.

A spokeswoman for the NRA said the organization supports the use of silencers, also called suppressors, and said the benefits of the device include a decreased problems with hunters' hearing.

Silencers are legal to possess and use for lawful purposes in most states, but require a federal permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The bill now heads to the House.

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House wants changes to 'sunset committee' bill

SUNSET COMMITTEE

A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston says the chamber is unlikely to take up legislation that would create a "sunset committee" to weigh whether to cut certain state agencies until changes are made to the bill.

Marshall Guest says the speaker would like the conference committee on Senate Bill 223 to add language making the proposed law effective upon the governor's signature, allowing the committee to start working sooner. Otherwise, upon passage by both chambers, the bill would not take effect until July 1.

The bill was approved Monday in the Senate. The legislation would create a 14-member committee that would not unilaterally decide whether to eliminate programs, but would instead make a recommendation to the state Legislature on whether to cut, consolidate, privatize or otherwise change state programs.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

A legislative committee in Georgia held a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would bar illegal immigrants from attending its state colleges, universities and technical schools, but the chairman delayed a vote on the measure.

The legislation would bar illegal immigrants from all 35 of Georgia's state colleges and universities, as well as the state's 25 technical schools. It passed out of the same committee last year but never made it to the House floor for a full vote. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Norcross, said the bill was pushed off until this year because the focus last year was on a broader, comprehensive crackdown on illegal immigration that passed and was signed into law by the governor.

House Higher Education Committee Chairman Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said he wants more time to consider about 1,000 emails and 1,000 phone calls he received on the topic and to consult with the university system and the bill's sponsor before bringing it up for a vote. He said he anticipates a vote in two or three weeks.

The intent of the bill is to clarify the fact that postsecondary education is a public benefit and therefore should not be available to people who are in the country illegally, Rice said.

"Any situation in which there's a possibility of limiting the access for a Georgia citizen or a Georgia student to the university system in my estimation, and in what this bill says, ought to be restricted by the laws of Georgia," he said.