The Latest: Lawmakers OK higher pay for next governor

Atlanta (AP) – The Latest on the Georgia General Assembly’s final day of this year’s legislative session (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

Georgia’s next governor will earn 25% more in salary if sitting Gov. Nathan Deal approves it.

The Senate gave final approval Thursday to the bill increasing the governor’s annual salary to $175,000.

The change would take effect in 2019. Deal is limited to two terms and leaves office in 2018. He currently earns $139,339 per year.

The Council of State Governments tracks governors’ salaries nationally. The group reports that five states pay governors more than $175,000, topping out at about $190,000 in Pennsylvania in 2016.

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3:10 p.m.

Georgia lawmakers have approved legislation allowing self-driving vehicles in the state, sending it to the governor for review.

Supporters said car and technology companies, insurance providers and injury attorneys signed off on the proposal and warned that Georgia would be left behind as other states pass similar legislation. The Senate vote Thursday was unanimous.

Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega said he believes vehicles with autonomous technology will make roads safer. The Republican is the bill’s sponsor.

The proposal requires drivers of the vehicles to have a higher amount of insurance coverage than what is required for traditional vehicles until the end of 2019.

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2:55 p.m.

Information on Georgia voters’ registration forms would have to match state or federal databases for them to be eligible to cast a ballot under legislation sent to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

Voting-rights advocates say the requirement will disproportionately affect minorities and undermines the recent settlement of a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

The lawsuit challenged a similar matching procedure that Kemp’s office implemented in 2010 and used until September. The suit filed earlier that month said the process prevented thousands of residents from registering based on data-entry errors, typos or other issues.

Lawmakers added language to the bill saying the process is intended to verify an applicant’s identity.

The bill would give rejected applicants 26 months to respond if their information doesn’t exactly match.

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1 p.m.

Georgia lawmakers have voted to expand access to medical cannabis by adding six new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions.

The Senate voted 45-6 to agree with the House and send the bill to the governor’s desk.

Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, sponsored the bill and called on the federal government to “tear down the wall” to additional research by changing the classification of marijuana.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, led the expansion effort and as the bill got its final vote he said that he was grateful that lawmakers could cooperate on such an important bill.

Peake said that he has “every expectation” that the governor will sign the bill. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has in said in the past that he could support limited expansion of the program.

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2 a.m.

Georgia lawmakers must decide on bills permitting concealed handguns on college campuses and cutting some residents’ income taxes on the final day of the legislative session.

Thursday marks the final day that the General Assembly plans to meet this year. The rush to pass bills before adjournment can lead to dramatic last-minute changes to legislation – either accidental or intentional amid the chaos.

The two chambers still disagree on how to cut income taxes. Lawmakers also may negotiate changes to a bill opening college campuses to people with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a similar measure last year, and lawmakers hope to negotiate something the Republican will sign.

The General Assembly is also expected to expand the state’s medical marijuana program on Thursday.

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