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Gold Dome roundup: 'unmask' kids, block abortion pills, cut taxes, and more

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WGXA/Ashton Packer

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ATLANTA, Ga. (WGXA)-- Another busy day at the state Capitol meant more partisan debate and bills from the Governor and Speaker of the House.

In the Senate, lawmakers spent twice as much time as normal to argue over controversial topics like masking children and women's access to abortion.

Democrats brought strong arguments, but both bills passed on party lines in favor of the Republican majority.

First to pass was SB 514: Governor Kemp’s personal project, titled “Unmask Georgia students," is a recent talking point for his campaign. Under it, schools would not be allowed to create or enforce any masking rules for classrooms without also offering an opt-out choice for parents.

The bill is led by Senator Clint Dixon, who said that it does not prohibit masks in schools, despite Democratic suggestions that the policy discourages usage.

"Masks do not provide the quality of protection we were initially led to believe, and masks create a massive ongoing distraction for students and educators. It's past time for our children to return to normal in the classroom and for parents to make the decision for their children, not the government," said Dixon.

Next was SB 456, which prohibits abortion pills from being delivered by mail.

The legislation is led by Senator Bruce Thompson, who said the bill was meant to protect Georgia’s women from unsafe medical practices by requiring any access to abortion to be obtained from an in-person visit to a doctor.

Opponents, like Senator Jennifer Jordan, called the bill "gaslighting" and an attack on Roe V. Wade.

"None of us who talk about it can have a baby. We don't know the pain. So none of us ought to be in here talking about what women should be able to do with their bodies. But, remember, us men were the cause of it," said Senator David Lucas.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, Governor Brian Kemp announced his plans to partner with Flint Energies and Conexon Connect in the effort to give rural Georgians more access to broadband internet.

He says they've already joined forces with local EMCs to serve counties all across Middle and Southwest Georgia.

"Flint Energies will construct a 90-million-dollar, three-thousand-mile, fiberoptic network, which will enhance electric reliability and allow Conexon Connect to provide quality broadband speeds. This new partnership, which builds on Conexon's partnerships with other EMCs throughout the state, will bring new high-speed internet service to approximately tens of thousands of unserved or underserved homes and businesses, in Crawford, South Houston, Macon, Marion, Muscogee, Peach, Sly, Talbot, and Taylor counties," said Kemp.

Later in the day, Speaker of the House David Ralston held a press conference to announce his plans to cut taxes for the next fiscal year. In partnership with Bonaire Representative Shaw Blackmon, the bill increases the amount that taxpayers would receive in potential refunds, for a total of a billion dollars statewide.

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"I'm proud to have presided as Speaker of this House during the time in which we have now cut taxes for Georgians not once but twice. Today, we are here to announce that we will be cutting taxes on Georgia's families a third time," said Ralston.

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