Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a second-term Republican, has until May 9 to decide whether to sign or reject a newly passed bill that would allow concealed weapons on the campuses of state colleges and universities. The Trace unpacks how Republican supporters bent procedural rules to carry the controversial bill across the legislative finish line. As the deadline ticked down on the legislative session on March 30, most of the state’s residents and many of its political leaders were transfixed by an inferno blazing under I-85 in Atlanta. Inside the state house, negotiators from the House and Senate hammered out revisions to the campus carry bill, bringing their report to lawmakers’ desks at 11:45 p.m., with minutes left on the legislative clock.
Journalists scrambled for a copy of the new bill, tweeting out pictures of its final language. As the updated legislation circulated, three Democrats joined Republicans in voting to suspend their own rules, extending the midnight deadline and giving the bill the extra time needed for lawmakers to enter their positions for the record. “Everyone looked at each other and said, ‘Wait, is this happening?’” said one person who was present. It happened. The bill passed the House 96-70 and the Senate 33-21. “There wasn’t really any debate,” said Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat who opposed the legislation. What the guns-on-campus bill did have, she added, was “people determined to get it through.”