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Last day of Georgia session: Marriage age, rape kits
Kemp legislature..jpg
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, speaks to members of the Georgia House as House Speaker David Ralston looks on during the final 2019 legislative session at the State Capitol Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Atlanta. - photo by AP Photo/John Bazemore

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers considered proposals to raise the minimum age for marriage and preserve evidence in rape cases on Tuesday during the last hectic day of Georgia’s 2019 legislative session.

Several major proposals, including a bill restricting abortion after a heartbeat has been detected and a measure that would move the state to new touchscreen voting machines that print paper ballots, have already been passed and sent to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

CHILD MARRIAGES

A bill raising Georgia’s minimum marriage age to 17 is heading to Kemp’s desk after the House approved it by a vote of 155-14 on Tuesday.

Under current Georgia law, 16-year-olds can get married with parental permission.

Under the bill, a 17-year-old that wanted to marry would have to be legally emancipated from their parents by a judge and undergo pre-marriage counseling. A 17-year-old would also not be allowed to marry someone more than four years older.

Rep. Andy Welch, the bill’s author, has said he worried about young people making decisions that could negatively affect the rest of their lives.

RAPE KITS

Law enforcement officials in Georgia could soon be required to preserve rape kits for a longer time under a bill approved by the state House.

The House unanimously approved the measure on Tuesday. The Senate approved it earlier in the day, and it now goes to the governor for his signature.

Current law requires rape kits to be stored for 10 years. The proposal would require Georgia to preserve the evidence 30 years after the arrest date or seven years from the completion of a prison sentence, whichever occurs later. If there are no arrests, the kit must be stored for 50 years.

The bill’s author, Rep. Scott Holcomb, is an Atlanta Democrat and lawyer who said he’s prosecuted rape and sexual-assault crimes.

After the vote, Holcomb said the measure is “among the best in the country, if not the best.”

In an emotional speech on the floor, earlier this session, Holcomb said, “These crimes change and damage lives to a degree that is really incredible.”

Holcomb was one of the main backers of a law passed in 2016 that helped cut down on the state’s backlog of rape kits.

ABORTION RESTRICTION PROTESTS

Actress Alyssa Milano on Tuesday joined several Georgia-based TV and film industry workers in protesting a “heartbeat” abortion ban awaiting Kemp’s signature.

Milano delivered a letter signed by other prominent Hollywood actors to Kemp’s office before speaking against the bill.

Republican Rep. Dominic LaRiccia confronted Milano in a packed reception area in front of Kemp’s office and asked her which Georgia district she votes in.

Milano replied that she was currently working in Georgia, but did not live in the state. She said other film workers with her did.

Backed by Kemp, the legislation would ban almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

Kemp’s office declined to comment.