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For now, lawmakers won't limit stem cell research
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Story: Gainesville State's president says college needs the money

State Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, said a bill that places restrictions on embryonic stem cell research will not be passed this session.

Amerson, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, said there are issues to be resolved with the bill.

The legislation was first introduced as a bill to limit the number of embryos that can be transplanted into a woman’s body. It was a reaction to the birth of eight babies to Nadya Suleman of California.

However, the bill was modified on the Senate floor to address the repeal of an executive order on stem cell research by President Barack Obama.

"I’m not going to act on it because there has been so much controversy," Amerson said. "I have had well over 500 e-mails and telephone calls." He said the contacts have been almost evenly split among those on either side of the bill.

"I recognize the input from Georgia Right to Life and the Catholic Archdiocese," Amerson said, adding that many of the messages are copies of text provided by the two anti-abortion groups.

He said there have been a number of valid arguments provided by Georgia proponents of allowing stem cell research, but he is listening to both sides. "I have to let people have their say," Amerson said.

The Dahlonega lawmaker said he may hold hearing on the measure next fall.

He said a national bioscience conference will bring 20,000 people to Atlanta in May and he doesn’t want to allow controversy over the bill to harm the state economically by angering participants.

"I’m not going to allow something to come through that started out as a backlash for a woman who chose to be artificially inseminated and now has 14 kids," he said. "While I might disagree with her, I don’t think it requires this kind of legislation."

Meanwhile, the Senate will vote today on the state’s $18.6 billion budget for the year beginning July 1.

The Senate version includes the restoration of $6.2 million for an academic building at Gainesville State College.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said he believes the House will go along with the Senate on the building funds following meetings with Gainesville State College President Martha Nesbitt.

"I had her down here (Monday) to meet with Chairman (Ben) Harbin and she explained that the building was already designed," Rogers said. Harbin is the chairman of House Appropriations Committee.

After passage by the Senate, conferees will begin meeting to iron out agreement on the two versions of the budget. The negotiators will have Thursday as the only full day to meet. Lawmakers gather Friday for the final day of the 2009 session.

Also awaiting resolution is a measure that would require driver’s license applicants to take the written exam in English, which could make Georgia the only state to have such a rule.

The measure passed the House on Monday by a 104-58 vote. The proposal, which has already passed the Senate, would go to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s desk if the chambers hash out minor differences in their versions of the bill.

Supporters of the bill say it’s a matter of public safety, contending that drivers should be proficient in English so they can read roadside signs and overhead warnings.

"We believe it’s a public safety measure," said state Rep. James Mills, a Gainesville Republican who sponsored the measure. "If someone sees a sign in the road that says, ‘Bridge Out Ahead,’ we want to make sure you can read ‘Bridge Out Ahead."’ But opponents say it’s an anti-immigrant measure that would also hurt Georgia’s chances of attracting foreign investment, such as the Kia auto assembly plant. "This is real important on where we would want to take the state," said House Minority Leader DuBose Porter. "If we pass it, it would be shortsighted and narrow-minded."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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