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Legislators Address Controversial Measures In First Week

statehouse in snow

After a postponed start, lawmakers began the 2014 legislation session this week and wasted no time in addressing some of the most significant and controversial bills of the year.

Legislators were forced to push back their planned Monday start as extreme winter weather paralyzed the state.

Tuesday, after the House and Senate were barely able to gavel in with enough members, a Senate committee heard legislation aimed at criminalizing animals rights activists who take photographs or videos on farm property.

The bill, making its second consecutive appearance in the General Assembly, would make those acts a misdemeanor or a felony if the farm takes a financial loss as a result.

A House committee approved legislation creating a small-scale pilot program that would provide vouchers to 4-year-olds to attend high quality preschools.

And lawmakers added a new wrinkle to the same sex marriage ban debate with a companion bill to the proposed constitutional amendment. Republican leaders say the bill is meant to clarify what the amendment is intended to do – specifically, that it won’t prohibit private companies, universities or local governments from offering same sex couple benefits.

But even Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long couldn’t agree on exactly what the amendment and bill say. Bosma says the amendment rules out civil unions, while Long says he thinks the companion bill leaves the door open for civil unions.

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