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Ga. Lawmakers Sprint To Finish Session

ATLANTA – Georgia lawmakers are nearing the end of a grueling 40-day session on Thursday, but first must deal with a controversial immigration proposal and attempt to find common ground on a host of other issues.

The General Assembly has already tackled major legislation on issues including the HOPE scholarship, Sunday alcohol sales and the 2012 budget. A proposal to overhaul the state's tax code fell apart in the 11th hour.

Illegal immigration remains the most contentious issue still to be decided. The House passed a tougher bill, while the Senate approved a version with changes sought by business and agricultural groups worried they could be penalized for not screening the immigration status of employees. The Senate can either agree to changes made in the House or send the bill to a conference committee to hammer out a compromise.

Lawmakers have until midnight, when the session must come to a close, to pass any pending legislation.

Other key measures still to be decided include one that would close a lobbying loophole allowing gifts to staff of public employees and another that would give the governor authority to appoint members to the embattled Atlanta Public School board.

Bills that would allow the sale of insurance across state lines, hand Delta Air Lines a hefty tax break and allow hunters in south Georgia to get closer to their prey are also up for final passage.

Lawmakers are expected to return to the state Capitol in late summer for a special session to deal with redrawing congressional and legislative district lines to conform to new U.S. Census data.