Bill raising Georgia’s marriage age to 17 advances

ATLANTA — A bill raising Georgia’s marriage age to 17 is moving closer to approval.

The state Senate will consider the legislation after it passed the state House on a 158-13 vote last week.

The measure, House Bill 228, increases the minimum marriage age from 16 to 17 with parental consent. Most states, including Georgia, currently allow 16-year-olds to marry if they have permission from their parents.

Eleven states require couples to be 17 or older to marry, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State Rep. Andy Welch, a Republican from McDonough, said in a state House speech that raising the marriage age would help prevent young couples from making a premature and potentially harmful decision.

He said young women in particular are susceptible to exploitation, abusive relationships.

Before those under 18 could marry, they’d have to complete at least six hours of premarital education from a professional, including instruction on conflict management, communication skills, financial responsibilities and parenting responsibilities. They would also have to be freed from parental control by a judge.

— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sen. Jeff Merkley will run for re-election instead of president

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeff Merkley announced Tuesday that he won’t run for president and will make a bigger difference by running for re-election in the Senate.

The Oregon Democrat has been publicly contemplating a presidential bid for almost a year.

“My best contribution is to run for re-election and do all I can to help the Senate be a full partner in addressing the challenges before us,” Merkley said in his announcement video.

The video was stylized like a traditional presidential announcement, featuring Merkley outlining his family history and expressing his concerns with the state of the country, declaring that it is “way off track.”

The senator’s platform is comparable to other progressive presidential candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, featuring an anti-corruption sentiment and a populist bent.

He told the New York Times in June that he wouldn’t “necessarily” stay out of the race if Sanders and Warren were to enter. Both Warren and Sanders officially joined the Democratic presidential primary in February.

“I believe that there are Democrats now in the presidential race who are speaking to the importance of tackling the big challenges we face,” he said.

Merkley affirmed in his announcement video that he is going to “help elect a president,” but didn’t specify who he would support. He was the only senator to endorse Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary over Hillary Clinton, The Washington Post reported.

— CQ-Roll Call

Financial transaction tax will be a test for Democratic presidential candidates

WASHINGTON — The many congressional Democrats making runs for the White House will have to decide whether to support a new tax on traders and investors.

With Democrats on both sides of the Capitol unveiling proposed taxes on financial transactions that they say would target high frequency trading while providing new revenue for Democratic priorities, the issue could put several candidates on the record.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, who is the lead sponsor in the House, referred directly to the possibility of the potential $777 billion in tax receipts over a decade being used for spending.

“Congress needs to rein in excessive speculative activity and protect working families from these dangerous practices while maintaining appropriate market liquidity,” DeFazio said. “This legislation will curb unnecessary speculation and generate much-needed revenue to help the federal government fund national priorities and invest in the real economy to benefit all Americans.”

The co-sponsors include a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful whose current constituency includes Wall Street.

“More than a decade after Wall Street greed brought the American economy to its knees, big banks and the richest Americans are doing just fine, yet Main Streets and hardworking New Yorkers all over our state are still struggling,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement. “Congress needs to do everything it can to prevent another financial crisis, and this bill would update the rules for Wall Street, help prevent systemic risk in our financial system, and raise revenue so we can invest in our economy.”

With Gillibrand on board, the other Democrats running for president from the Senate are sure to face questions about whether they will sign-on to the proposal.

The lead sponsor on the Senate version of the bill is Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who emphasized that the new tax could help reduce the incentives for volatile trading.

— CQ-Roll Call

Florida couple ‘close to death’ until their cat rescued them

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Deltona, Fla., couple had spent several hours exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning and nearly died had it not been for their cat, according to a report by WESH.

Paul and Leona Jones parked their car in the garage after an early dinner Wednesday, WESH reported.

However, the couple failed to push the off button of their vehicle and left the engine running. The fumes began permeating throughout the house.

Paul fell asleep in the bedroom and woke up at 1 a.m. to the cries of the couple’s pet cat, Bella, under the bed, WESH reported. He picked Bella up off the bed and then collapsed.

Leona, who was sleeping on the couch, came into the room but became too weak and couldn’t lift herself onto the bed, WESH said.

She called 911, and rescue crews gave the Joneses and their cat oxygen and transported them for further examination.

— Orlando Sentinel