Unlike the U.S. Congress, the Georgia General Assembly and more than 20 other state legislatures around the nation mark "Crossover Day," a point at which any bill that has not passed at least one legislative chamber is dead and cannot be considered until the following year. In Georgia, Crossover Day officially is day 30 of the legislature's annual 40-day legislative session and fell on Friday, March 13 this year. (A date that was appropriately unlucky for those bills that did not pass either chamber.)
Destin Murphy, a University of North Georgia (UNG) political science major working at the capitol this semester under the Georgia Legislative Intern Program, and Dr. Carl Cavalli, professor of political science at UNG, take a look at some of the bills among the hundreds submitted this session. For the ones that passed, it's on to the other chamber, where they have 10 additional legislative days to get passed and submitted to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. For the ones that didn't, it's "wait'll next year!"
Crossover Day survivors:
- The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act may be the most controversial survivor. According to the text of the bill, its purpose is "for the preservation of religious freedom." Its supporters claim it is consistent with the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, though its detractors claim it encourages discrimination in the name of religion.
- The transportation bill is one of the most consequential bills to survive. Its purpose is to update roads and bridges, and to replace the sales tax on gasoline with an excise tax. Lawmakers hope the tax change will provide $1 billion more in revenue to the state. It is the hope of the state that many projects that were delayed due to the recession and shrinking revenue will finally see the attention they need.
- As spending on education consumes around 50 percent of the state's budget every year, it is worth noting some related bills that also survived:
- A bill to allow the state to provide for tuition grants to children of police officers killed in action.
- A bill that grants students of technical colleges course credit for relevant experience.
- Gov. Deal's plan for "Opportunity School Districts," which allows the state to take over school districts it considers failing and allow the state to make these charter schools.
- Bills from both the House and Senate relating to medical marijuana. The Senate bill authorizes a 5-year study, while the House bill legalizes the use of cannabis oil for certain disorders.
- A cyberbullying bill that adds threats made on computing devices to the state's existing bullying law.
- A bill restricting smoking in automobiles when a child younger than 15 is present.
- A bill requiring young football players to wear stronger helmets.
Bills that didn't make it:
- A bill to change the GPA scale to accurately show the standing of students who currently exceed the 4.0 that is standard today.
- A bill to allow the state to match contributions into an education savings account for low-income individuals.
- A resolution requiring, as a condition of graduating college, the completion of a personal finance class.
- A proposed amendment to the state constitution to allow gambling on horse races.
- A bill to reduce the number of early voting days down to 12 from the current 21.