The legislature has adjourned for this week and will reconvene on March 15, for Day 32. They will be in session Monday through Thursday next week.
Cross-over Day was Monday, which meant bills must have been passed by the chamber where they originated and crossed-over to the other chamber in order for them to still be alive for this session. Because of this deadline, Monday was a long and hectic day. The Senate had four pages of bills for consideration on its calendar, and the House Rules Committee met several times to continue adding bills to the House calendar. The day ended after 7:00 for the Senate, which adjourned with a dozen or so bills left on the calendar. The House stayed in session until after 11:00 and left a few bills on its calendar as well.
While some Senate election reform bills were not called up on Monday, the Senate did pass some election bills after a debate that continued for several hours. One of the bills passed was Majority Leader Mike Dugan’s substantial election reform (SB 241) that eliminates no-excuse absentee voting among other things. Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan was noticeably absent during this debate, saying later that he couldn’t preside over something he very much opposed. The bill passed with the bare minimum of 29 votes. The Senate also passed Sen. Mullis’ sports betting legislation (SR 135 and SB 142). The constitutional amendment (SR 135) requires approval of sports betting by voters and SB 142 is the enabling legislation. During debate, a senator questioned the bill’s low application and renewal fees for sports betting licenses. The bill’s author acknowledged that more work was needed on the issue but he wanted to get something passed and over to the House. Other bills passed by the Senate include creation of the Ga. Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding (SR 102), compensation suspension of public officers who are indicted for felonies (SB 218 and SR 134), creation of a Chief Labor Officer within the Department of Labor (SB 156), and the Ga. Uniform Mediation Act (SB 234). The Senate also considered a pay increase for statewide public officials and legislators (SB 252), but the measure failed 20-33.
The Senate Appropriations subcommittees have been holding hearings all week on the FY ’22 budget.
The House unanimously passed the bill supported by Governor Kemp that would repeal Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law (HB 479). Other bills passed by the House include elimination of the “loophole” in the distracted driving law that allows first offenders to bring in proof of obtaining a cell phone holder in order to have their charges dropped (HB 247), allowed visitation to hospitals and nursing homes during a public health emergency (HB 290), an increase in the contribution limits for the state’s K-12 scholarship fund (HB 517), and legislation calling for DCH to create an “express lane” for enrolling uninsured children by automatically adding children receiving food stamps to the Medicaid program (HB 163). The House had its legislator/public official pay increase bill (HB 675) as well its sports betting bill (HB 86) on the calendar for Monday but declined to take up either of these bills.
After a long and stressful cross-over day on Monday, the usual bickering has now started between the House and Senate over which Chamber is passing enough bills from the other side. The Senate had passed several House bills earlier in the week, but the House had not yet taken up any Senate bills. The Senate Rules Chair, Sen. Mullis, threw down the gauntlet during his committee meeting Wednesday saying the Senate was not going to take up any more House bills until the House takes up Senate bills. The House Rules Committee met Thursday morning and put one Senate bill on the House calendar for Thursday and one for Monday. In response, the Senate Rules Committee met after the Senate adjourned and put one House bill on the Senate calendar for Monday.
In the special election run-off for House District 90 held on Tuesday, March 9, Angela Moore received 59% of the vote to defeat former Rep. Stan Watson. She will be sworn in next week.