The Week Ahead: Crossover deadline makes for a hectic week

By Walter C. Jones 
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Legislators will put in long hours trying to meet Thursday's midnight deadline to keep bills alive.
An internal rule leaves bills dead for the remaining 10 days of the 2013 legislative session if they haven't been passed by the House or Senate and crossed the Capitol. To beat the Crossover Day cutoff, lawmakers will hold a flurry of quick, last-minute committee meetings on Monday timed to get bills to the full House and Senate by Tuesday or Thursday.
"Tuesday, we'll go long (into the evening) and then take a break," said Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone.
Wednesday will be a recess.
"It gives our members time to read all the legislation and catch up," he said.
It also gives the clerks the time required to print, staple and collate copies of the all the bills so they'll be on lawmakers' desks when they arrive. Often late on Crossover Day, voting on bills added to the agenda will be delayed because the clerks have gotten behind in the heavy volume.
Overall, the legislative torrent has been a little less than most years.
"We haven't had a great deal of bills, but that's not necessarily a bad thing," Chance said. "We haven't had a large number of bills filed."
Scheduled so far for Monday are 28 bills for the full House to consider and 12 for the full Senate before legislators race to back-to-back committee meetings.
Of the Monday batch in the Senate, the one most likely to stir a protracted debate is Senate Bill 101 by Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville. It prohibits turning away tenants from public housing just because they have a gun and makes confidential the names of people with concealed-weapons permits. It also makes people younger than 21 eligible for a permit if they've served in the military.
"That's a gun bill, which I'm sure will be interesting," Chance said.
Monday's House list includes House Bill 350 that expands the daycare employees who must get fingerprinted for a national background check. Currently, only managers are required.
"Child safety is a top priority of our agency. This bill is vitally important to Georgia's youngest learners," said Ray Higgins, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.
The House will have its own long debates over controversial bills, such as HB 361 which requires that unionization elections be done by secret ballot.
Two types of bills are exempt from the Crossover Day deadline, state budgets and local bills. The House Appropriations Committee hasn't spent much time recently on the budget to free its members, who total nearly half of the House, to concentrate on committees with bills that are subject to Crossover.
House Majority Leader Larry O'Neal, R-Bonaire, predicted the House would pass the budget by March 20, which will leave the Senate five days to pass its version and negotiate the differences with the House.


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