Deadline day arrives for Georgia legislation still in doubt

Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta (Getty Images)

ATLANTA – Georgia lawmakers are facing a key deadline with much work still to do. Monday is crossover day in the General Assembly when bills and other measures must pass the House or Senate and move on to the other chamber.

Some key proposals have already moved forward, like restrictive voting and elections bills, although lawmakers could consider additional proposals on Monday, and there are ways of reviving failed measures by amending them to other bills.

The failed measures include an effort to impose new criminal penalties for some protesters and a plan to strip the state labor commissioner of some powers. Because it’s the first year of a two-year term, measures that don’t advance this year could still pass next year.

Here’s a look at the status of some significant issues:

Pending bills

CITIZEN’S ARREST: House Bill 479 would abolish the Georgia law that allows private citizens to arrest someone, while still allowing security guards and store employees to hold people they accuse of a crime until police arrive.

LAWMAKER PAY RAISE: Pay for Georgia’s 180 House members and 56 senators would nearly double under House Bill 675. Most statewide elected officials would also get substantial boosts in pay. Proponents say lawmaker pay hasn’t changed since 1999.

PATIENT VISITATION: Hospitals and nursing homes would be required to allow visitors, after many cut visitor access because of the coronavirus pandemic, under House Bill 290.

SCHOOL VOUCHERS: The House is still considering House Bill 60, which would create a new educational savings account program to provide vouchers for private schools and home schooling. The Senate already passed Senate Bill 47, which would broaden eligibility for a program that pays for children with special education needs to attend private schools.

TRANSGENDER SPORTS: Senate bill 266 would ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams in high schools. Proponents say those not born as women could have unfair advantages, but opponents say it’s illegal under federal law and cruel.

EMERGENCY POWERS: House Bill 358 would require lawmakers to renew Gov. Brian Kemp’s emergency powers after 30 days, and then every 90 days after that in an effort to limit powers Kemp has exercised under Georgia’s public health emergency for nearly a year.

IN-STATE TUITION: House Bill 120 would allow some people without legal immigration status to claim in-state tuition at most Georgia universities and colleges.

ADULT CRIMINAL AGE: The age for charging most people with adult crimes would rise from 17 to 18 in Georgia under House Bill 272.

TERM LIMITS: Georgia voters could limit state lawmakers to 12 years per chamber and extend state senators’ terms to four years under Senate Resolution 37, a constitutional amendment. The measure would also impose a two-term limit on the lieutenant governor’s office.

STREET RACING: House Bill 534 and Senate Bill 10 would enhance penalties for illegal street racing and stunt driving.

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Georgia drivers wouldn’t be able to avoid penalties by telling judges they have purchased hands-free devices for their cellphones under House Bill 247.

STONE MOUNTAIN: Senate Bill 158 would require that a “Let Freedom Ring” monument to civil, voting and human rights be built on Stone Mountain, home to a giant carving of Confederate leaders.

Bills that advanced

INCOME TAX CUT: Georgia would raise the amount of money someone could earn before paying income taxes under House Bill 593, cutting overall taxes by $140 million.

SPORTS BETTING: Senate Resolution 135 and Senate Bill 142 would let Georgia’s voters decide whether they’ll allow sports betting. Lawmakers would split the proceeds among college scholarships for low income students, expanded high speed internet access and rural health care services.

HOME-SCHOOLED ATHLETES: Public schools would be required to let home-schooled students take part in athletics and extracurricular activities as long as they take at least one online course through the local school under Senate Bill 51.

LAWSUIT LIABILITY: House Bill 112 would renew until July 2022 Georgia’s law protecting businesses and others from being sued if someone blames them for contracting COVID-19.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Senate Bill 33 would allow victims or state officials to file civil lawsuits seeking money damages against traffickers while Senate Bill 34 would make it easier for people who have been trafficking victims to change their names.

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE: House Bill 146 would offer three weeks of paid parental leave any time to nearly 250,000 state, public university and public school employees after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

TIME CHANGE: House Bill 44 calls for Georgia to permanently switch to daylight saving time if the U.S. Congress authorizes it. Senate Bill 100 calls for Georgia to observe standard time year round, unless Congress lets states switch to daylight saving time permanently.

DEFUND THE POLICE: House Bill 286 says cities and counties can’t cut spending on their police departments by more than 5% a year.

PORCH PIRACY: It would be a felony with mandatory prison time for people who steal packages off someone’s porch under House Bill 94.

HAZING: Senate Bill 85 would increase penalties for hazing, making it a felony to force people to participate in hazing when someone is seriously injured, including by alcohol poisoning.

TEACHER INCENTIVES: House Bill 32 would give a $3,000-per-year state income tax credit to some Georgia teachers who agree to work in certain rural or low performing schools.

Bills that didn’t advance

LABOR COMMISSIONER: Senators on Friday abandoned Senate Bill 156, which would have created a chief labor officer to oversee unemployment benefits. The measure would have cut into Labor Commissioner Mark Butler’s authority because lawmakers say his department has poorly handled a deluge of jobless claims.

PROTEST RESTRICTIONS: Senate Bill 171 would have made blocking a highway during a protest a felony, raised penalties for other forms of protest and expanded the state’s definition of illegal assembly. It never passed out of committee.

CASINO GAMBLING: None of the various measures that would authorize casinos have passed out of committee.

HORSE RACING: None of the various measures that would authorize betting on horse racing have passed out of committee.