House lawmakers made a dash for the finish line during the General Assembly’s longest and busiest day of the legislative session.
Facing a midnight deadline, lawmakers debated a laundry list of bills late into the night Wednesday. The marathon voting session was to push as many bills through before midnight. Any bills not passed by the chamber in which they were introduced are now dead.
Lawmakers passed the 2013 budget—a $19.2 billion spending plan that includes a boost in funds for Georgia’s University and Technical College Systems.
The Republican-sponsored proposal largely follows a plan from Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. House lawmakers cut $5 million in borrowing to purchase a lot near the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. While there has been discussion of building a new stadium there, Rep. Terry England said that discussion was for a later day.
It also restored funding for a state-run visitors center in former President Jimmy Carter's hometown of Plains.
Assisting in another person's suicide would be a felony crime in Georgia punishable by up to a decade in prison under another legislation passed by House lawmakers. The legislation responds to a state Supreme Court ruling in February that struck down a 1994 law banning people from publicly advertising suicide.
Representatives passed bill that would revise funding of charter schools. And another bill would require people on food stamp to take classes or job training.
The House and Senate both passed bills requiring people seeking welfare benefits pass a drug test before getting cash. If money allows, the law would require that welfare recipients pass a randomly scheduled drug test at least once every two years. Those who fail a first test could reapply, but additional drug tests could make them ineligible for benefits.
Republican Rep. Ben Watson of Savannah said the bill is meant to protect children of addicts.
“If someone is doing drugs, they should not be receiving money to pay for that addiction. It should be going to children,” Watson said.
But House Democrat Stacey Abrams of Atlanta said a drug test law might hurt the people it’s aiming to help.
“If you have never fled an abusive husband with your three children in tow in the dead of night with pennies to her name, you should not tell a woman she has to take a drug test to seek shelter, or be evicted from one if she does,” Abrams said.
The most significant bill that did not make the crossover deadline in the House: Georgia’s Return to Play Act, determining how soon a high school athlete can return to play after a concussion.