You can never truly say a bill has died until lawmakers gavel out of the legislative session and declare “Sine Die” as they do the last night of the session. But two so-called 'religious freedom' bills have little chance of a resurrection in the final weeks of the 2014 session.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn qualified Thursday at the state Capitol, and brought a posse of supporters with her. Candidates in both parties have been qualifying to run all week, including fellow Democratic challenger, Jason Carter, who is running for Governor. But few other candidates brought a crowd of supporters, who chanted her name and cheered the impromptu remarks she made after filing the paperwork.
This session, lawmakers are too eager this year to adjourn and start campaigning for re-election to poke around into anything too controversial. But the outside world keeps intruding at the Gold Dome. Last month, it was severe winter weather. This month, it’s a lack of federal funding for the Savannah Harbor deepening project.
Georgia lawmakers now have their sights set firmly on March 20 when the 40-day 2014 legislative session will end. Among the hundreds of measures that have a chance at passage into law this year, one proposal would place a monument to the Ten Commandments in a prominent spot at the Capitol. Another would bar the state from levying ad valorem taxes. There’s also a bill adding a high deductible option to the state employee healthcare plan. But which ones are the biggies?
Georgia lawmakers have now made it to the other side. That is, the other side of so-called Crossover Day, which took place Monday at the state Capitol. They are now three-quarters of the way through the 2014 legislative session, and barreling toward the end, currently scheduled for March 20. Any bill that didn’t pass one of the General Assembly’s chambers Monday won’t have a shot at becoming law in the final ten days of this year’s 40-day legislative session.
Monday is Day 30 of Georgia’s 40-day legislative session. With three-quarters of the session behind them, lawmakers will use the day to make the final determination on what bills will have a shot at becoming law and what bills will die for the session. Day 30 is called Crossover Day because any bill that passes one chamber by this point in the session automatically crosses over to the other chamber for consideration. And after Day 30, the remaining bills--the ones that have passed either the House or the Senate--are the only ones that might become law.
A state House panel Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would permit medical marijuana to be grown and used in Georgia for treatment of patients with cancer, glaucoma and seizure disorders under tightly controlled restrictions. The Health and Human Services Committee’s passage of the high-profile legislation paves the way for the full House to vote on the bill.
As the state legislature heads into its final weeks, there are not one but two so-called religious freedom bills under consideration and causing controversy. They come before the legislature as a similar bill in Arizona has captured the national spotlight. Lawmakers in that state passed a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers if employees claimed it was against their religion. But Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, under intense pressure by those who say the measure is discriminatory, has vetoed the bill. Lobbying efforts have already begun in Georgia; Delta Air Lines, one of the state’s largest employers and a corporate titan, has come out against the bills.
Some Georgia applicants for food stamps and welfare benefits would have to pass a drug test under a House bill that cleared a committee Monday on a 7-6 vote. People applying for this government assistance would require testing if they raised “reasonable suspicion” of illegal drug use.
In a session that was meant to be easy, breezy and controversy-free, the state Legislature is sure having its share of hiccups. First, it was the storm dubbed ‘SnowJam’ at the end of January when two inches of snow ground the state’s capital city to a halt, in part because it appears lawmakers were slow to take the storm seriously and coordinate the appropriate response. Now a bill filed by a freshman Republican lawmaker has become, in the words of Uncle Billy from the film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” a “squall” that’s “shaping up into a storm.”