It's Feb. 29: Crossover Day in Georgia. Republicans and Democrats hope to push bills through their chambers before this year's deadline. Lawmakers will host a special episode tonight at 7 p.m. on GPB-TV.



Pamela Kirkland: Crossover Day is finally here, and we are honored to have Donna Lowry, host of GPB's Lawmakers here, to break it all down for us. Donna, thank you so much for joining me. 

Donna Lowry: Glad to be here. It's an exciting day. So I'm glad we're going to talk about it.

Pamela Kirkland:  So let's start with the basics. What is Crossover Day?

Donna Lowry: Crossover Day is a major day in the Georgia Legislature because a bill must pass in at least one chamber to have a good chance of becoming law. And because it's the end of a biennium session, when bills have a two-year shelf life, essentially, any bills that don't make it [within that time frame] would have to be reintroduced next session. So of course, there's some legislation that can make it in. It can be tagged on to something else. But for the most part, if [a bill] doesn't pass and either the Senate or the House by ... the legislative day when it ends, then it doesn't have a chance of being a bill. And I should say the legislative day doesn't necessarily end at midnight. It can end when the Legislature decides. 

Pamela Kirkland: OK, interesting. 

Donna Lowry: We could be there a long time [Thursday] night. 

Pamela Kirkland: And you're right in the middle of covering all of the action at the Capitol. What are some of the key issues or bills that you're going to be looking for? 

Donna Lowry: A lot of things that we thought might be left to Crossover Day have already passed, but there will still be this flurry of activity. We've seen dozens of bills passed this week just in the early part of the week, so there's still a lot there. One of the things that we know there will be something about is dealing with the news that we're hearing about: the tragedy that happened up in Athens, where [nursing student] Laken Riley was murdered. And we know that the person charged in that case is somebody who's in this country illegally. So among the bills is one that deals with sanctuary policy. And the Athens-Clarke County area calls itself a sanctuary city. But legally, it really can't be. This is to make sure they treat it like any other city, which is making sure that anybody who was arrested, who has been in this country illegally, that law enforcement authorities inform federal immigration agents that they have someone in custody who is not a U.S. citizen.

We also know that given what we've seen in other states, such as Alabama, dealing with IVF, for instance, that we are seeing a push to have something dealing with that. There's nothing formal right now, but we are expecting, because of what Democrats are doing — and they had a press conference this week — that we're going to see some legislation along those lines, too. So of course, things that are currently in the news are a big thing.

And I will have to mention that there are some education-related bills that will fall under the culture wars that we've seen. So one would allow school librarians to be criminally prosecuted for knowingly distributing materials deemed harmful to minors. Another would send an email whenever a child borrows a library book that is considered something that the parent may not choose. And there is also a bill to sever ties between the American Library Association and Georgia's library system, and another bill that would deal with schools would allow the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms. So those are some of the bills that we're dealing with.

One of the big ones, though, has to do with the school vouchers. Some people call it school choice. It is $6,000 that a parent would be able to use to send their child to a place other than a public school. Very controversial. Went down to the wire last year in terms of it being on Sine Die [adjournment of the last day of session]. where 16 Republicans joined Democrats in voting down the bill because they feel that they don't have other resources for that money other than public schools in their communities.

Pamela Kirkland: Who can we expect to see you with on Lawmakers

Donna Lowry: We are happy that Lt. Gov. Burt Jones is going to do a talkback with me. We'll have the very latest on what has happened during [Crossover Day] and what to expect during the night. We also plan to have Sarah Kallis, who is our capitol correspondent. She will be talking to leaders such as Bill Cowsert, who chairs the Special Committee on Investigations; Rep. Soraya Draper, she'll talk about election bills, and there's still quite a few election bills we expect to come up. Rep. Sam Park — he is the House minority whip — and Sen. Derek Mallow. They will both talk about what some of the Democratic priorities are and what they hope to see. Of course, it is a Republican-led General Assembly. So they are still pushing their issues and hoping for a lot.

And then I'm happy that we're doing something a little different in the studio. Joining me in the studio for analysis are Theron Johnson, who is a Democratic strategist. He's with Paramount Consulting Group. And Martha Zoller, who is the host of her own show called Martha Zoller on Georgia Radio, and she's a former Republican candidate for Congress. 

Pamela Kirkland: Donna Lowery is host of Lawmakers. You can watch her special on Crossover Day tonight at 7 p.m. on GPB and Donna, thank you so much for spending some time with me. 

Donna Lowry: Glad to be here.