Crossover Day: Controversial voting bill, citizen’s arrest overhaul among legislation moving forward

ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers had their hands full on Monday as another Crossover Day came to a close.

Crossover Day is when bills need to advance in the House or Senate to have a shot at passing this session.

The 28th day of the 40-day legislative session is the last day for bills to move from one chamber to the other — that is, to cross over — and still have a clear path to becoming law this year.

The Georgia Senate members went home before 8 p.m. but members of the Georgia House remained on the floor until 11 p.m.

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The General Assembly is voting on dozens of bills, but it is a controversial bill to limit absentee voting that is getting the most attention.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan refused to preside over the Senate as it debated SB 241, which would end no excuse absentee voting in Georgia.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray talked to Duncan one-on-one in his Capitol office.

“The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house, we’ve all three said very out loud that we do not support the elimination of absentee ballots. That portion of the bill has in my opinion no chance of becoming a law,” Duncan said.

Supporters of the legislation call it common sense reform.

“Right now we are in essence running three elections simultaneously. The cost is prohibitive,” Georgia Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan said.

However critics call it an attempt to disenfranchise Georgians.

“There’s been no evidence that our elections aren’t secure. There’s been no evidence any of these things are fixes that are actually needed,” Georgia Sen. Jen Jordan said

The Georgia House has already passed its own election reform bill.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down and doing a side-by-side review and seeing what the differences are,” Duncan said.

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Another bill that received much attention is Georgia’s overhaul of its citizen arrest law. The death of Ahmaud Arbery initiated the changes for the Civil War-era law.

The new bill has earned bipartisan support. The House passed the overhaul unanimously, 173-0.

“Unanimous vote from the floor spoke strongly that we want to be not just the best state to do business in , but the best state to live in and this was definitely a historic day,” Rep. Al Williams said.

“I couldn’t be prouder than the House today. It really is a good day for Georgia,” Speaker David Ralston said.

Both the House and Senate also passed legislation that would create new penalties for anyone who organizes, promotes or participates in street racing.

Since the pandemic began, Channel 2 Action News has covered numerous dangerous incidents across metro Atlanta. The bill would allow authorities to suspend licenses of violators for up to a year and those who break the law could also face fines as high as $5,000.

What is Crossover Day?

It is created by a Senate rule. While parliamentary maneuvering can keep a bill alive past Crossover Day, making it from one side of the Capitol to the other by the end of Monday makes final passage in 2021 much more likely.

What is Sine Die?

The 40th day, and the final legislative day, is known as Sine Die. It is the final date for a bill to be passed by both chambers before being sent to the governor’s desk for approval or veto. As with Crossover Day, if a bill fails to pass by this date, it is still alive and can be revisited during the next legislative session in 2022. Once the General Assembly adjourns Sine Die, the governor has 40 days to sign or veto legislation. The governor can also do nothing, as he or she is not required to sign bills and resolutions in order for them to go into law. Unless vetoed, each piece of legislation that reaches his desk will go into law.

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