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State & Regional Govt & Politics
5 key issues that could live or die in the Legislature today
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5 key issues that could live or die in the Legislature today

5 key issues that could live or die in the Legislature today
State Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, watches the votes come in on bills during this year’s General Assembly session. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

5 key issues that could live or die in the Legislature today

Hundreds of bills hang in the balance at the Georgia Capitol on Thursday, the self-imposed deadline for legislation to pass at least one chamber.

Dozens of bills ranging from the hotly contested to the mundane will be debated on Crossover Day, which occurs on the 28th business day of each year’s 40-day legislative session.

Lawmakers will likely consider a state government takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, abortion restrictions and casino gambling, among many other issues.

If a bill fails to make it out of a chamber by the end of the legislative day, it is unlikely to pass this year.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope.

Since it is the first year of a two-year session, lawmakers have another year to drum up support for their proposals and get them across the finish line by the time they adjourn in 2020.


» Live: Use AJC tracker to follow Georgia bills

» Photos: Crossover Day at the Georgia Legislature


Measures could also be revived this year if eagle-eyed lawmakers find opportunities to add their bill onto legislation that has already passed, which they can do if they are in the same code section of state statutes.

Some big-ticket issues have already crossed the hall, including efforts to update the state’s voting machines, allow the sale of medical marijuana oil and give pay raises to teachers.

And an administrative maneuver could force senators to hold a second vote on an effort that failed Tuesday to use taxpayer money to send students to private schools.

Here’s a look at what remains in play as lawmakers head into Thursday’s legislative session:

Airport

contentious proposal to put the state government in charge of Atlanta’s airport instead of the city is expected to receive a vote in the full Senate Thursday.

Senators supporting the move say they’re disgusted by a federal corruption investigation into Atlanta City Hall and lawsuits alleging airport contracts were steered to favored vendors.

But Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, backed by Delta Air Lines and business leaders, has called the legislation “an attempted theft from the people of Atlanta.”

She said it would be disruptive to the world’s busiest airport to put it in the hands of state officials.

Senate Bill 131 would create the Georgia Major Airport Authority to control the airport.

Abortion

Abortion legislation advanced through the committee stage on Wednesday, setting up a potential vote on the House floor Thursday.

House Bill 481, which would ban abortions once a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the fetus, gained approval in the House Committee on Health and Human Services.

A second piece of legislation that Gov. Brian Kemp backedHouse Bill 546, was tabled by the same committee, dimming its prospects. It would create a “trigger law” that would ask lawmakers to vote to ban abortions in Georgia if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision that determined a woman had a right to seek the procedure.

Casino gambling

A House panel last week unanimously approved a proposal that would ask Georgia voters to decide whether they want to allow casino gambling.

House Resolution 327 would ask voters during the November 2020 election whether they believe the state’s constitution should be amended to allow “licensed destination resort facilities where casino gaming is permitted.” Tax and licensing revenue would be directed to bolster the Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE scholarship.

As of Wednesday, the measure had not yet been added to the House floor calendar for debate.

Hate crimes

A Gwinnett Republican lawmaker has bipartisan support for a bill that would give sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

Though the proposal passed out of committee last week and has been scheduled for floor debate since Monday, House leadership has bumped the bill to Thursday’s calendar.

If House Bill 426 becomes law, a person convicted of a crime and proved to have been motivated by bias would face punishment ranging from three months to a year and a fine of up to $5,000 for a misdemeanor offense to at least two years in prison for a felony offense.

Georgia is one of five states that does not have a hate-crimes law on the books. A 2000 hate-crimes law was struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2004 for being ruled “unconstitutionally vague.”

Transit

A bill that could pave the way for transit expansion across Georgia also has yet to be discussed on the House floor.

House Bill 511 would raise tens of millions of dollars for transit by imposing a 50-cent fee for taxi, limousine and ride-hailing service rides, and a 25-cent fee on shared rides. The fee would replace the state’s existing sales tax on rides for hire. It would generate an estimated $30 million to $60 million annually for transit.

The money would be used to pay for pilot programs that would provide transit vouchers or credits to unemployed residents in parts of rural Georgia and tax credits for companies who subsidize their employees’ transportation to work.

CROSSOVER DAY COVERAGE

Thursday is Crossover Day in the state Legislature. It’s when a bill typically needs to pass at least one chamber of the General Assembly in order to have a chance of becoming law this year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will have the largest team covering the action, using its expertise to offer insight on the issues that matter to taxpayers. Follow the coverage at AJC.com/politics. There will also be an AJC Bill Tracker to provide an up-to-date look at what happens to specific pieces of legislation now before the General Assembly.

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