Political and Legislative

New Bills Passed on Crossover Day in Georgia

New Bills Passed on Crossover Day in Georgia — John Dixon, Yates & Wheland — https://lawyeratl.com/

New Bills Passed on Crossover Day in Georgia

March 8, 2021 was Crossover Day for the Georgia legislature, or the day by which a bill must pass out of its original legislative chamber to be considered by the other chamber for the current session. Many key bills have been passed through at least one chamber on this day in past years, and this one seems even more promising for future laws.

For any new bill to potentially become a law this year, it must be approved by the House or the Senate. It then has 12 more days to be passed by the other chamber and be signed by the Governor into law. Although this is the first year out of a 2-year term, this day is still important for Georgia’s House and Senate decisions on key measures.

Bill to End No-Excuse Absentee Voting

Senate Bill 241 would end “no-excuse” absentee voting in Georgia. The bill would limit absentee ballot voting to people 65 and older, those with a physical disability, and people who would be out of town on Election Day and need to vote from another location.

The bill would also require an ID to be presented by those who are eligible to vote absentee, among many other changes to the current methods of voting absentee. The bill will head to a Senate-House conference committee where the two chambers will discuss it and its implications. The Senate passed this Republican-backed bill by a narrow margin (29-20), which comes after a record turnout leading to many Democratic victories at the most recent election. Many Republican chamber members seek to roll back voting access and tighten restrictions on absentee voting due to the election results.

Bill to Limit Citizen’s Arrests

A bill that would generally stop bystanders and witnesses from making citizen’s arrests was unanimously passed through Georgia’s House in a 173-0 vote—and will now move to the Senate. This bill comes over a year after Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was fatally shot by two armed white men.

The men charged with murder of Arbery had stated that they shot him while attempting a citizen’s arrest, even though prosecutors say Arbery was simply out for a jog that day and that no crime had been committed when the men pursued and shot him. Supporters of the bill say that his shooting last year showed the need for change in the way Georgia has previously allowed citizen’s arrests, especially when linked with disproportionate attacks and shootings of black people in the state.

Bill to Increase Adult Criminal Age

Bill 272 was approved by Georgia’s House, which would raise the age for charging most people as an adult criminal from 17 to 18. The House Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman, Mandi Ballinger, has been in favor of this idea for years, citing expert testimony that teenage brains are still in the process of development and lack the same impulse control that older adults have (age 22+).

Extensive research has been done on this topic in the field of psychology, and the findings are congruent with this idea. Supporters of the bill state that 17-year-olds should go to juvenile courts rather than adult criminal courts, so that judges can decide cases that promote growth in the individual, without giving them a permanent criminal record. The House voted 113-51 to pass the bill, sending it to the Senate for further debate.

Bill on Freedom of Religious Speech

The Supreme Court has revived a lawsuit brought by a college student at Georgia Gwinnett College and ended up siding with the student in an 8-1 vote. The student sued school officials after being prevented from distributing Christian literature on the college campus, citing a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, Freedom of Religion.

The issue at hand was whether the case could continue, since the now-graduated student was requesting damages of only $1. The lower courts in Georgia said the case was not of practical value, but the Supreme Court disagreed with this, citing that the incident is critical in ensuring that people can continue their cases if their constitutional rights were violated, even when governments repeal the policies that are being challenged.

Bill on Increased Pay for Lawmakers

A bill that would nearly double the salary for lawmakers and boost pay for statewide officials was rejected by the Georgia Senate in a 33-20 decision. The base salary for the House and Senate members would have increased from $16,200 a year to almost $30,00. The Senate vote against the bill raises questions about whether plans for salary increases will move forward. However, the House could still vote on a nearly identical proposal, House Bill 675. If this measure does not advance, it is not likely that an increased salary for lawmakers will happen this year.

Bill to Allow One Visitor in Medical Facilities During Pandemic

A bill was passed by the House that would allow a patient in a hospital or long-term care center to name a “designated legal representative” that would get at least one hour of contact with them each day. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had previously implemented a ban on visitors at long-term care facilities in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but eased some restrictions in September, allowing visitors based on the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks locally. This proposal seeks to counteract the banning of visitors in medical facilities during the pandemic. The bill will now move to the Senate for more debate on the issue.

Bill to Reduce Distracted Driving

The Georgia House voted 119-52 in favor of a bill to eliminate a loophole that allows people to avoid citations for violating the state’s current hands-free cell phone law. The bill says drivers cannot avoid penalties by telling judges they have purchased hands-free devices for their cellphones.

Republican Marietta Representative John Carson says the current law is in place to excuse people from a first-time offense, and it lets first-time violators escape a fine by appearing before a judge with proof they bought a phone holder or wireless headphone to be used going forward. However, this is not very enforceable, and supporters of the new bill say that people currently can get caught in multiple jurisdictions and escape multiple fines because the courts cannot keep track.

A Glance at Advancing Bills and an Overview of Crossover Day

On Crossover Day, there were several measures that failed to pass, including an effort to impose new criminal penalties on some protests. As mentioned above, however, some key proposals have already moved forward—the Senate passed additional restrictive voting and elections proposals following March 8, the laws have changed for citizen’s arrest due to racial violence, and the framework has been laid for new revenues and tax breaks in the state of Georgia.

Although these bills have not been signed into law yet, there is hope for groundbreaking measures in the state. This is the first year of a two-year legislative term, so there is still hope for bills that did not pass or will not pass through both chambers, as measures that do not advance this year could still pass next year. Nevertheless, important strides have been made that have put the people of Georgia and their needs first.

Leave a Review or Comment

Back to top button