Big bills passed before crossover day

Published 7:31 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Around 800 bills have been introduced during the Georgia General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session. More than 500 of those are at risk of not making it past crossover day on Friday.

For a bill to continue its course at potentially becoming a law, it must be approved by the house where it originated by crossover day, the 30th day of the legislative session.

There are some measures to get around the rule, but they aren’t always executed.

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House Bill 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, has seen several revisions, the most recent of which was approved by the House on Thursday and sent to the Senate.

The current provisions are:

converting the state sales tax on motor fuel to an excise tax of 29.2 cents per gallon

continuation of SPLOST and E-SPLOST at one percent, but upon renewal revenues must be used on transportation purposes

LOST will no longer be levied on motor fuels, but the rate on other sales will go to 1.25 percent beginning July 1, 2016

alternative fueled vehicle drivers will pay a $200 annual fee

Medical marijuana
The coveted title of House Bill 1 went to Haleigh’s Hope Act this year. The House approved the medical cannabis oil bill by a vote of 158-2 on Feb. 25.

The bill would allow Georgian’s suffering from certain conditions to possess up to 20 fluid ounces of a “low THC oil.” THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a chemical in marijuana that is responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects, the high users experience.

Haleigh’s Hope Act was originally introduced last year and was named for a Georgia girl who suffers from severe seizures that such medical cannabis oils are used to treat.

Fireworks legalization
Monday the House passed House Bill 110, which would allow for the sale of many types of fireworks. Currently only sparklers can be sold in the state, however many Georgians cross state lines to purchase fireworks.
The bill’s sponsors said that the state is losing potential tax revenue by not allowing the sale of fireworks. The bill headed to the senate with opponents citing safety concerns.

Failing schools
Thursday, the Georgia Senate approved two pieces of legislation that would potentially give the governor’s office the authority to take over failing schools.
Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 detail Gov. Nathan Deal’s vision of an “Opportunity School District” that would have the ability to take over continuously failing schools. The state would then have total control over the schools on everything from curriculum to faculty and the school’s budget.
SR 287 proposes amending the Georgia Constitution and requires two-thirds majority vote in each chamber.

State budget
Constitutionally, lawmakers must approve a state budget every year. The House passed a version that has been with the Senate since the end of February. For the most part, the budget followed Deal’s recommendations, except the House kept part-time school employees on state health insurance coverage. However, local school districts will have to pay for those costs under the House-approved version.