Elections, online betting, citizen’s arrest: Georgia’s General Assembly enters the final stretch for 2021

What survived and what didn't on Crossover Day 2021, a.k.a. the day a bill must pass either the Georgia House or Senate in order to have a chance at becoming law

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Georgia Crossover Day 2021
The Georgia Capitol

Photograph by Rob Hainer via iStock/Getty Images Plus

Voting
More than 10 bills affecting voting laws made it past both chambers of Georgia’s legislature before the 30-day cut-off, keeping alive what’s become this year’s most closely watched issue under the Gold Dome. Lawmakers in both chambers will consider bills that propose doing away with no-excuse absentee voting, prohibiting mobile voting options like the buses used in 2020 by Fulton County elections officials, and giving poll watchers more oversight, among many other proposals.

Public Official Pay Raises
State senators on Monday rejected the hottest of political hot potatoes: upping the salaries for the first time in more than 20 years for themselves and other statewide constitutional officers. The measure sponsored by state Senator Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, would have increased state lawmakers’ pay 70 percent, from $17,342 to $29,908 (the lieutenant governor’s and House Speaker’s salaries would both top out at $135,000, up from roughly $90,000 now.) House leaders did not bring up a similar bill in the House, sponsored by state Representative Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock.

Citizen’s Arrest
In a rare show of unanimous bipartisanship, House lawmakers approved 173-0 a bill that would roll back the state’s citizen’s arrest law. Codified during the Civil War and rooted in racism, the antiquated measure came under a new round of scrutiny after a prosecutor argued it cleared the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

Criminal Justice
State Representative Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, continues his multi-year effort to reform and streamline how the state collects, analyzes, and stores evidence of alleged sexual assaults. His latest piece of legislation, House Bill 255, would create a system that allows sexual assault and rape victims to track the progress of their evidence, all the way to prosecution. Another Democrat-sponsored bill that passed the cut-off line would allow people who filed temporary restraining orders to opt in to receiving security checks from law enforcement.

Drag Racing
Both the House and Senate passed legislation to crack down on street racing—more often doughnuts in intersections and, occasionally, I-285 under the Atlanta airport. Supported by Governor Brian Kemp, the House’s version that passed on Crossover Day mandates fines and jail time for people who participate in or promote street racing events.

School Vouchers
Every year, Georgians can be eligible for a state tax credit if they contribute up to nonprofits that provide scholarships to students to private schools. Critics have likened the program to a school voucher—using public dollars to fund private education, though a legal challenge that made it to the Georgia Supreme Court was unsuccessful. Under the legislation passed 98-71 by the House on Monday, individuals would be able to contribute up to $2,500, and households up to $5,000. The sponsor, state Representative John Carson, R-Marietta, says his bill would also increase oversight of the program.

Wildcards
Other pieces of legislation of note, some of which passed in the days leading up to Crossover Day:

  • A bill to make permanent daylight savings time
  • A state constitutional amendment legalizing online sports betting (and dedicating some of the revenue raised to needs-based scholarships)
  • Legislation making the theft of packages from someone’s porch a felony
  • A proposal to cut state income taxes by an estimated $140 million
  • A push for additional paid parental leave for more than 250,000 employees of Georgia’s public higher education system
  • A measure that would prohibit cities and counties from cutting their public safety budgets by more than 5 percent each year—a GOP response to calls to “defund the police”

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