Wednesday, March 16, marked the 30th legislative day of the 2011 session. Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical day marks the last chance that most House bills will have to pass the House and make their way to the Senate.
If a House bill has not passed the House or a Senate bill has not passed the Senate by the end of Crossover Day, it has little chance of becoming law this year, as this is the deadline for getting bills across to the other chamber for it to be considered this session.
As a result, for the remaining 10 legislative days, the state House will primarily only consider legislation that has already been passed by the state Senate. Due to this deadline, the House worked long hours this week, debating and voting on long lists of legislation on Monday and Wednesday.
Before giving an update on Crossover Day legislation, I wanted to give a quick update on a bill that I have previously mentioned that I authored this session.
On Day 27 of the session, the House passed HB 47 by a strong vote of 111-47. HB 47 proposes to allow the sale of health insurance products across state lines into Georgia. It is a pro-consumer, free-market-oriented solution to making insurance more affordable and the product choices more varied by unlocking the forces of the free market. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Given the economic recession that has so drastically affected our state, we have worked hard this session to balance the state budget and make necessary spending cuts while continuing to provide vital services for Georgians.
To allow for a more thorough examination of our expenditures at the state level, my colleagues and I passed the much-talked-about Zero Based Budgeting Act (HB 33). This measure is designed to increase efficiencies and decrease wasteful spending by implementing a zero-based budgeting system.
Specifically, HB 33 would require a periodic justification of every single penny spent in our state budget, rather than the current practice of making budget requests only for new spending. HB 33 would also consolidate the House Budget Office and Senate Budget Office into one Joint Legislative Budget Office, a simple change that may save the state up to $1 million annually.
In addition to reforming our state’s budget process, we also passed legislation to create the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians.
It has been far too long since Georgia has taken a comprehensive look at our state’s criminal justice punishment and sentencing practices. It is critical that we ensure our public safety dollars are spent in the most efficient manner possible to ensure the ultimate goal of a safe Georgia is being served by our laws and regulations.
This council will study criminal justice reform during the interim and make legislative recommendations to a joint legislative committee before the 2012 session.
The intent of this bill, HB 265, is to find solutions that will allow the state to ensure public safety while decreasing the cost of our corrections system.
The House also took up a measure to ensure our presidential preference primary remains relevant each presidential election cycle from a timing standpoint.
Specifically, House Bill 454 grants the Secretary of State the discretion to select the date for Georgia’s presidential primary in each presidential election year.
The presidential primary date selected by the Secretary of State would have to fall between Dec. 1 of the year prior to a presidential election and the second Tuesday in June of the presidential election year. By granting the Secretary of State this additional flexibility, we can maximize Georgia’s role in selecting our nation’s presidential candidates.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to let you know about some amazing men and women who were honored this week at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Based out of the airport, the U.S. Central Command’s Rest and Recuperation (R&R) leave program and Military Personnel Assistance Point program work 365 days a year to assist members of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard with transit to and from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.
Last year alone, this group of 20 soldiers and civilians supported the R&R needs of more than 166,500 troops who traveled through our great state.
This week, at a ceremony held at the Atlanta airport, a resolution was presented to these hard-working men and women and commends the dedicated efforts of the United States Army Human Resources Command and the USO in support of military personnel and their families.
The resolution also conveys the profound appreciation of the Georgia House of Representatives for all members of the United States military, who stand ever ready to lay the ultimate sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. I was proud to support this important resolution.
In the remaining days of the legislative session I encourage input from citizens of Fayette County on issues of importance that are pending before the state legislature. Please never hesitate to call on me if I can be of service and thank you for the profound opportunity to represent our great community in Atlanta.
[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City. His email is email@example.com.]