2019 Mid-Session Legislative Update
The 2019 legislative year is in full swing, and members of the 155th Georgia General Assembly are at work.
2019 Legislative Timeline
Here are the past and upcoming major dates associated with this year’s legislation:
January 9: Opening Day
This year, the first day of the session coincided with inauguration day and the swearing-in of a new executive branch as well as a new General Assembly.
March 7: Crossover Day
The 28th day of the session is the last day one chamber can pass legislation to the other. Bills that fail to cross over are usually dead, at least for now.
April 2: Sine Die
By law, the General Assembly meets for only 40 days each year; this is day 40. Any bill that has not passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives will not become law, at least not this year. (However, since 2019 is year one of a two-year legislative cycle, bills may resurface for consideration in 2020.)
May 12: Signing deadline
By law, the governor has 40 days after the end of the session to consider whether to sign or veto this year’s passed bills. Any passed bills left untouched by the governor become law.
July 1: Bills effective
All bills passed during the 2019 session become law on this date, unless they were specifically written to take effect on a different date.
Follow the Bouncing Bills
To find the status of a particular bill, visit the General Assembly’s website and use the legislation search box at the top left of the page. You can also use the advanced search function to find bills by keyword or sponsor.
On each bill’s page, there is a summary that lists all the steps it has taken so far in the legislative process: when it was first introduced, what committee reviewed it, whether it has been voted on in either chamber, etc.
Importantly, each page also includes a copy of the exact language of the bill in its current form. In the case of bills that would modify existing law, the text is marked so it is easy to tell what’s changing:
A bill’s original language is marked with strikethrough text and new language is underlined.
Each bill’s page also includes general information, such as who sponsored it.
Once a bill has won approval in both chambers it goes to the Governor, who may sign it into law or veto. As the Governor makes these decisions, they are announced on his website.
While a few bills are signed promptly after passage, the Governor has 40 days from the end of the legislative session to sign or veto; if no action is taken, the bill becomes law at the end of this time. For many high-profile bills, the Governor may wait until very near the deadline before announcing his decision. (Expect a flurry of activity in early May this year.)
Summary of Process
Here are some notable bills from this session and their current status (as of March 6):
Airport Control: The Senate is considering legislation that would shift control of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from the city to the state: SB 131.
Rural Airport Funding: The House is considering legislation that would increase funding to rural airports, via an additional jet fuel tax: HB 447.
Tax on Digital Goods/Services: The House is considering legislation that would tax digital goods and services: HB 428.
Transportation: The House is considering legislation to create a new statewide transit/transportation agency, to focus primarily on needs in rural Georgia: HB 511.
Budget: The House passed the fiscal year 2020 budget, a $27.5 billion spending plan. Highlights include raises for teachers and state employees, funding for new voting machines, additional education funding, and additional Medicaid funding: HB 31.
Dyslexia Testing: The Senate passed legislation that would provide support for dyslexia testing of students in pre-kindergarten through second grade: SB 48.
Elections: The House passed legislation affecting the type of voting machines to be used, “exact match” voter registration, and absentee ballot applications: HB 316.
Hemp Farming: The House passed legislation that would allow hemp farming: HB 213.
Medicare/Medicaid: The Senate passed one of Governor Kemp’s signature proposals, the “Patients First Act,” which would affect how the state delivers Medicare and Medicaid services: SB 106.
Passed and Signed by Governor
School Bus Safety: The first bill signed by newly elected Governor Brian P. Kemp amends existing law to require drivers to stop for a stopped school bus, unless “separated by a grass median, unpaved area, or physical barrier”: Act 1.
City of Skidaway Island: This legislation puts forth a referendum on the incorporation of the city of Skidaway Island in Chatham County: Act 2.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
It’s always good to let your elected officials — the Senator and Representative for the area you live — know how you feel about a bill. Additionally, contact the sponsor(s) of a particular bill as well as members of the committee which is considering it.
You can find a specific bill’s sponsors, with links to their contact information, on the information page for a particular bill. (Again, to find any bill, go to legis.ga.gov and use the search box at the top left of the page. There is also an advanced search option that allows you to find bills by keyword or sponsor.)