Legislative Week 8: Crossover Day arrives for legislation

One of the busiest days of every legislative session is “Crossover Day.” Crossover Day, the 30th legislative day, is the last day legislation may pass out of its originating chamber to be considered by the other chamber.

The pace picked up noticeably last week with the House considering over 100 pieces of legislation last week. Some of the major pieces of legislation that passed over the week were the FY 2009 Supplemental Budget, Governor Perdue’s “Super Speeder” initiative, the zero-based budgeting measure, and legislation aimed at addressing voter fraud.

Earlier this session, the House passed House Bill 118, the supplemental budget for 2009, which sought to address the serious economic downturn and revenue shortfalls with major cuts to state spending. The Senate proposed their own version of the budget, and after each chamber insisted on its position, the bill went to a conference committee.

There, the conferees reached a compromise, and last week the House and Senate voted to approve the $18.9 billion budget that will carry our state through June 30, 2009.

This budget included the $428 million to fund the homeowner tax relief grants, which Georgia counties had already budgeted for. If this money had not been included, many homeowners could have seen additional tax bills for the $200 to $300.

Due to a continued drop in state revenues, Gov. Perdue has already announced an additional reduction of $1.6 billion for FY 2010, which will necessitate further difficult budget decisions on the 2010 budget that will be considered in the coming days.

Last year, Gov. Perdue announced a plan to help fund Georgia’s trauma network by imposing steep fines on those caught speeding excessively and on habitual violators of other traffic laws, such as multiple DUIs, reckless driving charges and other dangerous driving activities.

On Monday, the House passed HB 160 authorizing an additional fine on habitual traffic law violators. Ideally, this measure will deter excessive speeding and the violation of other traffic laws. Any money that is collected from these fines will supplement state funds dedicated to funding the trauma facilities vital to the health of Georgians throughout the state.

The vast majority of traumatic accidents in our state are caused by traffic accident, often resulting from drivers engaging in risky behavior. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House and has now been referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee

Last year and this year, I was an original cosponsor of legislation aimed at promoting more responsible spending by state agencies by implementing zero-based budgeting.

The legislation would require that at least once every four years state agencies would be required to start their budgets from zero, rather than just starting from the previous year’s funding baseline, which will provide a much better mechanism for ensuring every state dollar is being spent in the most responsible manner possible. I am pleased to report HB 44 passed the House last week.

Legislation also passed the House last week that would require voters to confirm their citizenship at the time they register to vote. This will help to protect the integrity of our voting system.

I am also pleased to report that several pieces of legislation that I authored moved out of the House last week. Legislation that I authored to close a loophole in the child molestation statute created by the Georgia Supreme Court passed the House by a vote of 157-3 last Tuesday.

In addition, legislation I co-authored to ensure EMC members are not excluded from jury service by virtue of their membership in the cooperative passed the House unanimously.

Finally, legislation aimed at restricting the use of cell phones for under-18-year-old Class D license holders passed the House 138-34 with strong bipartisan support.

Also, legislation I have been working on for several months with Senator Untermann and Senator Chance and Representative Mark Williams, addressing the copper theft problem, passed out of the Senate, and we will now work to move the bill forward in the House.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and comments by calling my office at 404-651-7737.

[Matt Ramsey, an attorney in Peachtree City, represents District 72 in the Georgia House of Representatives.]

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