ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers plan to consider dozens of bills on Wednesday, staring down a key deadline at the end of this week. Chamber rules require bills to pass at least one chamber by a certain point in the session. This year, the deadline falls on Friday.
There are ways to revive proposals past that deadline, but lawmakers make every effort to get their bills through the easy way.
Here are some of Tuesday’s key developments and what’s coming up on Wednesday:
The House plans to consider giving the state broad authority to step in at struggling schools. The proposal is one of more than 20 bills scheduled for a vote on Wednesday.
The struggling-schools bill is considered an alternative to Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment seeking to let the state take over schools dubbed “chronically failing.” Voters rejected that idea.
Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, sponsored this year’s bill creating a “chief turnaround officer” to work with struggling schools and has said he wanted to create a partnership rather than a takeover. The bill still lays out dramatic consequences for schools that don’t improve within two years of state intervention or that refuse a “turnaround” contract with the state.
Another heated debate is expected on legislation limiting colleges’ ability to investigate sexual assault. Several college students have testified against the proposed changes to campus disciplinary proceedings in Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s bill, sharing their own experiences of rape.
Ehrhart, a Republican from Marietta, said he wants law enforcement to handle such cases. His bill would require that colleges notified of assaults then alert police. Advocates, though, say the approach clashes with existing federal guidance to campuses on how to follow federal civil rights law barring sex discrimination in education.
The House also plans to vote on a bill legalizing daily fantasy sports, including the well-known DraftKings or FanDuel sites, and a proposal changing Georgia’s varied income tax levels to a flat 5.4 percent regardless of income.
The Senate plans to vote on a dozen bills. The list includes several proposals that the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform has backed in hopes of reducing the state’s rate of felons on probation. The council has said Georgia has the highest rate among all states.
The House on Tuesday approved an increase to the amount of tax credits available for people donating to organizations that pass the money on for private-school scholarships.
A Fulton County judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the program was unconstitutionally helping religious schools; the state Supreme Court heard appeal arguments in January but hasn’t ruled.
The bill from Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, increases the annual $58 million cap to $65 million in 2018, with annual increases up to $100 million. The House vote was 111-62, sending it to the Senate.
Supporters say the scholarships help low-income families find other options. Opponents argue there’s little evidence the scholarships go to students who need financial help.
FEDERAL INMATE RELEASES
The House Public Safety committee plans to take up a bill on Wednesday requiring the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to publish the names of people without permission to be in the U.S. and who are being released from federal prisons. Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, says the GBI already gets the information through a federal notification system that is focused on violent crimes.
A subcommittee approved the bill on Tuesday, but it’s not clear whether the GBI could legally comply.
The bill requires the agency to post names on its website “to the extent permitted by federal law.” A representative for the GBI told subcommittee members on Tuesday that she believes federal law only allows the information to be shared with law enforcement.
An earlier version of the bill also required local jails to post lists of anyone “confined” who did not have permission to be in the U.S. Petrea said he removed that portion of the bill after hearing from concerned sheriffs.
Kids will be guaranteed at least 30 minutes of recess every day through fifth grade under legislation approved by a House committee. The exception would be when the students already have physical education scheduled for the same day.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, encourages schools to let kids go outside for the recess and stipulates that the half-hour be both supervised and unstructured. Georgia has no existing statewide requirement for recess.
The House Transportation Committee approved a measure Tuesday that would limit local regulations on unmanned aircraft or drones. Tanner said his goal is to let the Federal Aviation Administration decide on the rules.
The concern was that if cities and municipalities were allowed individual autonomy regarding drones, the state would become a patchwork of regulations. That would be bad for future business opportunities, according to advocates.
By Kathleen Foody and Ezra Kaplan