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Why today is so important in the Georgia legislature: 3 things to watch
Georgia's state Capitol in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press
ATLANTA — Georgia’s legislature hits a critical deadline today: Crossover Day. It’s a legislative deadline by which bills must generally pass out of one chamber or the other to remain alive for the session.
Several high-profile bills are under consideration, including a Senate bill to create a state authority to oversee operations at Atlanta’s airport and a hate crimes bill that would add penalties for those convicted of targeting specific groups.

Here is more on three important bills facing the deadline:

Certificate of need

Three bills, one in the Georgia House of Representatives and two in the Georgia Senate, have been proposed to re-evaluate the state’s Certificate of Need program, which requires health care providers to seek state approval for new or expanded facilities.

Senate Bill 114 would establish a Health Strategies Council to develop a state health plan and recommend possible changes, postponing an immediate repeal of Certificate of Need guidelines. State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, and State Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, are sponsoring that bill.

But Senate Bill 74 would replace Certificate of Need with a licensing program. The House version of that bill has been withdrawn from the general calendar and recommitted to a special committee on health care access.

Short-term rental regulations

House Bill 523 would prohibit local governments from regulating short-term rental properties, or residential properties rented out for less than eight days, often through websites like AirBnb or VRBO.

Hall County has proposed changes to its short-term rental ordinance that would allow all homes zoned Residential-I or Residential-II to be short-term rentals, with the approval of the Hall County Planning Commission. Two public hearings have been held at a planning commission meeting and a Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting, and commissioners are scheduled to make the final vote March 14.

The House bill would prohibit local governments from requiring a license or registration for short-term rental homes, which the county does require in both its current and proposed ordinances.

Anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved legislation Wednesday to outlaw abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, which is usually at about 6 weeks into the pregnancy.

Women can currently get an abortion in Georgia up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy.

State Reps. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, and Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, are on the committee and voted in favor of the bill.

The bill would allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest, but only if the woman files a police report. An exception would also be made if the mother’s life is at risk.

Now that the bill has passed the Health and Human Services Committee, it can go to a full House vote, although the timeline is tight with it already being Crossover Day.

“Georgia is a state that values life. We shield the vulnerable and shelter the innocent,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement Thursday. “I applaud the Health and Human Services Committee for advancing legislation to protect the unborn. I encourage the House and Senate to do the same.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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