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Crossover day descends at Capitol
Bills at junction in state legislature
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Forsyth County News

It’s make-or-break time for state legislation.

Today is the 30th day of the 2013 General Assembly. By day’s end, any bills that haven’t been passed by the Senate or House of Representatives won’t get another chance until the 2014 legislative session.

While dozens of bills are expected to make it through on “crossover day,” it has been a relatively slow session so far, according to local lawmakers.

“There’s been very little in the way of transportation, little in the way of water,” said District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming. “Much of the time has been spent on the budget and preparing for the current situation … at the federal level.

“That’s been our commitment. Let’s get the budget and fix what needs to be fixed and get out of here as soon as possible.”

Republican District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming said given the later-than-usual start in January, legislators have “gone through the session pretty quick.”

“It’s been a year where we haven’t had a lot that’s going on, which is good,” he said. “Any time that we cannot put a lot of legislation out there that we don’t need and affect people’s lives that they don’t need, then it’s a good thing.”

Murphy has two bills this session, both of which have crossed over.

The first deals with including additional services on extended warranties for vehicles, while the second addresses the confidentiality of information reported by children about abuses or wrongdoing in the juvenile justice system.

Murphy said he’s seen a lot of bills in committee related to wine tastings and brew pubs, but none are expected to be taken up this session.

“We’re holding those bills right now and we’re going to have a study committee this summer,” Murphy said. “We’re going to put all these bills in the same pot over the summer, get everyone together and see if we can come up with something.”

While both chambers have agreed on the supplemental budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2013, the fiscal year 2014 budget remains. Murphy said his goal is to “try to save the cuts being made in the technical schools.”

“We need to try to save as much money as we can, but that’s the one important thing to me,” Murphy said. “Because the technical schools are what are providing jobs and playing an important part in our state and the work force development.”

It’s been a busy session for Hamilton, who has five bills that have cleared the House, including HB 393, which he carried for the Governor’s Workforce Development effort.

“It’s a pretty significant bill dealing with the work force federal investment act that we spend $70 million in federal funds on every year,” Hamilton said. “This is going to put in Georgia code the ability to hold that effort much more accountable and make sure the money is going to the areas that will truly benefit the people looking for work across the state.”

Hamilton’s other bills include one based on the recent Forsyth County election, which would clarify qualifying rules for sheriff candidates.

Another of Hamilton’s bills, which stems from the assault of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranger last year, would change state law so rangers would be considered a regulatory enforcement officer, giving them the same opportunities in state court as in federal court.

Hamilton has two bills left awaiting House approval — one preventing governments from competing with private broadband providers and another protecting American Indian human remains and burial objects.

Housekeeping has also been a priority this session, Hamilton said. Several measures take aim at fixing previous bills that have had unintended consequences or stirred confusion.

The most notable cleanup measure would provide clarity on the new ad valorem tax setup, which replaces the annual birthday tax with a one-time fee when a new or used vehicle is purchased.

The law took effect Friday, but for those who lease a vehicle, a lot of confusion remains.

Both the House and Senate have offered solutions and Murphy is hopeful “we’ll get that worked out by [the end of the day] and will come to some consensus on that between us and the House.”