3/21/2011 ~ by Rick Jasperse - Wednesday, March 16th marked the 30th legislative day of the 2011 session. Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical day marks the last chance that most House bills will have to pass the House and make their way to the Senate. Wow! What a busy day in the life of this freshman legislator! I have heard of Crossover day for weeks and how stressful it can be for everyone. Crossover means that if a House bill has not passed the House by midnight of Crossover Day, it has little chance of becoming law this year. As a result, for the remaining ten legislative days, the state House will primarily only consider legislation that has already been passed by the state Senate. Due to this deadline, the House worked long hours this week, debating and voting on long lists of legislation on Monday and Wednesday. I had gotten pretty sick on Thursday before my town Hall meeting, and I missed Friday and Monday before Crossover Day. Thanks to those of you who came to the town Hall meeting. It was good to see and hear from you.
I was a little worried at the volume of bills we were going to be asked to decide on during our session on Wednesday. I had heard it could be as many as 80. Ever since we started back in January, I have been attending two study groups each day to learn the details about the bills we would be deciding on each day. This habit turned out to be a life saver on Crossover day. I had my sheet of possible bills and what my position would be on them. I had three pages of notes.
I had also been asked to sponsor HB 461, The Health Care Compact. I had to prepare to speak on the floor of the busiest day of the year on a bill that was sure to draw fire from some in the House. The Health Care Compact is a simple bill in that it will allow Georgia to join a group of States to ask Congress permission to take control of health care in their States. It allows us in Georgia to decide how we spend health care dollars. This is huge for all of us and would remove us from Obamacare. After a nervous day, we started on my bill at 6pm. It was my second time to speak from the well in the House, and I was a nervous as a fifth grade 4-Her at DPA. I had been practicing my speech during the down times during the day, and I was glad to start. I was asked many questions, some friendly and some not. A number of fellow legislators spoke for and a larger number spoke against my bill. My bill passed at 7 pm and you could hear a sigh of relief from yours truly.
Given the economic recession that has so drastically affected our state, we have worked hard this session to balance the state budget and make necessary spending cuts while continuing to provide vital services for Georgians. To allow for a more thorough examination of our expenditures at the state level, my colleagues and I passed House Bill 33, Zero-Based Budgeting. This bill’s author is Representative Stephen Allison From Blairsville. This measure is designed to increase efficiencies and decrease wasteful spending by implementing a zero-based budgeting system. Specifically, HB 33 would allow the General Assembly to review every budgetary detail of state departments and agencies over a six-year period.
In addition to reforming our state’s budget process, we also passed legislation to create the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians. This council will study criminal justice reform during the interim and make legislative recommendations to a joint legislative committee before the 2012 session. The intent of this bill, HB 265, is to find solutions that will allow the state to ensure public safety while decreasing the cost of our corrections system. It is imperative that we look at these reforms. Georgia currently spends more than $1 billion a year and has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation.
We voted on 51 bills on Crossover Day and I don’t have the space to describe each one in detail. If there is one of interest to you, send me an email or call. The remaining ten legislative days we have left will be used to consider legislation already passed by the Senate that crossed over to the House. Next week I will talk about the Tax council Bill HB 385 that everyone is emailing me about. Please let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding Senate legislation or other concerns. As the Senate bills begin to make their way through the House committee process, I will be sure to consider your comments. You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0188 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Representative.