ATLANTA — Two long, hectic days are all the time the General Assembly is in session this week as lawmakers race to pass bills – including next year’s budget – before Wednesday’s midnight deadline.
Legislation that fails to pass in the chamber where it was introduced can no longer be considered as a stand-alone bill. Exceptions are bills affecting single cities or counties and the sweeping criminal-justice reform bill.
Before the House meets at 10 a.m. Monday, the House Appropriations Committee meets to approve the budget. Next, the action shifts to the House and Senate floors and is likely to last into the evening.
The Senate has 18 bills on its agenda, or “rules calendar,” and the House of Representatives has 31 bills on its. If the pace is brisk, it’s not unusual for a quick meeting of the Rules Committee to result in a supplemental calendar with more bills for consideration.
House bills include one on how soon a high school athlete can return to play after a concussion, one to require insurance companies to offer policies for just children and one to change the selection of Public Service Commission chairmen. Senate measures include the licensing of music therapists, making medical-identity theft a crime and empowering the Natural Resources Board to set limits on fishing.
Tuesday, the General Assembly is in recess so legislators can go home to vote in the presidential-preference primary. Wednesday starts another long day on the floor in a sprint to the midnight deadline. Sandwiched among the other bills in the House is consideration of the budget, which usually takes a couple of hours by itself.
Lawmakers officially have the rest of the week off, but most committee chairmen will be planning which bills to consider from the other chamber. They’ll have seven working days to consider bills their colleagues across the Capitol had 30 days to weigh.
House and Senate leaders announced the working schedule for most of the session at the beginning, but they only planned through March 12, which will be Day 31. Legislators, staffers and lobbyists will be eager to learn this week if there is a schedule agreed to for the balance of the 40-day session and whether it will wrap up before their children’s Spring Break from school.