By the midnight deadline, legislators had introduced 1,528 bills since the two-year term of the General Assembly began in January, 2013. Last year, just 353 became law, meaning the vast majority of bills never do.
Bills introduced last year or this year had to pass the House or the Senate by the 30th legislative day in order to remain viable for the remaining 10 days of the two-year term.
Only two bills have been defeated in the full House or Senate this year. The rest stalled somewhere along the process of committee consideration.
Every legislator has seen projects die after spending months working on them, some that gained publicity and most that perished in obscurity.
Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, said Tuesday he was disappointed that his House Bill 956 introduced this year never came up for a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. It would have sweetened the tax credits employers get in prosperous counties to come closer to what’s available for them in economically struggling counties.
“I understand it. We don’t really know the costs, and you want to check it,” he said.
Harbin, who once chaired the budget-writing committee and was a senior member of the House leadership, credits the current leadership with using caution about which bills advance.
“A lot of the bills that got through were bills that had been vetted, that people had had a chance to talk about, had been worked on,” he said. “I think leadership did a good job of making sure that those things that we still have a lot of questions on, you just didn’t throw those out there to get them out there.”
Often, the bills that pass are those that have been under consideration for several years, like a Senate measure that mandates insurance companies cover early treatment of autism. It is a topic Harbin and others have been pushing more than three years.
Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek, recognized that. When his solar-panel-financing bill got a hearing in the committee where it was assigned, members never had the opportunity to vote on it.
“We knew that,” he said. “To get the language right, with all of the people involved in the big companies that were interested, it was going to take a while.”
The idea isn’t dead. A subcommittee will hear expert testimony about it over the summer ahead of next year’s legislative session.
One avenue remains for bills caught by the Crossover deadline, become a rider on someone else’s bill.
That’s what Rep. Craig Gordon, D-Savannah, is hoping will happen to HB 1074 authored with Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah. It would extend a clean-energy tax credit due to expire in July.
“We’re hoping right now to find a bill that we can attach it to as an amendment,” Gordon said.