Originally created 03/12/06

Rush is on to get bills approved



ATLANTA - It's once again time for the annual rush of legislation known as "Crossover Day" for the General Assembly.

Monday is the deadline for bills to pass out of the chamber in which they were written or die for this session.

In advance of the midnight deadline, the House has placed 58 bills and resolutions on the calendar, ranging from a constitutional amendment to require lottery funds be spent only on HOPE scholarships and preschool programs to a proposal that would let restaurant customers take home unfinished bottles of wine.

The Senate has 48 pieces of legislation pending, including bills dealing with stem-cell research and a study committee on capital punishment.

Despite the lengthy to-do list, Republican leaders and Democrats are hoping to finish early this year. House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, said the lower chamber could wrap things up as soon as 6 p.m., depending on how fierce a fight the Democrats wage on some bills.

"Really, that decision is not going to be up to us," Mr. Keen said of the length of Monday's meeting.

The most anticipated fights will come on two of Gov. Sonny Perdue's proposals that have stalled in the Senate. One is the restriction on lottery money; another would strip a constitutional provision that bars the state from funding social services provided by faith-based organizations.

Those amendments, which require a two-thirds majority in both chambers, have faltered in the Senate because Democrats have denied Republicans the margin needed to send the proposal to voters in the November elections.

One outside factor that could persuade lawmakers to move along quickly is the Democrat's annual fundraising dinner.

GOP leaders have insisted they didn't know about the date conflict until it was too late to change the schedule but will try to finish in time for supper.