Thursday, March 7th marked the 30th legislative day of the 2013 session. Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical point in the session marks the last chance for most bills to pass the legislative chamber from where they originated. This is because by the end of Crossover Day, all legislation passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa. As a result, any House bill that has not passed the House by the end of Crossover Day will have little chance of becoming law this year, because the remaining ten legislative days will be used to consider Senate bills. Due to this deadline, the House worked long hours this week, debating and voting on lengthy lists of pending legislation.
One of the bills passed this week that may directly affect your family is House Bill 123, the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act. This legislation would allow parents to petition their local school board to convert their traditional public school into a public charter school. HB 123 also provides parents and teachers several options for transforming low-achieving schools. These options would allow parents and teachers to decide whether their low-achieving school should: 1) remove administration; 2) restructure the school; 3) allow students an option to transfer to a better performing school in the district; 4) utilize a school management team; and/or 5) impose student improvement plans. To enact these options or convert to a charter school, more than 50 percent of parents or teachers would have to sign a petition. The petition would then go before the local school board for consideration, who could defeat the petition by a simple majority vote. If, however, a petition is supported by more than sixty percent of parents or teachers, the board must have a two-thirds vote to reject the petition. This measure is intended to engage students, inspire teachers, and involve parents in their children’s education.
Another bill passed this week would help veterans find jobs after returning home from serving their country and protecting our freedom. House Bill 188 creates the potential for newly honorable discharged veterans who have received training in certain specialized skilled trades to receive an initial professional license for that trade from the Secretary of State. The bill does this by creating a committee that would identify military jobs with requirements that meet or exceed Georgia requirements for certification in skilled trades applicable to HVAC, plumbing, electrical contracting, utility foreman or residential light commercial contracting. If their research shows it is appropriate, the committee could allow an exemption from some Georgia requirements for veterans with these skills. The committee could also certify military spouses living in Georgia who have a skilled trade certification from another state if the committee determines that the other state’s requirements meet or exceed Georgia’s requirements. This will help our state fill the 60,000 vacancies in these skilled trades expected over the next seven years and reduce the number of unemployed veterans in Georgia.
One of the most debated bills on Crossover Day, House Bill 512, would allow licensed weapons holders who have gone through the process of finger printing, a background check, and a mental health inquiry to obtain a Georgia Weapons License (GWL) to carry their firearms in more places in Georgia than currently allowed by state law. This bill, known as the Safe Carry Protection Act, would allow property owners – not the government – to decide whether a licensed weapon holder may carry a gun in their places of worship and establishments that primarily serve alcohol beverages. The bill would also allow GWL holders to carry their firearm in a government building that is not afforded the protection of security services at the entrances or exits of the premises. Additionally, HB 512 would allow gun owners to carry their firearms on most areas of public college campuses, but would not allow weapons in residence halls or competitive sporting events.
Further, the Safe Carry Protection Act would no longer require fingerprinting for GWL renewal, but would continue to require fingerprinting for first time applicants. Another important section of this bill creates uniformity in Georgia gun laws by making the General Assembly solely responsible for regulating possession, ownership, transfer, licensing, and registration of firearms or other weapons, as well as gun shows. HB 512 would also give each local Board of Education the option to designate one or more administrators to possess a weapon in a school safety zone. The bill additionally addresses the issue of gun owners who unknowingly bring their weapons to commercial airports.
Moreover, the Safe Carry Protection Act improves Georgia’s gun laws by strengthening mental health inquiries for obtaining a Georgia Weapons License. HB 512 would make it mandatory for a probate judge to perform an inquiry with the Georgia Criminal Information Center (GCIC) to determine whether applicants for a Georgia Weapons License have received involuntary treatment ordered by a court or medical professional. Applicants who have received involuntary treatment within the last five years could only receive a license if the probate judge determines that the applicant is mentally fit. The bill also prevents any person falling into any of the following categories from receiving a Georgia Weapons License: (1) anyone who has been under the care of a guardian or a conservator appointed to represent that person as a result of a mental illness or substance dependency within the last five years; (2) anyone who has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial; (3) anyone who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity; (4) anyone who is a registered sex offender; or (5) anyone who has made a threat against another person that was reported to the GCIC within the last five years.
This week we also passed House Bill 287. This bill was introduced in response to the numerous comments we received from Georgians who were upset by a reduction in the state Archives’ operating hours. Georgians contacted their state representatives to let us know they wanted the archives to stay open, and we listened. Your emails, letters, and phone calls led us to pass HB 287, which would reassign the Division of Archives and History from the Secretary of State’s office to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
In addition to House Bills 123, 188, 512, and 287, we also passed House Bills 34, 36, 45, 78, 94, 104, 124, 125, 127, 131, 132, 139, 146, 150, 184, 189, 192, 197, 199, 203, 207, 211, 215, 229, 238, 240, 256, 266, 268, 271, 276, 287, 289, 296, 297, 310, 317, 318, 323, 332, 337, 345, 350, 354, 361, 362, 365, 371, 372, 375, 381, 382, 389, 399, 400, 402, 407, 434, 443, 451, 454, 458, 463, 473, 475, 482, 486, 487, 497, 494, 499, 506, 513, 511, 517, 520, 536, 537, 538, 539, and 540, as well as House Resolutions 73, 107, 502, 549, and 603.
Now that this legislation has been approved by the House, it has been sent to the Senate for consideration. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, these bills will become law. You can learn more about these bills and track their progression through the legislative process by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov.
Now that Crossover Day has passed, the remaining ten legislative days will be used to consider legislation already passed by the Senate. Please let us know if you have any comments or questions regarding this Senate legislation. We will be sure to consider your comments as the Senate bills begin to make their way through the House committee process.