Sine Die! Better late than never

[private]Legislators ignored their 12 midnight deadline and continued to vote on bills for another 30 minutes before adjourning this year’s General Assembly session early Friday morning.

At 11:48 p.m. Thursday, Speaker David Ralston told the House: “We have been advised by legislative counsel that we do not have to end at midnight. We’re gonna go a little past midnight.”

Lawmakers continued voting and approving legislation well after the clock had slipped past midnight.

The Georgia Constitution states that the General Assembly can convene for no more than 40 days each year.

March 24 was designated as Day 40 of the session, and under most reasonable interpretations, March 24 ended at midnight and March 25 then began. The Legislature thus was voting on bills on the 41st day of their session, which supposedly is prohibited by the state constitution.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Ralston finally adjourned the session “Sine Die,” without a day, at 12:30 a.m. Friday

The major issue still unresolved on the final day was the bill to authorize a local sales tax in Atlanta to pay for expansions to the MARTA transit system.

When that bill finally was called up by the Senate Thursday night, it passed with very little discussion – the bill was called up and received final adoption within the space of six minutes.

There was also a late-breaking attempt by some conservative lawmakers to punish corporations that have been urging Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the “religious liberty” passed by the House and Senate.

Republican legislators on a conference committee for a bill involving the unemployment insurance trust fund tried to add a section that would have allowed disgruntled employees to file class action lawsuits against their employer if they thought the company was not following its own non-discrimination policy.

The provision, if it became law, could have resulted in a flood of litigation against corporate employers, running up large legal tabs in the process.

However, that provision was quashed by the leadership and never came up for a vote.

“We need to move forward, not backward, and this House is not going to be a party to taking Georgia back,” Ralston said as the House prepared to vote on the conference committee report.

The House and Senate both approved the report that did not include the religious liberty language.

Another late bill that made it through was a measure by Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) that required police departments to compile and process the evidence in rape kits.

Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) tried to block the rape kit bill in the Senate, but Holcomb persisted and the bill finally achieved final passage shortly before adjournment.

“This is the legislation to ensure the timely processing of rape kits in the state of Georgia – we are good,” Holcomb said as the House gallery applauded and cheered.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: adjournment , David Ralston , General Assembly session , MARTA , rape kits , religious liberty , Scott Holcomb