Voting, citizens arrest & criminal adult age bills pass in Georgia

ATLANTA (WDEF) – Monday was crossover day at the Georgia legislature. That means that any new bill with hopes of becoming a law this year must be approved by either the House or Senate.  If it passes one, then it theoretically has 12 more days to be passed by the other chamber and go to the Governor’s desk. But their are parliamentary maneuvers that can be used to get around the rule.

This year, everyone is watching the voting bills.  Both houses are considering several proposals to either protect or restrict voting (depending on your political point of view).  The Senate and House versions have been very different.

Here are some of the bills that passed on Crossover Day. (Remember, this does not guarantee they will become law)


Georgia Senate passes bill to end no-excuse absentee voting

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia’s state Senate has narrowly passed a Republican-backed bill that would end no-excuse absentee voting. The bill passed 29-20 on Monday, as Republicans moved to roll back voting access after record turnout led to recent Democratic victories. Senate Bill 241 would limit absentee voting to people 65 and older, those with a physical disability and people who will be out of town on Election Day. It would also require an ID for those who are able to vote absentee, among many other changes. The bill is likely headed to a Senate-House conference committee where the chambers will hash out their difference on the issue.


Georgia: Move to limit citizen arrests after Black man slain

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia’s House have voted unanimously for a bill to overhaul the state’s citizen’s arrest law. The move comes more than a year after a Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, was fatally shot after a pursuit by armed white men. House members voted 173-0 Monday for the bill, which would generally bar bystanders and witnesses from making arrests. It now goes to the Senate. Supporters say Arbery’s fatal shooting last year showed the need for change. Two of the three men charged with murder in Arbery’s death had said they were attempting a citizen’s arrest, suspecting a burglary. Prosecutors say Arbery stole nothing and was out jogging when the men pursued him.


Georgia House votes to bump adult criminal age from 17 to 18

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia’s House has approved a measure that would raise the age for charging most people from 17 to 18. The House voted 113-51 on Monday to pass House Bill 272, sending it to the Senate for more debate. House Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman Mandi Ballinger has been pushing the idea for years. The Canton Republican cites testimony from experts that teen brains are still developing to full adulthood and lack the impulse control of older people. Advocates say 17-year-olds should go before juvenile courts, where judges can decide cases while promoting growth without giving them a permanent criminal record.


High court revives ex-student’s suit against Georgia college

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court is reviving a lawsuit brought by a Georgia college student who sued school officials after being prevented from distributing Christian literature on campus. The high court in an 8-1 decision Monday sided with the student and against Georgia Gwinnett College. At issue was whether the case could continue because the now-graduated student was only seeking so-called nominal damages of $1. Lower courts said the case was moot, but the Supreme Court disagreed. Groups across the political spectrum have said that the case is important to ensuring that people whose constitutional rights were violated can continue their cases, even when governments repeal the policies they were challenging.


Georgia senators reject plan to increase pay for lawmakers

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia senators have rejected a plan that would nearly double pay for lawmakers and also boost pay for all statewide officials except the governor. The Senate voted 33-20 to reject Senate Bill 252 on Monday. The vote raises questions about whether plans for increased salaries will advance. The House could still vote Monday on House Bill 675, which is a nearly identical proposal. But if the measure does not advance by the end of Monday night, it’s unlikely to survive this year. Base pay for the 180 House members and 56 senators would have risen from $16,200 a year to nearly $30,000. Lawmaker pay hasn’t changed since 1999.


House bill: Allow at least 1 visitor in medical facilities

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia House members want to allow at least one designated person an hour of daily access to hospital and long-term care facility patients. The House passed the proposal on Monday, sending it to the Senate for more debate. The measure responds to facilities banning visitors during the pandemic. Gov. Brian Kemp implemented a ban on visitors at long-term care facilities in April by executive order. Kemp eased those restrictions in September, allowing visitors based on the severity of a local outbreak. Under the bill, a patient in a hospital or long-term care center could name a “designated legal representative” that would get at least one hour of contact each day.


Deadline day arrives for Georgia legislation still in doubt

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia lawmakers are facing a key deadline as the hours dwindle on Monday. It’s crossover day in the General Assembly, when bills and other measures are required to pass in the House or Senate and move on to the other chamber. Some key proposals have already moved forward, like restrictive voting and elections bills. The Senate passed additional restrictive voting and elections proposals on Monday. Also passing Monday was a bill to overturn Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law. Measures that have failed include an effort to impose new criminal penalties on some protests. This is the first year of a two-year term, so measures that don’t advance this year could still pass next year.


Georgia House votes to end hands-free violator exception

ATLANTA (AP) – The Georgia House is moving to eliminate a loophole that allows some people to avoid citations for violating the state’s hands-free cellphone law. House members voted 119-52 for House Bill 247 on Monday. It says drivers can’t avoid penalties by telling judges they have purchased hands-free devices for their cellphones. Republican Rep. John Carson of Marietta says the current provisions are intended to excuse people from first-time offense but are unenforceable. State law lets first-time violators appear before a judge with proof they bought a phone holder or wireless headphone and escape a fine. Supporters say people can get caught in multiple jurisdictions and escape multiple fines because courts can’t keep track. Georgia first passed its hands-free law in 2018.

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