Discussing Sen. Sonya Halpern's HBCU bill before it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.

Crossover Week

Georgia’s Crossover Hurricane Downgraded to a Tropical Depression

At the Georgia Capitol, there are two words that elicit both the excitement of parties and food alongside the dread of long working hours and mischief — Crossover and Sine Die.

Crossover Day: A “crossover” deadline is the last day for a bill to pass out of the chamber in which it was introduced and still move forward for consideration in the opposite chamber.

Sine Die: Latin, meaning to conclude without setting a date or time to reconvene.

Last Thursday, Legislative Day 28, was Crossover Day. From my experience, no matter how well you plan, you ultimately have no control over whether your legislation gets caught up in the Crossover storm.

Disabilities Commission Makes it in the Nick of Time

Case in Point, SB 198: I introduced SB 198 early in 2023 to create the “Families Living with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Innovation Commission.” It was assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, where I couldn’t get the Chairman to call it up for a vote. In early 2024 I had a chat with the Lt. Governor, and the logjam was removed. The bill passed out of Committee unanimously several weeks ago.

Next Step — the Rules Committee, which is like a giant sieve for bills. Some make it, but many don’t.

Despite my advocacy, and the advocacy of hundreds of volunteers, SB 198 didn’t make it out of Rules until the day before Crossover Day. But just being on the calendar for a floor vote on Crossover Day doesn’t mean it will actually get called up for a vote.

By dinner time on Crossover Day, we heard that the Lt. Governor would only be calling up a few more bills before adjourning. There were still more than 20 bills left on the Rules calendar, including SB 198.

When we returned from dinner, I was assured by the Lt. Governor’s right hand man that SB 198 would make the final list of bills. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when it was finally called up around 9 pm and passed 50-2.

Overall, about 15 bills, authored by both Republicans and Democrats, were left untouched before the Lt. Governor adjourned for the night well before midnight.

HBCU Bill Sparks Blustery Debate

One of the longest debates of the week was among Democrats over SB 235, a bill that creates an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) Innovation and Economic Prosperity Planning Districts Commission. The Commission would design prosperity planning districts with local advisory committees around each of Georgia’s 10 HBCUs with the ultimate goal of raising funds to improve the schools and blighted areas around them.

While everyone agrees our HBCUs have been underfunded for decades, several legislators who were HBCU alumni strongly objected to the bill, arguing that it would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy with no accountability to the Board of Regents and the state. The bill ultimately passed.

Breezing Through Bills Before Crossover Day

After the HBCU debate, we got through the floor vote calendars pretty quickly in the days leading up to Crossover Day.

Here are just a few of the bills that blew through:

Sports Betting: Sports betting was back, this time with a Resolution for a Constitutional Amendment. The Senate passed a sports betting bill earlier this session, but it was a regular bill without a referendum. Senate Resolution 579 cleared the Senate with the required two-thirds majority. If it passes the House, Georgia voters will ultimately decide in November if we should amend our state Constitution to allow for sports betting.

Sheltering Kids from Social Media: The Senate passed the Lt. Governor’s bill, the “Protecting Georgia’s Children on Social Media Act” or SB 351. It directs the State Board of Education to develop programming on Internet safety, keeps kids from using social media in Georgia schools, and requires parents to give permission for certain social media accounts.

I’ve been very interested in this topic and doing lots of research. I’ve come across approaches that take some of the onus off of parents to constantly monitor their kids’ social media. I’m drafting a Study Committee resolution so we can dive more deeply into the possibilities.

Making College Transfers Easier: SB 399 requires the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System to work together to make credits more transferable between the two systems, making it less expensive for technical school students who choose to pursue four year degrees.

State Takeover of Local Boards of Health: SB 293 lessens the qualifications for local board of health directors from a medical degree to a masters degree and shifts the responsibility of appointing these directors from the local board to the state. I got some helpful advice from one of my local mayors on how to analyze this bill.

Youth Driving Dangers: SB 402 allows those with a Class D Drivers License held by 16 and 17 year olds to drive between the hours of midnight and 5:00 am. It also allows them to drive with an unrelated passenger, but limits that number to only one passenger under the age of 21. The timing of this bill seems horrible, given several catastrophic fatal teen driver accidents that occurred recently during early morning hours.

The Amended 24/25 Budget: The Senate approved the conference committee report from the House on this year’s amended budget. With the “little budget” done,” we’ll be working to pass the big budget for fiscal year 2025/26 in the coming weeks.

Crossover Day Gusts

With the torrent of bad bills that passed through Committees last week, we were expecting the worst, but were pleasantly surprised when many of them including the Chaplains in schools (SB 379), criminalizing school librarians (SB 154), and ending automatic voter registration (SB 221) bills did not make it to the Rules Calendar for Crossover Day.

The Democratic Caucus filed minority reports for the most controversial bills, which allows us to officially disagree with the Committee’s “do pass” recommendation and gives us more time on the floor to argue against the bill.

  • The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 180) provides a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs. The debate on this bill was cut short when a Democratic Senator moved to table the bill and the Majority Leader countered by calling the question which trumps a table motion. Because we filed the Minority Report, Senator Kim Jackson had the opportunity to give an impassioned personal speech about how this bill could hurt her and her family as a queer Episcopal priest married to a Muslim imam.
  • The American Library Association (ALA) bill (SB 390) bans libraries from spending public and some private funds on ALA materials and eliminates the requirement for librarians to be ALA certified. In her Minority Report, the Senate Democratic Caucus Chair said that this bill “puts librarians on the front lines of culture wars” and questioned the wisdom of tying the hands of our libraries when Georgia has such dismal literacy rates.
  • SB 517 immunizes law enforcement officers from criminal prosecution if the officer can prove that the use of force is lawful, justified, or falls within the department’s guidelines. Our police already enjoy strong criminal protections through qualified immunity. This bill will only make it more difficult for victims of unjustified or excessive use of force to seek justice.

Sadly, all of these bills passed and are now headed to the House. Also be on the lookout for all of those bad bills that didn’t make it to Crossover Day. They could easily come back to haunt us as bill amendments or hijacked bills.

Where Will the Winds Blow Next?

The Georgia General Assembly is currently the opposite of Congress. The Georgia Senate is controlled by the hard-liners while the House, under the leadership of Speaker Burns, has been more moderate. That means that the House now gets to deal with the culture war bills from the Senate while the Senate will take up the less controversial House bills.

We’ll still have plenty of substantive issues to dive into like HB 1180 that imposes limits on Georgia’s Film Tax Credit, HB 1105 that requires law enforcement to help immigration officials and imposes penalties on those that don’t, HB 1339 that makes changes to the state’s Hospital Certificate of Need regulations, and HB 1015 that accelerates an income tax reduction.

What to Watch:

WSB-TV reached out to talk about the need for more Medicaid Home & Community Based Support waivers for adults with developmental disabilities. You can watch the story here:


For several years, Senate administrative assistants have designed a Senate “bingo” game for Sine Die. This tradition has grown, and now the press has extended the lore to Crossover Day. See AJC’s Maya Prahbu on “X,” formerly Twitter.


62% of Georgians disagree with our state’s strict abortion ban. When lawmakers make laws that go against what the people want, what can be done? Watch and share Sally’s Reels: sallyharrellga


Discussing Sen. Sonya Halpern's HBCU bill before it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.

Discussing Sen. Sonya Halpern’s HBCU bill before it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.

Discussing Sen. Sonya Halpern’s HBCU bill before it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.