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Why is Crossover Day important at the State Capitol?

Today is the day that hundreds of proposed laws will die beneath the Gold Dome

ATLANTA — It’s Crossover Day at the state legislature, a critical day for proposals under debate at the State Capitol, as some proposed laws will fade while others move on. 

It comes 28 days into each legislative session. Any proposed laws that haven’t moved from one legislative chamber to the other for consideration is dead for that session.

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Here’s how it works:

Creating new laws in Georgia can be like a game of ping pong. As a proposed law travels back-and-forth between the Georgia House and Senate, it has to clear the net to stay alive.

In the Georgia legislature, Crossover Day is that net.

If the full House of Representatives approves of a bill proposed there, it will then go to the Senate. If state Senators make any changes, it goes back to the House, back-and-forth like a ping pong ball until both chambers agree on the exact substance and wording.

“We don't want bills quickly going through the process,” Georgia State Political Science Professor and former legislator Doug Teper said. “We want everybody to get a decent chance to look it over and maybe find personal problems they have with it, or maybe generic problems with it, or even typos in a bill.”

Sometimes, proposals sit like a ping pong ball that never moves.

Let’s say state senators debate and debate but can’t all agree on a proposal they like enough to send to the house. The clock is ticking. When 28 days pass and Crossover Day arrives, time is up. The proposal never crossed the net, so it’s dead for that legislative session.

Teper added that Crossover Day actually helps legislators prioritize their work.

“They want to condense it (the number of proposed bills) down to a manageable number,” he said. “So, Crossover Day will normally kill about a good half of the bills that have been proposed. The legislators can focus the public and the press can focus.”

Often, a bill that dies on Crossover Day can be revived the next legislative session.

There are also vampire bills, where crafty lawmakers amend an active bill with one that is otherwise dead, bringing that proposal back to life.

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