24-hour waiting period for legislation pitched

7:59 PM, Feb 5, 2014   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- On any given day, the Georgia legislature can generate a mind-numbing quantity of detailed material. And much of it tends to stall until the final day of the forty-day session -- when bills are rushed out of conference committees and presented for last-minute votes. Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) calls them "day 40 surprises."

"I have been both the victim and the beneficiary of day forty surprises," Oliver said, while declining to disclose the details. "Why do that? Because it'll help pass your bill."

Oliver is a supporter of a resolution that would end the state senate's day forty surprises-- which backers say have included some comical oversights: Like when the legislature accidentally outlawed nurses from giving shots; and when ethics changes got slipped into a hunting and fishing bill (that failed to pass). 

Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) wrote the resolution, which would require a 24-hour waiting period before senators can vote on a conference committee report.

"I think it would cut out a lot of the games that get played," McKoon said. "Because once you have 24 hours to read and understand legislation, you can't slip in this language and hope that, in the chaos, people don't catch it."

But supporters expect resistance. Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta), a 34-year Senate veteran, said he supports the measure. "The downside of it could be that something that's very good for the people of Georgia may not get done - because they may not come to an agreement in time to get it on the desk the day before," Thompson said. But he added that the upside outweighs the downside.

McKoon said the Senate Rules Committee would give the resolution a hearing before the end of the week.

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