Five Georgia advocacy organizations are calling for Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia legislature to postpone Crossover Day until public health concerns over COVID-19 subside.
Crossover Day, the day by which all bills must pass out of one legislative chamber in order to be considered by the other legislative chamber during the current legislative session, is scheduled for Thursday, March 12th. The day is a benchmark for the process and usually involves considerable lobbying efforts and public engagement.
But Tuesday evening, legislative leaders announced the suspension of some public activities under the Gold Dome for the time being, including the Page Program, Invitation Resolutions, and guest passes for the floor of the House chamber. Chaplains of the Day will continue and lobbyist activity, however, is still unrestricted. Speaker Ralston appeared making statements urging people “in the strongest possible terms” to stay away from the Capitol if business wasn’t necessary. He mentioned the live streams of committee meetings and the House floor as alternative means for engagement.
“We’re not trying to be alarmist,” Ralston was quoted saying in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We’re trying to be cautious, and we’re trying to protect people that need to be here so that we can continue our work and work towards the conclusion of the session.”
Advocacy organizations say the announcement and the tone of dissuading citizens from public participation is enough to warrant a pause in the legislative process.
A joint statement from Black Voters Matter Fund, Fair Fight Action, Georgia NAACP, Georgia Shift, and New Georgia Project Action Fund was made Wednesday morning as follows:
“On one of the most significant days of the legislative calendar, with votes scheduled on dozens of bills that will impact Georgians’ lives, the people’s presence must be seen and their voices must be heard. Georgia legislators should not hide behind an internet stream and dissuade citizens from participating in the legislative process, as Speaker Ralston has done, send mixed messages to the public, as Lt. Governor Duncan has done, or say nothing at all, as the governor has done. Statehouse leaders should wait until public health concerns over COVID-19 subside before holding these quintessential votes. Governor Kemp, along with House and Senate leadership, should do the right thing and close the Capitol until such time that citizens are able and encouraged to participate.”
Both the House and Senate are in working committee days Wednesday, but both are set to convene for official business at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.
Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan said the Senate will not be following the lead of the House in changing operations.