Votes set on immigration, religion and education at Georgia Capitol

Today is Crossover Day, a key deadline to pass bills in at least one chamber, either the House or the Senate
A long day is expected for Georgia legislators on Thursday, Crossover Day for the General Assembly's 2024 session. It's the 28th day of the 40-day session, when bills typically must clear at least one chamber to have a chance of becoming law. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

A long day is expected for Georgia legislators on Thursday, Crossover Day for the General Assembly's 2024 session. It's the 28th day of the 40-day session, when bills typically must clear at least one chamber to have a chance of becoming law. (Arvin Temkar /

A big day of heated debates and votes arrives at the Georgia Capitol on Thursday, a critical deadline for contentious bills on immigration enforcement, religious rights and sex education.

Dozens of bills are scheduled for votes on Crossover Day, the General Assembly’s internal cutoff for bills to pass at least one chamber — either the state House or Senate.

Crossover Day is the 28th business day of the state’s 40-day legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 28.

Bills that fail to pass before the deadline have less of a chance of becoming law, but they could later be revived if their language is inserted into legislation that earlier passed the House or Senate. No bill is truly dead until lawmakers leave the Capitol next month.

Follow updates on the status of closely watched issues on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Bill Tracker. Here’s a look at some of the most closely watched measures that are likely to receive votes Thursday:

Sanctuary cities

Republican lawmakers rushed to pass immigration bills after a Venezuelan man who entered the United States illegally was charged in the killing of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley on the campus of the University of Georgia.

A bill passed through a committee Tuesday would restrict cities and counties from adopting policies that give safe harbor to people who are living in the country without legal permission.

The proposal, House Bill 1105, is targeted at cities such as Athens that have limited their coordination with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The legislation would penalize sheriffs and jailers who refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities when someone in their custody isn’t a U.S. citizen.

Athens police have said they check the criminal history of people in their custody but don’t jail immigrants in the country illegally if they don’t have any other criminal record.

Religious rights

The Republican majority in the state Senate is poised to approve a proposal that would increase legal protections for religious individuals in Georgia, a measure opposed by gay rights advocates.

The religious rights legislation, Senate Bill 180, would limit the government’s ability to pass or enforce laws that conflict with religious beliefs.

The bill is supported by conservative Christian organizations. Georgia is one of three states in the country without a statewide nondiscrimination law.

Religious rights bills have routinely been considered since Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a previous proposal in 2016. Gov. Brian Kemp said during his 2018 campaign that he would sign a religious rights measure that mirrors language in federal law.

Thirty-four other states and the federal government already have religious rights laws.

Sex and books in schools

A bill in the state Senate would repeal a state mandate for sex education in schools.

Under Senate Bill 532, schools could still offer sex education after fifth grade, and only if their parents opt their children in. Currently, students learn about sex education unless parents opt them out. Sex education material would also undergo a public vetting before it could be taught.

A separate measure, Senate Bill 390, would bar public libraries and school libraries from working with the American Library Association, an organization that has endorsed books about gender identity and racial bias.

The proposal follows legislation in previous years that limited classroom discussions about race, participation by transgender athletes and the types of books allowed in school libraries. A Cobb County teacher was fired last year after reading a book to her fifth-grade students that challenges gender norms.

Film tax credits

Georgia’s famously generous movie tax credit would be curtailed in response to complaints about the flow of state government money to Hollywood — an estimated $1.35 billion this year alone.

The legislation, House Bill 1180, would raise the minimum required investment to be eligible for the film tax credit, and the amount of tax credits that could be sold by filmmakers to third parties each year would be capped based on the size of the state budget.

About 97% of Georgia’s tax credits are sold by film companies that pay little in state taxes, and those companies sell off credits to Georgia taxpayers who do owe money to the state.

Staff writers Michelle Baruchman, Maya T. Prabhu and Ty Tagami contributed to this article.