Once again, Georgia lawmakers go past midnight ‘deadline’ for Sine Die

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Once, midnight was revered as the hard-and-fast deadline for the final day of Georgia’s legislative session.

As the proceedings on Wednesday – er, Thursday – proved, that’s not the case anymore. With a number of bills still on the agenda, lawmakers inched past midnight to buy more time to pass proposals.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Not long ago, that would have seemed impossible. Sponsors would rush to pass bills before the stroke of midnight and opponents would filibuster. Once, a lawmaker almost broke his neck trying to stop the clock. Many a headline described a “race to midnight.”

But that began to change in 2015. When the clock struck midnight in the House, lawmakers and their families and friends celebrated the adjournment by filling the room with scraps of confetti-like paper.

But then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle kept the state Senate in session, where lawmakers passed a range of tax breaks that included incentives for Mercedes-Benz’s headquarters and a private Baptist college.

“For time eternal, this day has ended at midnight,” then-House Speaker David Ralston said at the time. “It is going to end at midnight today in the House even though I understand the other chamber may stay later.”

Our friends over at Politifact weighed in then with the ruling that lawmakers are free to press beyond midnight. “Lawmakers meet for 40 legislative days,” read the conclusion, “which end only when the chambers adjourn.”

It looks like lawmakers have happily heeded their advice. The 2016 session went well beyond midnight. And legislators in 2023 were burning the post-midnight oil.

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