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Up against the Crossover deadline
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The Georgia General Assembly will reach a significant deadline this week-Crossover Day.

This is the 30th day of the legislative session, and the last day for legislation to "crossover" to the other chamber for approval.

Although the House and Senate spend a great deal of time every year working ahead and preparing for this day, the days leading up to this deadline are still very demanding.

Committees work at a grueling pace to carefully review legislation, and the time spent in the Senate chamber is always longer than the day before.

This week will be no exception.

The pressure was certainly felt last week as we completed the 27th legislative day on March 5.

The Senate spent several hours debating bills that will greatly impact Georgia education reform and protects us from the government infringing on our individual religious beliefs.

SR 287 proposes a constitutional amendment that would authorize the creation of a statewide Opportunity School District.

If approved by Georgia voters on the November 2016 general election ballot, the district would assume all operational and managerial responsibility for failing public elementary and secondary schools.

The resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 38 to 15; reaching the two-thirds majority needed.

SB 133 is the enabling legislation that establishes the Opportunity School District upon ratification of the constitutional amendment.

The jurisdiction of the school district would fall under the control of the Governor's Office of Student Achievement and the Opportunity School District superintendent would be appointed by the Governor and subject to Senate confirmation.

The Opportunity School District would provide oversight to schools that are defined as persistently failing, or as scoring below 60 on the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years.

SB 133 passed by a vote of 38 to 17 and will now transfer to the House with SR 287 for consideration.

I am a co-sponsor of SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), because I believe that each and every Georgian has the right to freely exercise his or her religious beliefs without social oppression or harassment.

The legislation was closely written to reflect existing federal law and does not promote or condone discrimination.

Thirty other states already have RFRA laws in place, and these states have failed to see the increase in discrimination claimed by RFRA opposition.

SB 129 passed by a vote of 37 to 15, and will now transfer to the House for consideration.

Please continue to stay in touch with me and share your thoughts as we work through the legislative session, especially as more bills start moving through the legislative process.

As always, I am honored to represent you in the 51st Senate District.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via email at