A ‘Fast & Fu­ri­ous’ 2014 leg­isla­tive pre­view

The Covington News - - THE SECOND FRONT - JIM TU­DOR news@cov­news.com Jim Tu­dor lives in New­born, Ge­or­gia. He has worked on leg­isla­tive is­sues at the State Capi­tol for 28 years.

Un­der Ge­or­gia law, the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly be­gins on the sec­ond Mon­day of Jan­uary, which will fall on Jan. 13th. This is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause it is one of the lat­est dates that such ses­sions can be­gin. If a few words could best de­scribe my out­look for the ses­sion they would be “Fast & Fu­ri­ous.” The late start­ing date, an elec­tion year ses­sion and new qual­i­fy­ing dates will com­bine to put ex­treme pres­sure on leg­is­la­tors to get their busi­ness done so that they can get back home as soon as pos­si­ble. There are 40 leg­isla­tive days in a ses­sion; how­ever, th­ese do not run con­cur­rently with cal­en­dar days. The Gen­eral As­sem­bly “stops the clock” dur­ing this time to pre­serve leg­isla­tive days, re­sult­ing in ses­sions that last much longer.

Cur­rent rules and reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit those in of­fice from rais­ing money while the leg­is­la­ture is in ses­sion. This pro­hi­bi­tion does not ap­ply to their un­elected op­po­nents. In 2014 this will be es­pe­cially crit­i­cal be­cause changes in Fed­eral elec­tion law have had the ef­fect of mov­ing can­di­date qual­i­fy­ing much ear­lier than ever be­fore. In 2014 such qual­i­fy­ing will be­gin in late March, nor­mally when the leg­is­la­ture would still in in ses­sion. In many years the fi­nal gavel doesn’t nor­mally come down un­til mid to late April. You won’t see this in 2014. I did say it was an elec­tion year right?

2014 is also the sec­ond year of a two year ses­sion, mean­ing that all bills that were in­tro­duced last year and not voted on will be au­to­mat­i­cally car­ried over to this year. Sec­ond year ses­sions are also typ­i­cally less con­tro­ver­sial be­cause of elec­tion year im­pli­ca­tions. A log jam of more than 400 bills is al­ready in the pipe­line.

Leg­is­la­tion can move ex­tremely fast at times and can be in­tro­duced and on the Gov­er­nor’s desk much quicker than you might imag­ine, how­ever changes in tech­nol­ogy have greatly im­proved the abil­ity of con­stituents to track bills. The Gen­eral As­sem­bly’s web site, www.legis.state.ga.us will pro­vide you with all the tools to track bills, con­tact leg­is­la­tors, and even view live stream­ing of the Ge­or­gia House and Se­nate when they are in ses­sion. Ses­sions typ­i­cally be­gin each morn­ing at 10 a.m., al­though some Fri­days be­gin at 9. The web site will note such changes.

Should you want to come in per­son, al­low plenty of time to find park­ing, which is al­ways at a pre­mium. Also know that on some days there can be up­wards of a 1,000 peo­ple there seek­ing to do the ex­act same thing. Do your home­work be­fore com­ing, to in­clude know­ing who your elected of­fi­cials are and the lo­ca­tion of their Capi­tol of­fices. Most leg­is­la­tors are in the Leg­isla­tive Of­fice Build­ing, across from the Capi­tol; how­ever, se­nior of­fi­cials will have Capi­tol of­fices.

Meet­ing leg­is­la­tors in their of­fice is of­ten much more ef­fec­tive than try­ing to find them amongst what may ap­pear to be chaos in­side the Capi­tol. Call­ing ahead for an ap­point­ment is also an op­tion, but only if you are a con­stituent or the mem­ber is part of the lo­cal del­e­ga­tion.

The 2014 elec­tion sea­son is pre­dicted to be one of the quick­est in re­cent mem­ory and will re­quire in­ter­ested par­ties to be ready from Day 1. The tools are there for those who want to be en­gaged. Democ­racy is Not a spec­ta­tor sport.

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