The 2023 - 24 Georgia General Assembly has been called the most diverse ever, with 83 people of color among its 236 members. That includes over a dozen first and second-generation immigrants–and of those, at least 10 were just elected, the vast majority of them, Democrats. Brought to you by ACC x 285 South.
The Georgia General Assembly can seem like an exclusive club that’s closed off to public influence–but it’s easier than you might think to contact your representatives to advocate (for or against!) legislation on issues you care about.
The General Assembly, also known as the Georgia Legislature, just convened its annual session on Jan. 9 to set the state’s 2023-2024 annual budget and pass new laws–so this is a great time to get involved.
Some of these proposed new laws may affect you. This session, for example, the state Legislature will be considering bills that affect student loans, computer privacy and data leaks, public school safety, and gun open carry laws.
Georgia has a part-time legislature that meets for 40 work days each year at the State Capitol in downtown Atlanta. The 236 elected members of the House of Representatives and Senate make the trip to Atlanta from all over the state to attend the legislative session, which this year is scheduled to last until March 30.
We’ve put together this short guide to give you a basic understanding of how lawmaking works in Georgia with links so you can contact legislators, find out about bills you’re interested in, and watch legislative meetings via livestream.
How do I contact my legislators?
How do I find out about bills I’m interested in?
You can check here to search for or browse Georgia bills and see where they are in the process. You can find out what committee meetings are scheduled and watch the livestreams on the General Assembly’s Under the Gold Dome dashboard.
How does the legislative session work?
The Georgia Legislature meets for 40 working days every year, which are spread out over about 90 calendar days. Georgia actually has a two-year legislative session, which means that bills that fail to pass in the first year can be reviewed and voted on again the next year.
The current session is the first year of the two-year cycle. During this time any of the 236 elected members of Georgia’s House of Representatives and Senate can submit bills in their respective chamber.
Here is a quick overview of how making a law works: In both the House and the Senate, each bill is assigned to specialized committees of lawmakers for review. If all of the relevant committees approve a bill, it goes before that chamber’s full membership for what’s called a floor vote. Otherwise it dies in committee, as the saying goes.
If one chamber votes to pass a bill, which requires a simple majority, it then goes to the other chamber, which repeats the process.
How long does it take?
There are two important dates that legislators must keep in mind when they are trying to get a bill passed. The first is Crossover Day, which is the 28th day of the session. The House and the Senate each have until Crossover day to approve any proposed bill for it to “cross over” – or make it to the other chamber for consideration. Otherwise, the bill dies in the chamber.
If the governor vetoes a bill in the first year of the session, the Legislature can override the veto with a two-thirds vote in the second year. But if he vetoes a bill in the session’s second year, then the bill is null.
Want to contact a committee chair?
The Georgia House of Representatives has elected Jon Burns (R-Newington) as Speaker of the House. As the House’s leader, he has the power to schedule or omit floor votes on legislation. The state Senate is led by Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, also a Republican.
The state House and Senate each have specialized standing committees, study committees and subcommittees that review bills and decide whether to approve them. The House has 38 standing committees and the Senate has 28, covering topics such as: Banking and Finance; Agriculture and Consumer Affairs; Economic Development; Education and Youth; and Insurance and Labor.
Right now, the Republicans control each chamber in the Georgia Legislature, because the majority of the 180 state representatives in the House and the 56 senators in the Senate are Republican. That means the chairs for all of the standing committees are Republicans.
GETTING INVOLVED IN GEORGIA LAWMAKING: A QUICK RECAP
- Here are the seven steps to turning an idea into a law from Georgia.gov. If you know of a problem regarding Georgia government, tell your state legislators!
- Click here to find out the names of your state representative and senator.
- Click here to obtain their contact phone numbers and emails.
- You can easily search or browse bills in both the Georgia House and Senate on the LegiScan website, which says it’s “bringing people to the process.”
- Check the General Assembly’s Under the Gold Dome dashboard for a daily schedule of what committees are meeting in each chamber and to watch the meeting livestreams. You can also find individual bills and check a bill’s status in either the House or the Senate–and look up legislators as well.
- Visit the General Assembly in person at the Georgia Capitol, located at 434 Capitol Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30312. The main phone number is: (404) 656-1776. The Capitol is open to the public, but visitors are not allowed on the House or Senate floors. There are public galleries where you can watch legislators discussing bills in the chambers and meeting rooms, but space is limited. Offices for lawmakers are located in the Capitol and in the legislative office buildings next door.
Adam Hayes is a multimedia intern at Vox Atlanta and an aspiring creative writer.