Nuts and bolts of the legislative session

How to contact your legislators:

In person: Look for legislators in the House or Senate chamber or in their offices. Volunteer pages (usually schoolchildren) will carry messages to legislators in the chamber. The public is not allowed on the House or Senate floor. Legislators will often leave the chamber to meet with anyone who summons them via a page, especially if it’s one of their constituents. Page desks are directly in front of the main doors leading to both chambers. Legislators’ offices are inside the Capitol and across Mitchell Street in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Be prepared to pass through metal detectors.

Online: www.legis.state.ga.us: The General Assembly’s home page links to House and Senate members by name and by district. The directory lists the legislator’s office phone and e-mail. Some legislators also list home address and phone.

The White Book: Has photographs and bios of all 236 legislators. Download a copy from www.legis.state.ga.us (click on “picture book” at the bottom of the page).

Who are my legislators?

Use the Secretary of State’s poll locator service to learn your House and Senate districts and who represents you: www.sos.state.ga.us/cgi-bin/Locator.asp.

How to track bills:

In person: Find copies of bills in the House clerk’s office (Room 309) and the secretary of the Senate’s office (Room 353). Each has a desk where you can request a bill. Committee hearing notices are posted daily on a bulletin board outside both offices. House clerk’s office: 404-656-5015 ; secretary of the Senate’s office: 404-656-5040 .

Online: Go to www.legis.state.ga.us and click on the “legislation” icon under either the House or the Senate, depending on where the bill you are tracking originated. This allows you to view the bill in its entirety, track it through committees and see roll call votes.

How to watch the action:

Business begins most days in the House and Senate chambers at 10 a.m., but legislators often arrive before that time. If you want to catch a legislator before the day’s session, try waiting at the velvet ropes outside the chamber. Each chamber also has a gallery on the fourth floor of the Capitol overlooking the floor. The hallways on the third floor have TV monitors that carry live feeds from the House and Senate. You will have to jockey with the lobbyists crowding the hallways for a good spot. The live video feeds are also available online at www.legis.state.ga.us.

How to follow the money:

At the State Ethics Commission’s Web site — ethics.ga.gov — click on “report search” to see campaign finance disclosures, lobbyist disclosure reports and lawmakers’ personal finance disclosures. You can also request hard copies at the commission’s offices in the James H. “Sloppy” Floyd Building. Call 404-463-1980 or 1-866-589-7327 for information.

How to speak at hearings:

The real work on bills is done in committees, and that’s the place to weigh in on them. Contact committee members by phone, mail or e-mail to make your voice heard. Speaking in person before a committee, though, is one of the most effective ways to reach legislators. The experience can be a little daunting, but legislators sometimes appreciate hearing from the little guy. Most committees have a sign-up sheet for speakers. Try to keep your remarks short and to the point.

Cool stuff to see:

The Georgia Capitol Museum, fourth floor. History of the Capitol and the state.

The Capitol grounds feature more than a dozen monuments, including statues of several former governors, and a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Where to park

Take MARTA. The Georgia State University station on the east/west line is a short walk from the Capitol. Most people drive nonetheless, even though parking is limited. Lots generally charge $5 daily for parking. Some options:

• Pete Hackney Parking Deck (162 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive)

• Steve Polk Parking Plaza (65 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive)

• 90 Central Parking Lot (accessible from Central Avenue and Courtland Street)

• Archives Lot (entrance off Fraser Street)

Where to eat:

A Capitol snack bar on the bottom floor sells sandwiches, chips and drinks. Soft drink and snack machines outside the snack bar are accessible 24 hours a day. If your schedule allows, two state cafeterias serve hot food. One is on the sixth floor of the Coverdell building. The other is across the street from the Capitol on the bottom floor of the “Sloppy” Floyd twin towers.