Keeping watch at the Gold Dome

On July 3, 1889, Georgia’s brand new state Capitol building with its gleaming Gold Dome opened in downtown Atlanta. Our reporters were there, writing in the Atlanta Constitution that the low-key procession of legislators into the building “was democratic simplicity personified in the representatives of the people.”

When the 2013 General Assembly opens a week from Monday, our reporters will be there again. Our commitment to covering the Georgia legislature has never wavered these 124 years. And that commitment is stronger now than it’s ever been.

You’ve told us in reader surveys that you consider holding elected officials accountable and watching out for your tax dollars among our most important roles in a free society. We wholeheartedly agree, and we’ve kept that sacred duty uppermost in mind as we’ve planned our coverage of the 2013 General Assembly. In a fragmented metro area, the state legislature is the government body whose actions - and inactions - influence the lives of all Georgians. That makes our mission of covering the Legislature a civic obligation we take very seriously.

I’m proud to say that the AJC has Georgia’s biggest, most experienced - its best - legislative coverage team. Our core team of seven journalists has a combined 83 years of experience covering the Georgia Capitol. We’ll use our unmatched experience to cut through the political rhetoric, bringing you in-depth coverage of the issues that matter most to you. And we’ll do it on whatever platform works best for you: print,, tablet, or mobile.

Here’s a look at our team:

Susan Abramson, political editor. This will be her sixth year leading our coverage. Abramson works with our reporters to identify the most important stories - how a bill might affect your wallet, for example - while making sure we aren’t missing anything in this fast-moving environment.

Greg Bluestein, reporter covering Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration. Bluestein writes about the agenda and actions of Georgia’s top elected official. Bluestein covered Georgia politics for a decade for the Savannah Morning News, Fulton Daily Report and the Associated Press before joining the AJC last year.

Jim Galloway, Political Insider. Galloway’s print column and blog are must-reads for anyone who wants the real story of what happens at the Capitol. His deep knowledge base comes from 33 years of covering state politics as an editor and reporter.

James Salzer, investigative reporter. Salzer has covered every Georgia General Assembly session since 1990. He specializes in state taxes and spending, and is widely acknowledged as the state press corps’ foremost expert on the state budget.

Chris Joyner, investigative reporter. Joyner joined the AJC’s Capitol team in 2010 after having covered government in Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Last year he wrote extensively about lobbyists’ influence under the Gold Dome.

Aaron Gould Sheinin, lead legislative reporter. Aaron will cover the Georgia House, which handles dozens of bills a day. Gould Sheinin has covered state government for the AJC since 2007 after covering the South Carolina statehouse for seven years.

Kristina Torres, legislative reporter. Torres joined the team in 2010 to cover politics and state agencies, and she will cover the Georgia Senate for the second straight year.

In addition, the AJC has an advantage many news outlets don’t: the state Capitol is just a few miles from our offices. That proximity allows us to assign AJC “topic reporters,” such as education reporter Wayne Washington or transportation reporter Ariel Hart, to spend time at the Capitol covering legislation that could affect our schools or commutes - subjects you’ve told us are extremely important to you. So our coverage of those subjects will have more depth than you’ll get anywhere else.

Our legislative team reports to me, and I was state politics editor from 2001-2006. I’ll be working closely with our team to ensure we fulfill our obligation to hold lawmakers accountable for their words and deeds.

Each December our Capitol team gathers for a pre-legislative planning session. Between bites of barbecue and sips of sweet tea, each reporter takes a turn talking about the issues he or she expects the upcoming General Assembly to consider - and not consider. We’ve been holding these sessions for about 10 years, but more than ever I was impressed this year by the profound expertise our staffers demonstrated as they spoke. That experience helps make our coverage Georgia’s best, and we’ll be working hard to live up to that standard - and exceed it - for you during this legislative session.