The most pressing issue facing lawmakers is the state's budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. It will be vastly different than the version the House passed in March due to estimated billions of dollars in lost revenue to the state as a result of the pandemic.
Ralston has said resuming the session in June will give state budget writers a clearer picture of how much revenue has been lost. State law requires the Legislature to pass a balanced budget before July 1.
Duncan's chief of staff, John Porter, sent a letter to Senate members Thursday reiterating their desire to return to work May 14, given that Gov. Brian Kemp's shelter-at-home order is expected to expire Thursday night.
“We think it’s a good signal to the state that we get back to work in this time of uncertainty,” Porter said in the letter. “Furthermore, our teachers and state agencies are desperately counting on us to get them a budget so they can start planning for the future.”
Porter acknowledged that, because Duncan and Ralston must reach an agreement, lawmakers may not return until June.
“Unfortunately for us, time is not on our side,” Porter wrote. “The House can simply withhold consent past our proposed May 14 start date and force us to agree to their June 11 date.”
Earlier this month, Ralston appointed a committee to make recommendations and establish protocols for how the chamber will operate when lawmakers return. Ralston has asked that committee to begin holding virtual meetings next week.