Legislators return to the Georgia Capitol on Monday to open the 2020 session of the General Assembly. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

How the AJC covers the Georgia Legislature

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers state government and officials year-round, but for the first three or so months of every year, we focus intensely on what goes on at the Gold Dome.

What lawmakers do affects every Georgian’s life, whether we realize it or not. They have power over the taxes you pay and whether your children’s teachers receive raises, and they set many of the rules you must live by. Will everyone in your car be required to wear a seat belt? That could be determined this year. Hundreds of issues get decided in the space of 40 legislative days.

We have reporters assigned to cover the state House and Senate and other reporters who cover a range of issues, from health care and education to transportation and voting. With hundreds of bills filed every year, reporters focus on the ones that have the greatest potential to impact lives, those that say something about the state’s priorities and some that are just interesting.

How we work to be fair

Our job is to find out how Georgians will be affected by what the Legislature does, examine the financial interests of lawmakers and lobbyists pushing for bills, and vet the claims made about what they will accomplish. This requires talking to people with varying perspectives, asking questions, digging into campaign donations and examining other records. Not every bill gets the full treatment, but bills with the biggest potential impact typically generate the most stories and closest examination.

Both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the governor and other statewide leaders are also Republicans. That means that issues and bills they push have a far greater chance of becoming law. As a result, we typically write more stories examining and vetting Republican initiatives than we do bills sponsored by Democrats if they have little chance of passing. When Democrats controlled the Legislature before 2003, the reverse was true.

Our scrutiny of elected officials is not based on personal political views or preferences but on our responsibility to make sure Georgians know what their leaders are doing and how their tax money is spent. As a team of professionals, we hold each other accountable for being evenhanded and fair.

Our team

The core Statehouse group is directed by James Salzer, a Capitol veteran and expert on the state budget and taxes. Maya T. Prabhu covers the state Senate, with a focus on hot-button issues such as abortion and guns. Mark Niesse covers the state House and specializes in elections and voting issues. Because it is an election year and Georgia is replacing its voting system, reporter Amanda Coyne will help Niesse out in the House. Greg Bluestein covers the governor and state politics, including campaigns for state and federal offices. Jim Galloway, our longtime political columnist, provides perspective and commentary. David Wickert is our expert on transportation; Ariel Hart reports on health care, Ty Tagami on public education. Jim Denery edits and writes our weekly Capitol Recap column. Isaac Sabetai creates digital features. Several additional reporters follow specific bills and issues. Bob Andres is the lead photographer covering the session.

More legislative coverage

>> Election year fuels potential for fireworks in Georgia Legislature

>> Top issues for Georgia’s General Assembly in 2020

>> Who to watch during the Georgia General Assembly’s 2020 session

>> How to follow bills, contact lawmakers and get involved
Susan Potter is the Senior Editor for State Government and Politics.

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