The Georgia General Assembly will gavel in Monday to begin the year’s legislative business.

While things will look different — lawmakers are required to wear masks and committee rooms are configured to allow attendees to keep a physical distance in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 — regular business will be at hand.

Excitement will likely be high for legislators who may not have seen each other since the 2020 session adjourned in June. All 236 lawmakers will be sworn in, with many new faces in each chamber. And House and Senate leadership will begin finalizing decisions about what the schedule will be for a session that’s dealing with a pandemic but still needs to get the state’s business done.

Senate Republican Leader Mike Dugan of Carrollton said lawmakers, who are being tested twice a week for COVID-19, are expected to meet through Thursday before going home for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

The annual State of the State address made by Gov. Brian Kemp will take place Thursday, but the typical joint session — where members of the Senate join state representatives in the House chamber — will not happen this year.

“There will be a virtual option, where members can watch from their offices or on a screen in the Senate chamber,” Dugan said.

There also could be some tension in the building, after months of disputing the results of the presidential election — where President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in Georgia and nationwide — boiled over into a violent mob of Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol last week.

Additional officers are expected to be at the Georgia Capitol this week to ensure everyone on the grounds remains safe.

Lawmakers have had the past several weeks to file legislation that they plan to take up this session, but an influx is expected this week, when scores of bills addressing voting are expected to be filed.

Lawmakers will also quickly get to work on the state budget, which Kemp is expected to unveil Thursday. Passing a balanced fiscal 2022 budget is the only piece of legislation the General Assembly is required by law to address.

In Other News