OPINION: Georgia lawmakers avoid new McCarthyism, so far.

Compared to Republicans in Washington, who needed 14 ballots and three extra sessions to elect Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House, the Georgia General Assembly opened its new session Monday with what seemed like the efficiency of a Swiss watch factory.

While McCarthy made a spectacle of wrestling control from a rebel band of his own GOP colleagues, the leadership of the Georgia state House and Senate started their new sessions with promises of respectability and decorum for both parties.

It was only Day One, so there’s plenty of time for things to go off the rails. But so far, so good.

The biggest change to the General Assembly’s calendar this year is the existence of a calendar itself — a schedule for the 40 legislative days ahead, complete with dates certain for Crossover Day (March 6) and Sine Die (March 29). In previous years, guessing which days lawmakers might meet, recess, and call it quits for the year had become a 39-day parlor game or drinking game, depending on who was playing.

But on Monday, the Clerk’s office handed out copies of the proposed calendar, ready to be agreed to with votes in the House and Senate. Nobody in either chamber could remember the last time a calendar had been set out in advance. My colleague Maya T. Prabhu Tweeted, “YOU GUYS. THE BEST NEWS.”

The credit for the micro-breakthrough belongs mostly to the newly elected House Majority Leader, Chuck Efstration, the Republican from Dacula, who approached House Speaker Jon Burns and Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch before the session began with the radically simple idea.

“When I was elected House majority leader, I thought, ‘Why not try to set a calendar for the entire session?’” Efstration told me.

“A set schedule is not only important to legislators, but also Capitol staff, the media, and the general public who plan to attend hearings.”

Along with that dose of obvious, but usually elusive common sense, the calendar includes most Fridays out of session to let South Georgia representatives, who drive as long as five hours to Atlanta, get home for the weekends for work and family obligations.

A last-minute effort by the state Senate to move Crossover Day, a key deadline, forward by two days fizzled, and an agreement was struck.

It’s a small achievement, but small achievements can be hard to come by in legislatures these days, as C-SPAN showed us in gory detail last week. And in any legislative body, small wins are usually needed to lay the groundwork for the big ones.

Along with agreeing to a schedule, the House and Senate also formally elected their leaders, who are all Republicans since the GOP controls both chambers.

New state House Speaker Jon Burns, a farmer and timber grower from Effingham County, promised to lead the House with respect for members of both parties.

“Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, new or returning member, I will work to serve each of you and our House to the best of my ability,” he said.

Across the Capitol, Senate President Pro Tem John Kennedy, a Macon attorney, distributed gift boxes with a blanket made from the tartan of the state of Georgia for each senator.

“We are all in this together,” he said. “Whether you are Republican or Democrat, you will be listened to and, more importantly, you will be heard. You will be treated respectfully.”

Compare that to U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene telling fellow Freedom Caucus member, Lauren Boehbert, on the floor of the House last week, “You need to stop,” and Boehbert snapping back with a response so profane we can’t put in print.

As congenial as the words were on Georgia’s opening day, it wasn’t all nothing-to-see-here housekeeping, either. GOP senators tried, but failed, to insert a change to Senate rules that would extend “legislative privilege” to conversations between members on the Senate floor.

“If you and your colleagues to your right or left are having a conversation about a piece of legislation, you would have immunity as well as your colleague,” Senate Majority Leader Gooch explained.

Why a senator needs immunity for talking to a colleague about the public’s business is hard to imagine, until you remember that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to use “legislative privilege” as a shield against testifying before the Fulton County special grand jury investigating Donald Trump.

State. Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said the rules change would move more Senate activity out of public view and accountability.

“I think the goal is to avoid more disclosure under open records requests or subpoenas for testimony or...documents in lawsuits,” she said.

One theme that carried over Monday from years past was the jockeying from leaders in both chambers against the other. While partisan splits get the most outside attention in politics, rivalries between the House and Senate have dominated past sessions.

Burns said his vision is that, “This House will continue to lead.” Kennedy reminded his members of their “role as the upper chamber, where we perfect legislation.”

Most observers at the Capitol, including the members themselves, don’t truly know how events at the Capitol will unfold in the days ahead. Who will ultimately hold the most power? Can the promises of goodwill outlast the demands of partisanship and ambition? Will the new General Assembly continue to cloak itself in glory compared to the mess in D.C.? Nobody can say for sure.

But one way or another, it will all be over by midnight on March 29, and just knowing that is an achievement in itself.

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