What you need to know about Georgia’s General Assembly

The Georgia House voted mostly along party lines, 96-68, on Monday , November 22, 2021, to send the congressional redistricting map to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature. The new redistricting map will help Republicans to obtain victories before a single vote is cast in next year’s elections. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

caption arrowCaption
The Georgia House voted mostly along party lines, 96-68, on Monday , November 22, 2021, to send the congressional redistricting map to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature. The new redistricting map will help Republicans to obtain victories before a single vote is cast in next year’s elections. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

CONTACT LEGISLATORS

Find yours

Use the secretary of state’s poll locator service to identify your House and Senate districts and who represents you: mvp.sos.ga.gov.

Online

The General Assembly’s home page (legis.ga.gov) links to House and Senate members by name and district. The directory lists each legislator’s office phone and email. Some legislators also list home addresses and district phone numbers.

In person

This year, at least to start, in-person access will be limited to adhere to health guidelines to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The public is discouraged from going to the Capitol until further notice. If and when in-person restrictions are lifted, members of the public can look for lawmakers in the House or Senate chamber or in their offices. You can find your legislators’ phone numbers and office locations on the General Assembly’s website: legis.ga.gov.

When the Legislature is in session, volunteer pages (in most cases schoolchildren) usually carry messages to legislators in the chambers. But until further notice, the page program has been suspended in both chambers due to COVID-19.

Page desks are directly in front of the main doors leading to both chambers on the third floor of the Capitol.

The public is not allowed on the House or Senate floor while in session.

Under normal circumstances, legislators often leave the chamber to meet with voters, especially their constituents.

Top lawmakers’ offices are in the Capitol. The rest are across Mitchell Street (officially known as Capitol Square) in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. If you must come to the Capitol, be prepared to pass through metal detectors and temperature scanners.

Masks for those who are not vaccinated will be encouraged when entering the building and attending Senate committee hearings. Masks will be required in House committee meetings and in House members’ offices.

TRACK BILLS

Online

Follow the progress of bills on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s exclusive Legislative Navigator and see our prediction of a bill’s chance of passage. You can also explore a wealth of background on lawmakers, including their success at passing bills, top contributors and recent votes. It’s at legislativenavigator.ajc.com.

Go to legis.ga.gov and look for the box in the top-right corner of the website where you can search for legislation. You can enter a bill number (if you know it) or search by keyword. This allows you to view the bill in its entirety, track it through committees and see roll call votes. Listings of committee meetings can also be found on the websites of both the House and Senate.

In person

Again, in-person visits from the public are discouraged at least to begin the legislative session.

Those who must visit the Capitol and are not vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask and maintain a distance from others when possible.

Find copies of bills in the House clerk’s office (Room 309) and the secretary of the Senate’s office (Room 353). Each has a desk where you can request a bill.

Committee hearing notices are posted daily on a bulletin board outside each office, and meeting calendars appear on monitors in the Legislative Office Building.

You can also contact by phone.

House clerk’s office: 404-656- 5015; secretary of the Senate’s office: 404-656-5040.

COMPLETE COVERAGE

Follow us

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will again have Georgia’s largest team covering the Legislature.

No one will have more expertise.

HEADING TO THE STATEHOUSE

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, visitors are discouraged from coming to the Capitol.

However, if you must visit:

Take MARTA. The Georgia State University station on the east/west line is a short walk from the Capitol. Most people drive, nonetheless, even though parking is limited.

Lots generally charge a minimum $5 daily for parking, often more.

Some options: Pete Hackney Parking Deck (162 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive); Steve Polk Parking Plaza (65 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive); 90 Central Parking Lot (accessible from Central Avenue and Courtland Street).

While you’re there

Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are available on the first, third and fourth floors of the Capitol, and other facilities are also on the second floor.

There are vending machines on the first floor, where coffee, sodas and snacks are available; Cafe 244 (244 Washington St. SW) serves breakfast daily until 10 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. A food court on the bottom floor of the Sloppy Floyd Building keeps similar hours and features more options.

Dozens of monuments dot the Capitol grounds and the building’s interior.

Liberty Plaza, the public gathering space across Capitol Avenue from the Gold Dome, is a great place to eat lunch on nice days or watch protests and rallies that occur regularly during a session. The plaza features an outdoor amphitheater and several statues, including replicas of the Liberty Bell and Statue of Liberty.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Go to ethics.ga.gov, the website for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly the State Ethics Commission), to see campaign finance disclosures, lobbyist disclosure reports and lawmakers’ personal finance reports on issues that matter to taxpayers when legislators return.

Lobbyists are required to file disclosures twice a month during the session. You can also request hard copies at the commission’s offices in the Sloppy Floyd Building. Call 404-463-1980 for information.

Go online to AJC Georgia Politics to find in-depth reporting on the Georgia General Assembly, elections, state government, health care, immigration and more, along with opinion columns from all sides. You can also sign up to receive The Morning Jolt, the AJC’s daily email newsletter on politics.

SPEAK DURING THE HEARINGS

The real work on bills is done in committees and subcommittees, and that’s the place to weigh in.

Contact committee members by phone, mail or email to make your voice heard.

Speaking in person before a committee, though, is usually one of the most effective ways to reach legislators. The experience can be a little daunting, but legislators often appreciate hearing from taxpayers. Most committees have a sign-up sheet for speakers. Try to keep your remarks short and to the point. Again, those who must attend meetings in person and are unvaccinated are encouraged to wear masks in Senate meetings, and all are required to wear masks in House hearings.

WATCH THE ACTION

Online

Go to legis.ga.gov and look for the links under “Upcoming Events.” Many committee meetings of both chambers are streamed online. Look for archives of House meetings at legis.ga.gov/house/media-services, scroll down the page and select the “media” tab and look under “video resources.” Archived Senate meetings can be found at legis.ga.gov/senate/press-office under “video resources.” Only meetings of full committees — not subcommittees — stream live online.

In person

Business begins at 10 a.m. most days in the House and Senate chambers, but legislators often arrive before that. Again, to slow the spread of COVID-19, the public is discouraged from visiting the Capitol. But if you must and want to catch a legislator before the day’s session, try waiting near the top of the south stairwell on the third floor. Areas marked by velvet ropes outside the chamber where the public typically can find legislators are closed due to the pandemic. Each chamber also has a gallery on the fourth floor of the Capitol, but the House gallery is closed due to the pandemic. The Senate gallery will be open.

The hallways on the third floor have monitors that carry live feeds from the House and Senate.

You will have to jockey with the lobbyists crowding the hallways for a good spot.

ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Get complete daily coverage during the legislative session at ajc.com/politics.

Follow us on Twitter via @AJCGaPolitics and on Facebook at AJC Georgia Politics.