GA PTA Daily Report, What To Expect
by Sally FitzGerald on 1/14/2013

The Georgia General Assembly convened today, Monday, January 14.  The state constitution dictates that the second Monday in January shall be the first day of each legislative session. 

 

Day 1 is both ceremonial and organizational.  All members are sworn in.  The House still has two seats which must be settled.  This is the first year of a two year General Assembly, and in most of these ‘year 1’s’,  the chambers must elect their leadership teams, which involves nominations speeches, seconding speeches, and acceptance speeches.  The House Clerk is elected and the Secretary of the Senate.   

 

There will be a change in some chairmanships.  Some new members in each chamber replaced existing committee chairs.  Sometimes these vacancies are filled with members who had not previously been a chairman.  But often, they are filled with someone moving from chair of one committee to the new cone, causing a musical chairs syndrome. 

 

There may also be a change in some chamber Rules.  Rules of the House or Senate are like bylaws, dry reading but very vital to keeping order.  They may be amended during the session through a resolution or set aside by majority vote for a particular situation.  The rule book for each chamber is available in the offices of the House Clerk or Secretary of the Senate and posted on line at the respective web sites, www.legis.ga.gov

 

During the first calendar week, scheduled this year for Thursday, the Governor will present his budget message to a joint session of both chambers at 11 a.m. in a joint session of the Assembly.  This will be the first day that citizens can get a copy of the governor’s amendments to the current budget, FY13, and the proposed full year budget, FY14.  It is expected that each will contain more cuts.  The budget documents, which can be lengthy, will be posted on the web site of the Office of Planning and Budget, www.opb.ga.gov. 

 

The second calendar week, with the MLK holiday, is a recess week and will be used for joint Appropriations Committees hearings on the newly presented budgets.  With the additional information dispensed by the agency heads during these hearings, PTA begins writing about the specifics in the budgets.  The public press may have already published articles on it as well.  Read all sources for a better and wider examination of the contents.  The FY13 budget is known as the mid year budget, the supplemental, the amended, the little budget, because it is changing the full year budget adopted in the 2012 session.  The FY14 is known as the full year budget, the big budget, or simply, next year’s budget.

 

Another joint session within the first 10 legislative days will be held to hear a report from the Judiciary branch.

 

The white picture books showing all the legislators, their home and capitol addresses and committee assignments, will not be available again this year, another victim of budget cuts.  The Senate has its component at www.legis.ga.gov , Senate.  It is a .pdf file.  The House has adopted another method of providing all that information.  Go to Photos on the left panel and select the legislators you desire.  They are in alphabetical order.

 

Daily, Georgia Public Broadcasting televises the sessions and many of the committee hearings.  These are available on line at www.gpb.org.  These are also available on your computer.  See left panel of the home page at www.legis.ga.gov.  Also GPTV will air a program on each legislative day.  In metro Atlanta, that is on Channel 8 at 7 p.m. One person cannot be everywhere, but those cameras are.  One tip:  If the carpet in the chamber is red, the camera is in the House; if blue, in the Senate; and if sage green, in the Appropriations room.  Tip 2:  if the name tag is blue, it is a Senator and if it is red, it is a House member. 

 

During the session, each member is entitled to submit legislation for consideration, known as “dropping a bill into the hopper”.  The hopper is a wooden box on the Speaker’s rostrum in the House.  The Senate has both a wooden box at the dais in the chamber and a file folder in the Secretary of the Senate’s Office.  New legislation will be given a number, unless it was prefiled and already had a number. 

 

New legislation is ‘read’ to the entire chamber by the Clerk or the Secretary and the presiding officer then assigns the bill to a committee.  ‘Reading’ a bill is a process inherited from the British Parliament and used in our colonial legislatures.  It provided notice to members of proposed legislation, many of whom were not literate.  Today, reading serves the same purpose --- notifying all that the bill exists and is available for consideration by the chamber.  The entire bill is not read, only the description at the beginning of the bill.  The reading is usually done at a very fast pace and cannot always be heard distinctly.  Those in need of that information may wish to pick up a printed copy of the First Reader report available after the close of the legislative day.  A Proposed First Reader report exists as a separate document in the Senate.  The House puts its proposed first readers on its Composite report.  Composites and First Readers are on line at www.legis.ga.gov.

 

A second reading is made in the House the following day and in the Senate after it has emerged from committee.  The third reading is done on the day and immediately prior to the full chamber taking up the bill in floor debate.

 

This report will contain those bills introduced in which PTA has an interest and the committee to which it was assigned.  Each bill will be reported again when it has emerged from committee, and again if it reaches the floor for debate and the outcome.  On or about Day 20, the Daily Report will no longer report new legislation introduced because it has almost no chance of passage this session, but will make the bill and its summary available under LEGISLATION on the top bar of the PTA web site. Select OVERVIEW on the pull down menu.

 

The House always introduces more legislation than the Senate, because it has more than three times the membership, 180 and 56 respectively.  In Georgia, there is no limit to the number of bills any legislator can introduce.  It will become evident, as the reports accumulate, that some lawmakers file many bills, others few, and some not at all.  And there tends to be a specialization in the subject matter.

 

PTA reports on bills because of their subject matter, not their sponsor.  When PTA has a position on the subject matter, it is so noted.  PTA also reports bills on which it has no position that may be of interest to parents, teachers, schools, and school districts.  If children or public education are affected, it is important enough to be reported.

 

The legislature meets for as many as 40 days, and there exist guidelines in chamber Rules to manage the legislation for that period.  ‘Days’ means legislative days, which excludes recess days and usually weekend days.  Resolutions about the scheduled meeting days, the calendar, are adopted as needed throughout the session.  Legislators may gather on any day for committee hearings.  Votes usually are not final on non-legislative days but can be reaffirmed on a subsequent legislative day.

 

Bills relative to changes in revenues, tax bills, must be introduced by Day 20 to be considered for passage this year.

 

Day 30 is Crossover day.  Bills not having passed the chamber of origin by the end of this day are not eligible for consideration by the second chamber for this legislative session.  Those which fail to cross over in this first year of the term, are held over for next year’s session.  Remember, however, that the purpose of a bill can pass attached to another bill still under consideration.  A legislative ‘thought’ or idea never dies, even if a bill does.

 

PTA exists to influence legislation about children and youth and their education in public schools.  It was one of the primary reasons the organization was formed.  This happens through the resolution process which adopts positions.  National positions are on line at www.pta.org; state positions are on line at www.georgiapta.org.  Local districts, councils, and units may adopt positions that are not in conflict with state or national ones.

 

Any report with a PTA designation may be reproduced, as long as the PTA attribution is retained.

 

Feel free to contact the author about any report posted or any position the organization takes; ditto for any officer of the state PTA.  Those names can be found on the PTA web site.  The author of each report is named therein.  Each is a volunteer, as you are. 

 

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Sally FitzGerald

sallyfitz@bellsouth.net

Education Policy, GPTA

everychild.onevoice

www.georgiapta.org   Capitol Watch