Your Georgia Desk:
The 2014 Legislative Session is Underway
From Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen)
In what’s shaping up to be a fast-paced legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly was called to order on January 13, 2014 to begin the second half of the 2013-2014 biennial term. The 2014 Session began with the ceremonial call to order, the Pledge of Allegiance and the traditional devotional given by the chaplain of the day.
For the 40 legislative days, members of the legislature will spend a considerable amount of time debating the merits of bills and determining whether these bills will make a positive influence in the lives of Georgians. While our number one priority is to pass a balanced, fiscally-responsible state budget, we must take a thoughtful and deliberative approach to policymaking.
So far, we’ve completed 5 of our 40 legislative days. On day 1, the Senate took swift action and passed the first bill of the 2014 session, House Bill 310. Due to recent actions by the federal government requiring Georgia to have at least 45 days of absentee balloting before the date of a runoff or primary election where a federal candidate is on the ballot, qualifying for public office will begin on March 3, 2014 and run through March 7, 2014.
In response to these changes, House Bill 310 was drafted to revise the schedule of state and local candidate elections to correspond with federal candidate election dates. This revision was necessary because maintaining two separate election calendars places a significant burden on state resources and is not a cost effective solution for our state.
The legislature is expected to adjourn a week or two earlier this year. A more condensed session can have positive results,especially as we want to make certain that we’re only passing legislation that is in the best interest of Georgians. This timeline may also translate to greater efficiency and substantial taxpayer savings in temporary worker salaries and legislator per diem. For every week the General Assembly is in session, temporary staff in both chambers cost the state approximately $93,000 per week in payroll – and that’s not even including the savings from legislator per diem.
Unlike previous years, the Georgia General Assembly already began holding committee meetings during the first week of the session. While this session may be faster than normal, it is our top priority as legislators to thoroughly review and analyze each bill that comes across our desks.
Once a bill is drafted, it is filed with the Secretary of Senate’s office. The bill is then read in the Senate Chamber, where it isthen assigned to a committee. The committee will carefully review the bill and determine whether it is a good bill. If it’s passed out of committee, it will then go to the Rules Committee, which will decide whether the bill will receive a vote from the full Senate.
With particularly complex bills, it sometimes takes multiple legislative sessions to ensure responsible lawmaking on the behalf of Georgians. It is important to exercise caution when reviewing bills, especially ones that will have a direct impact on state finances. Every bill that moves through the legislature should be carefully vetted and reviewed by all 56 state senators, legislative counsel and most importantly, the constituents who hold a special interest in the respective bill.
As a state senator elected to serve the constituents of the 31st Senate District, I work hard to pass bills that will truly make a positive difference in the lives of my constituents and Georgians statewide. It is not good policy to simply pass bills for the sake of legislating and I intend to read every line to make sure that we are not raising taxes or passing on burdensome regulations that inhibit job growth. A “less is more” approach is essential to placing limits on the power of government in our daily lives and ensuring the continuation of individual liberties and freedom.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback on how we can keep Georgia on the full road to economic recovery and make Georgia the best state in the nation to live and raise a family. Please feel free to reach out to my office if you have any questions about the legislative process or want to visit me at the gold dome.