Week ahead: Ga. Lawmakers get offices, begin committee work

 ATLANTA – Georgia lawmakers return today from last week’s recess to organize their committees and settle into new offices.

The 10-day break was to allow the House and Senate appropriations committees to spend three days in joint hearings taking testimony from agency heads about their financial requests.

“Now the really hard work begins,” said Sen. Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville.

The committees will work separately for the rest of the 40-day session, mostly in subcommittees, reviewing the $20-billion budget.

Many of the members will be doing it in new addresses.

It’s not just the nearly one-third of the legislators who are newcomers who will be moving into offices. New committee chairmanships and leadership posts require senior members of the House and Senate to juggle the packing boxes and hang pictures on the wall.

Each committee will hold organizational meetings in the coming weeks to vote on rules and elect a secretary and vice chairman. But since few of the expected 1,500 bills to be considered this year have actually been introduced or assigned to committees, there is little else for them to do.

Lawmakers won’t be idle. Special-interest groups will begin their annual flock to the Capitol.

The week starts with the biomedical industry Monday morning. Realtors rally on Tuesday. Charter-school advocates and nurses rally later in the week.

Local civic groups will also visit – some bearing gifts like Effingham County folks who deliver homemade raisin bread to every lawmaker.

Most meetings involve food. The Athens leaders hold a simple lunch Tuesday, and the Savannah leaders host the most sought-after and expensive blowout Thursday with steamed seafood.

While in town, the leaders usually arrange meetings. A few of the Effingham leaders will confer with officials from the Department of Transportation and with the Environmental Protection Division. Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson is the keynote speaker at the legislative breakfast of the WIN List, a group the helps liberal women candidates get elected.

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