Turns out I’m not the last person in America to believe in Representative Government. Who knew there are others like me; weird and strange creatures who think it’s cool, fun, sexy and thrilling to be a citizen activist for causes and issues. However I realize some of you are not as grizzled as I am and might need a little 411 on this process.
First identify who represents you. Federal, State, County, City, School Board. Yes all of it. If you don’t know what Congress does and what your County Commissioner does, find out or go back to 4th grade. Learn the difference between asking for a change to a Federal law or State Law or a County Ordinance. Yeah, you heard me. Do some homework.
Then do a little research on who represents you. For instance, do you have anything in common? This is important, because when you reach out to them it’s a whole lot nicer to say, hey we went to same school, work in the same industry, met our wives/husbands in church or served in military. Turns out elected officials are human beings. I know, shocking!
Super important, if you are emailing or calling YOUR Legislator on a issue or bill be sure to identify yourself as their constituent. Always include your full name, address and telephone number. Feel free to add a few titles to your name but don’t show off. I can tell you that “Katlover1234” as a email address with no proper name and address is going to go straight to the bulk delete folder. Trust me when I worked at the capitol that’s where I put them, I have no guilt about it whatsoever.
If the outreach is not to your legislator per se but a member of a committee reviewing the bill of interest to you, acknowledge you are not their constituent but, you recognize they are serving in leadership on a committee. Still always include you name, address and telephone number.
Please keep your “comments’ to the topic and give a specific action. For instance. Please Vote Against the intent of XYZ Bill #___ or Please Vote in favor of XYZ Bill #____. Don’t use “Yes or No”, since confusingly that may get you the opposite of what you want.
Whatever you do, don’t say ” I’m a registered Democrat/Republican” You’ll dash all your credibility instantly since we don’t and never have registered by party in Georgia. Got that. Don’t make me repeat it.
Oh and another thing, the Legislators don’t “work for you”. Honestly that has to be the most moronic legacy of the Tea Party . Your representatives were elected to “represent you” which is nothing like “working for you”. If they are not representing your issues, you can work harder to find someone who will. They “work for” their donors //snark.
If you are not registered to vote, please hang up and take care of that right now.
Courtesy of Kip Carr and the AJC. we have your vocabulary lesson:
A dinner, a lunch: Means a meal sponsored by lobbyists. Can be one legislator with one lobbyist, or an entire committee, referred to as a “committee dinner,” sponsored by several lobbyists whose clients want to pass or stall legislation that is before the committee.
A li’l hep: Usually when a legislator asks for more money for a local program or constituent. Sometimes also used to help an industry or group pay fewer taxes. As in, “Delta’s havin’ a rough time with these high fuel prices, we need to give ‘em a li’l hep on their taxes.”
Administration bill: A bill the governor is pushing and wants passed.
Agency bill: A bill requested by one of the state agencies.
Amendment: A change made to a bill.
Author: The author can be a legislator, legislative counsel, a lobbyist or special interest association. See: Sponsor.
Big budget: The budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Called home: When a legislator “gets retired” on the “advice” of his family for having a little too much fun in Atlanta.
Catfish: Old-school term for a bill that gets gutted of any substance. Used to be known as being Grooverized, in honor of the late Rep. Denmark Groover, a Macon attorney who excelled at filleting bills.
Cease all audible conversation: Means, “shut up!” What the House or Senate presiding officer says when he wants quiet. Generally preceded or followed by a violent slamming of the gavel. Happens at least a dozen times a day. House side is far more guilty of the chatter than Senate, in general.
Conference committee: A six-member committee of three House members and three senators, appointed by the House speaker and the lieutenant governor, to reconcile versions of a bill passed by both chambers.
Constitutional amendment: A proposal to change the state Constitution. Votes ultimately must approve an amendment, but first the measure must pass both chambers with a two-thirds majority.
Christmas tree: A bill that gets lots of other bills amended to it, generally at the end of the session. Common with tax-break legislation. See: Vehicle.
Dead: Describes a bill that is no longer viable, at least for the moment. Such legislation can be resuscitated, often by being tied to a Christmas tree.
Devotional: The sermon lawmakers get before they start business each day, usually from a Protestant preacher with a lot to say.
Doctor of the day: Local doctors who volunteer to work a day at the Statehouse medical station and are introduced to legislators each day. They offer free care to legislators and others at the Capitol. 40 days of semi-socialized medicine. Get a Flu shot!
Fiscal note: Estimate of a bill’s costs. Legislators are supposed to get to see fiscal notes before they vote on bills, but often don’t.
Fiscal year: The year covered by the state’s budget, July 1 to June 30.
Gentleman from, lady from: How lawmakers refer to one another in debates.
Hand vote: Allows lawmakers to vote on bills without a record of how they voted (the number of hands are counted, not whose hand is raised). Often used right after lunch, when many members are slow returning to the chamber.
Housekeeping bill: A bill that fixes small or technical problems in law. Occasionally bigger changes are slipped in late in the session when nobody is looking.
Industry bill: A bill brought by lawmakers on behalf of a particular industry, often written by lobbyists for that industry. See: Special-interest legislation.
Leadership: Just what it sounds like: the House Speaker, Senate President, and the leadership team of the majority party.
Little budget: The midyear spending plan, which helps fund the final few months of the current fiscal year.
New information: Used to be known as “later data.” In budget speak, it means “new information” on a particular agency’s needs has been given to leaders that persuades them to cut or add money to a program. “New information” can simply be used by lawmakers as an excuse to shift money from one priority to another, regardless of the “data” or “information.”
Not ready: As in, “That bill is not quite ready.” Usually means the bill is being held up, often as a hostage to be used in a later trade for passage of other legislation.
Friends in the hall: Also known as “people in the hall.” Lobbyists — as in, “Our friends in the hall support this bill.”
Point of personal privilege: When lawmakers get a chance to get up and talk about anything and everything, from war to the history of bond ratings in Georgia.
PORK: Or Project of Regional Concern (PORC). Project slipped into the budget to help one area or legislator.
Reconsideration: When a bill or amendment is brought up for another vote.
Recommit: To send a bill back to a committee.
Regents row: Where the state’s university lobbyists sit during budget negotiations, usually reserved hours before the meetings begin. More recently, it also includes the area on the third floor of the statehouse just outside of Room 341, the appropriations hearing room.
Rules: The committee that decides whether a bill will be debated by the full chamber. Later in the session, it sets the daily calendar.
Sine die: Latin for adjournment without recall. On the last day of the session, the House Speaker and lieutenant governor adjourn “sine die” and slam down their gavels.
Special-interest legislation: Legislation passed for an industry, usually written at least partly by that industry.
Sponsor: Legislator who files a bill and generally promotes it through the legislative process.
Study committee: Where bills often go when lawmakers aren’t ready to act on them. Sometimes the bills are refined by the study committee and will come up the next year. Sometimes they are never seen again.
Sunset: When a law or agency expires. Usually legislation or an agency about to sunset gets renewed before it ever dies.
Supplemental budget: See: little budget.
Unlock the machines: What the chamber leader says before members vote on a bill. The “unlocking” allows members to have their vote registered.
Unregistered lobbyist: People who lobby for passage of legislation to help themselves or a client without officially registering as lobbyists. Despite registration laws, unregistered lobbyists seldom face punishment.
Vehicle: A piece of harmless legislation used by lawmakers to carry another measure they really want to pass. The bill they want to pass gets amended onto the vehicle. See: Christmas tree.
Well: The front of House and Senate chambers where lawmakers speak on bills or amendments.
Here’s some of the main links I recommend you to bookmark and become familiar with:
1. House Calendars
From here you can find the first readers of each bill introduced each day, as well as status sheets and roll call votes.
2. Senate Calendar
Pretty much the same information as the House, including a list of holdover bills from the 2013 Session.
3. Legislation Search
All bills and resolutions from both the House and the Senate, can be found here.
4. Composites (House and Senate)
A useful spreadsheet detailing legislative action on all bills introduced
5. 2014 House Committee Assignments *UPDATED*
There have been many changes among Committee Chairmen since last session. Here is the updated list (PDF docunent)
6. House Committee Broadcast Schedule
You can access live video streaming of House Floor action as well as Committee hearings
7. Video Streaming of Both House and Senate
8. 2013 Georgia Senate Picture Book.
Pictures of all 56 State Senators formatted in the style of the old ‘White Books’.
9. Appropriations Hearing Live Streaming
Room 341 of the Capitol is the site of the Budget Hearings, Appropriations Committee Hearings as well as the all-important House Rules Committee.
10. House Floor Notes (Twitter)
Follow this account for all up-to-date House floor action.
11. Senate Press Office (Twitter)
Essentially the same function as @GAHouseFloor but with Senate actions,
press announcements twitter.com/GASenatePress
12. House Meeting Notices
All House Committee meeting notices are generally posted here
13. Senate Meeting Notices
14. 2014 Joint Budget Hearing Schedule
This year the Budget Hearings will begin on Wednesday, January 15 and will be in Room 341 (see above). Here is the detailed schedule..
Also, both the House and Senate maintain and regularly update FB pages that also contain useful information.
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