Types of Committees
Like most legislative assemblies, the Georgia Senate has created a variety of committees to distribute heavy workloads and explore increasingly complex issues. Committees are instruments or agencies of the Senate, and their function is to carry out the will of the Senate. Every committee falls into one of the three basic types: standing committees, special committees, and conference committees.
Standing committees are created by each new Senate for the life of the body (i.e. the two-year term of the General Assembly). Like all committees, standing committees have specific areas of jurisdiction. However, the jurisdiction of standing committees is typically broader than other committees as these committees address issues of continuing importance that tend to evolve over time. Members are appointed to standing committees by the Committee on Assignments and, with some exceptions, a member may not be removed from a standing committee after he/she has been appointed. The number of members on standing committees is capped by Senate Rules.
The Georgia Senate has twenty-six (26) standing committees which are set forth in the Rules of the Senate. A list of Senate standing committees, their jurisdiction, and membership limits can be found here. In addition, there are a few committees created by statute and function like standing committees.
Special committees are created to consider a special issue or to perform a special function. Special committees may also be named “ad hoc”, “investigating”, “select”, or “study” committees. In some instances, both chambers may establish a joint special committee, most often to study a particular issue. There are two special committees created by the Senate rules: the Committee on Assignments and the Committee on Administrative Affairs.
Conference Committees are among the oldest of lawmaking procedures, dating back to the early days of the British Parliament and were commonly used by the colonial legislatures. In Congress, a conference committee was appointed on its second day, in 1789.
Today, conference committees consist of three members of the Senate appointed by the President to settle differences that may arise between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Only members that have voted in favor of the position adopted by the Senate are eligible to serve on the committee. It is important to note that each chamber appoints its own separate committee of conference. Thus, a meeting of Senate and House conferees is a joint meeting of two committees. A majority vote of the entire membership of the Senate committee (two of three members) is required before the report can be submitted to the Senate for adoption. Once on the floor of the Senate for consideration, it must be accepted or rejected as is as no amendments are permitted.
The chairs of standing committees have the authority to create subcommittees to consider a specific bill or a general subject matter within the jurisdiction of the committee. Members of subcommittees are appointed by the chair of the parent committee and must be members of that committee. In addition, the Committee on Assignments may create one or more standing subcommittees and appoint the members and officers thereof. For example, it is customary for the Committee on Assignments to appoint standing subcommittees for the Committee on Appropriations.
Procedurally, subcommittees function in the same manner as standing committees. They are governed by the Rules of the Senate as well as the rules of the committee from which they are appointed. The recommendations of any subcommittee must be reported to the full committee which, in turn, will make its recommendations (if any) to the Senate.
Study committees are special committees of the Senate created to meet during the interim with limited jurisdiction to study a specific issue. Study committees are usually created by Senate resolution. The subject area of study, the membership of the committee, and the duration of the study committee are set forth in the resolution creating the committee. Study committees are authorized to meet and take official action during the interim.
Study committees function procedurally in the same manner as other Senate committees. The committee may take action only at a properly called meeting with a quorum present. Like other committees, study committee meetings may be closed to the public to consider specific issues such as security against sabotage or criminal or terrorist acts which require confidentiality to be effective. Chairmen may not vote except they may vote to make a tie, and must vote to break a tie.
There is a significant procedural difference between a study committee and other committees. The chair of an interim study committee may permit a member to participate in the committee meeting and to vote via teleconference. Participation in a meeting by teleconference is not permissible for other types of committees. Members joining by teleconference should be connected on one line and voices verified and broadcast in the meeting by microphone.
Like most committees, study committees report their findings to the Senate. The reports of study committees are usually informational and their reports are typically filed with the Secretary of the Senate and distributed. Some study committees are joint committees, meaning they are created by a joint resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives and include representatives from both chambers as members.
Other Special Committees
The Senate can create other special committees to consider specific measures, investigate and evaluate issues, propose legislation, or to perform a special function. Special committees may also be named “ad hoc”, “investigating”, “select”, or “study” committees. In addition, the President of the Senate is authorized to create a Senate study committee to serve during the interim.