Facts About the Georgia State Senate
The Georgia Senate
In the American tradition of "separation of powers," the Georgia State Constitution divides its governmental structure into three independent branches - the Legislative, Judicial and Executive - and declares that they are to remain forever separate and distinct.
The Legislative Branch of state government is the Georgia General Assembly, which consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. It makes the general policies and laws by which the needs of our society are met.
The General Assembly was created in 1777 shortly after the outbreak of the American Revolution, making it older than the United States Congress. Its Senate and House meet in separate chambers on opposite sides of the third floor of the Capitol. As of the 2010 census, the 56 members of the Senate each represent approximately 172,994 citizens.
The General Assembly is required by law to convene on the second Monday of January each year and meet for no longer than 40 legislative days. Bills may be introduced in either the Senate or House, with the exception of revenue and appropriations bills, which must originate in the House. The Senate, in turn, is responsible for confirming the Governor's appointments to boards and commissions.
Georgia's Lieutenant Governor also carries the title of President of the Senate, and is elected by the voters statewide every four years.
The Georgia Senate is one of the most progressive legislative bodies in the United States and has been widely studied and copied by other states. A number of reforms during the past decade or so have made the Senate more democratic and responsive to the citizens of Georgia.
In the Senate, all bills are called in the exact order they appear on the calendar, and an electronic voting system records the final vote on all general bills.
Legislative logjams, once common at the end of the Session, are prevented by requiring all Senate bills to be handled by the Senate and all House bills to be received from the House ten days before adjournment.
All Senate committee meetings and conference committee meetings to resolve Senate-House differences are open to the public, and meeting times for Senate committees are posted publicly well in advance.
The Senate Research Office was established to provide Senators with background information essential to introducing legislation and making intelligent decisions.
The Georgia Senator
The Constitution of Georgia requires a Senator to be at least 25 years old, an American citizen, a Georgia citizen for at least two years and a resident of his or her Senatorial District for at least one year immediately preceding election.
The present Senate membership ranges in age from 26 to 80. The typical Senator has attended an institution of higher learning and is a member of several professional or civic organizations.
Unlike other government officials who devote full time to public service, the Legislature is government's "citizen" branch, whose members are occupied in a business or profession when not carrying out legislative duties. Senators are engaged in law, retail trade, farming, education and a host of other occupations.
A citizen, organization or other public official can conceive of the need for legislation, but only a Senator may actually introduce legislation in the Georgia Senate. In addition, the Senate has the sole responsibility of confirming the Governor's appointments to state boards and agencies.
A Senator's duties are broader than deliberations during the three-month Legislative Session. Senators represent the interests of their constituents year-round by helping citizens in their dealings with government agencies and studying problems which citizens feel require legislation.
The Secretary of the Senate
The Secretary of the Senate is elected by vote of the Senators for a two-year term. He is the Senate's administrative officer and unofficial parliamentarian.
The Secretary is custodian of all bills, resolutions, records, papers and official documents filed with the Senate. He compiles, indexes and publishes the Senate Journal.
During the Session, the Secretary prints all Senate bills and the following daily publications:
- The First Readers give a brief summary of bills and resolutions introduced in the Senate.
- The Daily Status shows the location and actions taken on all bills and resolutions during the legislative day.
- The Composite Status, which is cumulative, shows the bill number, title, committee referred to and actions on Senate and House bills and resolutions in both Houses.
- The General Calendar lists bills or resolutions in numerical order which are available to be acted upon by the Senate.
- The Senate Rules Calendar, set by the Committee on Rules and published daily during the last 35 days of the Session, lists bills and resolutions ready to be acted upon by the Senate.
Members of the Senate are served by student pages who deliver messages, obtain copies of bills and perform errands. Senate rules require pages to be at least twelve years of age. A Senator may name up to twenty pages during the Session and the Lieutenant Governor may name up to forty pages during the Session. Click Here for more information about becoming a page.
The Legislative Intern Program
The Legislative Intern Program provides Georgia's college students with a unique opportunity to participate in the legislative process. The students receive college credit for their internship during the Session of the General Assembly. Interns are chosen from among the top ranking academic students throughout the state and are nominated and selected by the political science departments of the participating colleges. The interns are assigned to the various standing committees of the Senate and provide important assistance including the tracking of legislation assigned to the committees. Through their service, interns receive an educational reward not found in the classroom - the enriching experience of working directly with lawmakers.
The Legislative Services Committee
The Legislative Services Committee, which is empowered to study and adopt methods and procedures to operate the General Assembly and each of its Houses more efficiently, was created in 1959.
It is a sixteen-member committee composed of the Speaker of the House as Chairman, the Secretary of the Senate as Secretary, the President and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker Pro Tempore and Clerk of the House, the chairmen of the Senate Appropriations, Judiciary, and Banking and Finance Committees, chairmen of the House Appropriations, Judiciary, Ways and Means Committees, and the Senate and House Majority Leaders.
The Legislative Services Committee studies and adopts methods to make the operation of the Senate and the House more uniform. It has general supervision over operations of the Legislative Branch of Government, and can act for and enter into contracts on behalf of agencies of the Legislature.
The Committee has the authority to provide for services for the Legislative Branch, and to delegate its powers and authority as it deems advisable. The Committee also has control, authority and jurisdiction over legislative space in the State Capitol Building and in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building - the areas where the legislative process occurs.
The Office of Legislative Counsel was created in 1959. The Act provides that the Legislative Counsel shall be an attorney skilled in legislative matters and bill drafting. The Legislative Counsel, who is elected by the Legislative Services Committee, provides bill drafting services to every member of the General Assembly.
He advises members of each House on legislative matters and is authorized to provide for statutory and code revisions, render opinions, assist committees, perform research, issue reports and make recommendations. He is also authorized to provide legal services for the Legislative Branch and represent that branch in litigation.
Legislative Fiscal Officer
The Legislative Fiscal Officer oversees payment of salaries and expenses of the General Assembly. The office was established in 1968. The Fiscal Officer serves both the Senate and the House, bringing centralization to legislative expenditures. The Fiscal Officer is appointed by the Legislative Services Committee. She prepares the legislative budget, subject to approval by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, to be presented to the General Assembly. The Fiscal Officer oversees disbursement of these funds by paying for supplies and other materials and preparing the payroll for the General Assembly.
The Senate Budget Office
The Senate Budget and Evaluation Office (SBEO) was created during the 2003 Session. The purpose of the office is to give the Senate the independent capacity to develop the annual state of Georgia budget and evaluate the programs comprising the state budget. The mission is to provide accurate, objective, thorough, non-ideological and timely information about the state budget to members of the State Senate.
The Senate Research Office
The Senate Research Office was established in 1975 to provide an independent source of information and research for the Senate. The centralized staff provides assistance to individual Senators as well as to standing and interim study committees. The staff is composed of a select group of research experts. There are seven full-time researchers to answer research requests. The office also maintains resource files and a library of current periodicals and publications on legislative issues.
The Senate Press Office
The Senate Press Office was established in 1972 to expand news coverage of the Senate to keep the public informed. The office acts as a conduit between the Senate and the public via the news media throughout the state. The Senate Press Office issues news releases, broadcast reports, media credentials, serves as a message center for Senators during the Session and provides information to media representatives and the public through a broad range of services.