General Legislative Information
There are a number of legislative resources available through the ACCG and General Assembly websites to assist county attorneys and staff. From bill tracking to contact information for legislative offices, these sites should provide all the information needed to stay fully informed on legislative issues that may impact your county.A legislative resource of particular importance is the Office of Legislative Counsel page on the General Assembly website. This page contains many helpful information links to items such as A Brief Guide to Legislation for Members and Officers of the Georgia General Assembly; Legislative Terminology; the Constitution of Georgia; the Georgia Code; General Statutes Summaries; and many others. The Brief Guide publication will be especially helpful as a resource for how bills are actually drafted for the General Assembly as well as providing a basic primer on constitutional requirements for legislation.
ACCG Legislative Policy Information
Through the ACCG Legislative Advocacy page, the user can find a copy of the ACCG Platform which represents the policies advocated by ACCG on behalf of counties during the legislative session. It further provides an overview of ACCG’s priorities and policy committees and allows access to current and archived Capitol Connections Newsletters and weekly Legislative Updates. If you would like to be added to the distribution list for either publication, please contact Schuyler Harding at [email protected].
Through the ACCG Legislative Tracking Database , the user has access to legislation that ACCG is tracking on behalf of county government. Through the tracking database, searches can be made by bill number, date, keyword, and by ACCG staff member or policy committee. All bills are linked to the General Assembly’s website so the user can access the latest bill drafts that are available to the public.
Each bill tracked by ACCG contains a staff summary of the bill and tracking level. ACCG uses five tracking levels to indicate the position on every bill that is being tracked. Aside from the traditional positions of support, oppose and neutral, “evaluating” is used to indicate that further review of the bill is needed while “negotiating” indicates though there may be issues with the bill, ACCG staff is working with legislators to address them.
The General Assembly also has a bill tracking system through their website. While the ACCG tracking database provides information on all general bills and resolutions that impact counties, the General Assembly’s tracking database allows the user to track any bill or resolution that has been introduced. This site allows searches by year, legislator, committee, bill number or by keyword search. While ACCG has an internal tracking system for local legislation, to access copies of local bills that have been introduced it is necessary to use the General Assembly’s tracking database.
In addition to tracking legislation, the General Assembly’s website also allows the user to view legislative calendars, floor votes, committee schedules, and legislator contact information. It further allows the user free access to LexisNexis for code searches and provides general statute summaries.
Legislative Process 101
The process is governed by specific rules adopted by the House and Senate. Links to the rules are found at the end of this section.The process is very similar to that of the federal government but operates on a two year cycle instead of a four year cycle. When a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee by the leadership of the chamber where it originated. While most assignments are based on the subject matter of the legislation, leadership has the discretion to assign legislation to any committee. Most legislation can be introduced in either chamber, however, budget and revenue bills must be introduced in the House.
Once the legislation is received in committee, it is the chair’s decision on whether it will be heard. All committees are governed by their committee rules and may have different requirements. If the committee has a subcommittee, the chair usually allows testimony on the legislation at this stage rather than the full committee meeting stage. Once the legislation has been voted out of subcommittee, if applicable, then the next step in the committee process is a meeting on the legislation by the full committee. Most chairs do not allow testimony at this level if there has been a prior chance for testimony at the subcommittee level.
After a bill has been favorably reported by a committee (passed out of the committee), it is put on the General Calendar and sent to the Rules Committee. This committee controls the bills that are allowed to be debated on the floor of each chamber. Once legislation begins to move through the committee process, the Rules Committee will meet every day in order to set the bill calendar for the next legislative day.
The House and Senate have different rules on how a bill can be presented on the floor for debate. In the House, the Rules Committee can format a bill to be open for floor debate, which means that it can be amended on the floor; modified open, which means that amendments can be made on the floor but only if they are preprinted on the desk one hour prior to the debate; modified structured, which means that only certain portions of the bill can be amended as approved by the Rules Committee; or structured, which means that no amendments can be offered. The Senate uses a different process called “engrossment.” If a bill is engrossed for floor debate, no amendments may be offered. The engrossment process in the Senate is not performed in the Rules Committee, but on the floor of the Senate at the time the bill is introduced or prior to the debate of the bill.
Only when a bill is passed out of the Rules Committee, is it eligible for floor debate. All bills require a simple majority in each chamber to pass, unless it is a constitutional amendment or requires a referendum, in which case it requires a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber. Local bills are voted on collectively as part of the local bill consent calendar unless a member asks for a particular bill to be removed and voted on separately. After a bill has been passed in one chamber, it will be transmitted to the next chamber, where the committee assignment process begins again. It should be noted that just because a bill was assigned to a certain committee in one chamber, does not mean that it will be assigned to the companion committee in the other chamber. Leadership retains the right to assign bills to any committee, regardless of subject matter or previous assignment.
Once the bill has been vetted through the committee process in the opposite chamber and has passed out of the Rules Committee, it will be debated on the floor of that chamber. If no changes were made through the committee process or on the floor, the bill has passed and will be sent to the Governor for his signature. If changes are made to the bill, it must go back to the chamber where it originated so that body can decide to approve or disapprove the changes. If the changes are approved, the bill is transmitted to the Governor for his signature. If the changes are not approved, the bill goes back to the chamber where the changes were made. That chamber can elect to insist on their changes, in which case a committee of conference is assigned, or can back down from their position, in which case the changes to the bill are removed and it is sent to the Governor for his signature.A conference committee is composed of six members, three from each chamber. It is the job of the conferees to come to a consensus on what should be included in the bill for the final vote before both chambers. The final product of a conference committee is put into a conference committee report, which must be signed by a majority of members, and each body votes up or down on that report, with no amendments allowed. Both chambers must pass the conference committee report in order for it to be transmitted to the Governor. Once a bill reaches the Governor, it is assigned an Act number and he is given 40 days to sign, veto or allow the legislation to become law without his signature.
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