Gold Dome Report — Legislative Day 1

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

It’s the second Monday in January, and the Georgia General Assembly opened its 2021 Session with socially distanced ceremony, saliva testing, and other start-of-session housekeeping. Akin to “syllabus day” at the beginning of a new school term, lawmakers spent the day getting sworn in (40 or so at a time in a spaced-out House chamber), finding their desks (many of which are located outside the House chamber due to the pandemic), and producing a bit of spit for the twice-weekly COVID-19 tests required of Members and legislative staff. It’s the beginning of a very different year under the Gold Dome.

After a divisive election season that seemed would never end, leaders in both chambers urged collaboration and civility among Members in their opening remarks. Whether that advice is taken to heart will depend on the legislation that is proposed in the coming days, the full spectrum of which is yet to be seen. Speaker of the House David Ralston, returning as the second-longest serving Speaker in Georgia history, previewed a few topics that are likely to come up — ending the pandemic and keeping Georgia open, improving freight logistics, addressing mental health, and having a “thoughtful and responsible” assessment of voting and elections. There will certainly be more, and our #GoldDomeReport will be there to cover it all.

In today’s Report:

  • HIGHLIGHTS: General Assembly Convenes for 2021 Legislative Session
  • Georgia House Proposes Calendar for First Five Legislative Days
  • Insider’s Guide to the Gold Dome Report

HIGHLIGHTS: General Assembly Convenes for 2021 Legislative Session

The State Senate was first to ring the bell this morning, opening the 2021 Legislative Session with words of welcome from Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. Duncan encouraged Senators to “continue to build relationships” with their colleagues. After an invocation, Justice Charlie Bethel administered the oath, swearing-in all of Georgia’s Senators.

Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) was subsequently elected as President Pro Tempore. Senator Miller offered words of moderation to his fellow Senators. He urged his colleagues to avoid letting politics dominate their lives to the detriment of their families.

The Senate approved a number of administrative resolutions, including a set of rules to govern the body during the new biennium. Notable changes from prior rules include measures to promote social distancing. Additionally, the Senate altered the rule related to Crossover Day, providing that it may take place on any day up to, and including, Legislative Day 27. The House must agree to this change before it becomes effective.

After adopting new rules, the Senate adjourned. No bills were read or assigned to committee.

While the Senate completed its first-day duties in relatively short order, the House’s ceremony took substantially longer due to social distancing limits in the House chamber. After Representative Randy Nix (R-LaGrange) spoke as Chaplain of the Day and noted Atlanta tenor Timothy Miller sang the National Anthem and God Bless America, Judge Brenda Weaver, Chief Judge of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, swore in House members in several batches.

After all members were sworn in, the body voted 158-11 to re-elect Representative David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) as Speaker. In his opening remarks, Speaker Ralston reminded Members that the Georgia House has accomplished a lot over the years, “much of it in a bipartisan manner by working with each other.” He noted that, while we are in a period of “state and national upheaval”, the legislature has done the people’s work through crises before. Speaker Ralston called for leadership through honesty, fairness, compassion, and courage, and he reminded members that no individual is better than a sum of the parts. He urged Members to work together in the coming days, “finding common ground and being civil and respectful when we can’t.”

The House went on to re-elect Representative Jan Jones (R-Milton) as Speaker Pro Tempore and adopted a number of other procedural measures before adjourning for the day. No bills were read or assigned to committee.

The Senate will reconvene at 10 a.m. and the House will reconvene at 1 p.m. tomorrow for the Second Legislative Day.

Georgia House Proposes Calendar for First Five Legislative Days

As its last item of procedural business today, the Georgia House adopted HR 10, setting a legislative calendar for the first five legislative days. The calendar, which must be considered and approved by the Senate, is as follows:

Monday, January 11

Legislative Day 1

Tuesday, January 12

Legislative Day 2

Wednesday, January 13

Legislative Day 3

Thursday, January 14

Legislative Day 4

Friday, January 15

In adjournment

   

Monday, January 18

In adjournment — Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Tuesday, January 19 to Friday, January 22

In adjournment — Budget Hearings

   

Monday, January 25

In adjournment

Tuesday, January 26

Legislative Day 5

Insider’s Guide to the Gold Dome Report

For those of you joining us for the first time, welcome to the Gold Dome Report! This newsletter recaps notable activity in the Georgia General Assembly every day the legislature convenes — and a few others, if developments warrant. We aim to be in your inbox before you get to the dinner table and provide plenty to digest as you prepare for the next legislative day. In addition to leading stories and observations (with a dash of humor), you will also find some common sections in most days’ Reports:

  • New Legislation — We read every bill introduced and assigned to committee and bring the key details of those that matter most to our readers--every day.
  • Committee Actions — We don’t cover all of the House and Senate committee meetings, but we cover a lot of them, and we bring the discussions and actions here to you.
  • Floor Actions — Once legislation makes it to the House and Senate floors, we’re still listening and bringing you the interesting part of the debate and final vote counts.
  • Rules Calendars — We close each Report with a preview of what is to come the next day, the Rules Calendars for each chamber.

Whether you are a new or long-time reader of the Report, we hope to see you every legislative day. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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