Committee work is some of the most important work that gets done in the House, yet many are unfamiliar with the process and how it impacts the legislation that gets passed to become law in Georgia. Most work on legislation occurs in committee hearings, not during the debate on the House floor.
When a bill is filed, it gets assigned to a committee. If called for a hearing by the chair, the bill is presented by the author or the person who signed the bill first. This Representative must explain the bill (i.e. explain what’s wrong with the current law and/or what specifically needs to be changed).
It’s also imperative that the author explain the importance of changing the law and what negative things will happen if it’s not changed. While there are many things that should be changed in the law, one should tread carefully. Many times, there are unintended consequences to making the change. The code section may be referenced by another code section, which could trigger a domino effect. Changing the law is a dangerous issue that must be cautiously approached.
While only a Representative can take the well and speak to a bill on the House floor, the chair of a committee can recognize anyone to speak about a piece of legislation being considered. Often, citizens impacted by the legislation will testify as to the benefits of changing something or the negative consequences they’ve suffered because of the current law.
Legislators are first appointed to three committees. As time goes on, they are appointed to more; usually, the maximum is six committees. Committee assignments are usually based on work experience, interest and need. An insurance agent might get placed on the insurance committee due to the real-world experience they bring to the issue.
In my non-political work life, I’ve worked at the district attorney’s office as a victim advocate. It was based on this experience, and my own request, that I was placed on a committee called judicial (non-civil). This committee hears all potential changes to the criminal code in the state of Georgia. Any additions or changes are heard in this committee.
I also serve on five other committees: appropriations (public safety subcommittee), juvenile justice, rules, budget and fiscal affairs oversight and information and audits.
There are three committees that deviate from the usual committee description. Those three committees are rules, appropriations and information and audits. Appropriations will hear about the budget, specifically which agencies are assigned to the specific subcommittee. Rules determines which bills get to the House floor to be voted on by the whole House. Information and audits reviews the House journal every day.
Hopefully, you have learned a little about the committee process. I am honored to represent the folks of the 23rd District. Please contact me if I can ever be of service.