What Does a State Representative Do?

As a Georgia State Representative, one is presented with the opportunity to do many things. The bill I carried that added strangulation to the aggravated assault statute has saved many lives in Georgia. By carrying meaningful legislation, one can have a tremendous impact on the lives of fellow Georgians.

Georgia has a part-time citizen legislature, which means that all representatives and senators, if not retired, have “day jobs.” There are many different occupations within the Legislature: farmers, dentists, insurance agents, lawyers, business owners, physician assistants and teachers, just to name a few. This variety of perspectives, expertise and skill sets makes for a diverse group that brings a wealth of information to the issues coming before the Legislature.

The Legislature meets in the capitol, under the “gold dome” in Atlanta. There are meeting rooms and offices on the ground floor. The governor’s office, and other executive offices, are on the second floor. Both the Senate and the House are located on the third floor. The fourth floor has fascinating museum displays as well as the galleries for both House and Senate.

The Legislature begins the second Monday in January and meets for forty, non-consecutive days. The day begins with an inspirational message and prayer, led by the pastor of the day. The doors of the House Chamber are locked during this time, and no one may enter or leave the Chamber during this time. When the House is not meeting, there are hearings on bills in committee. It is through the work of the committee that the bulk of examining bills gets done.

How do you contact your representative during the session? If it’s during session, the best means of contact is usually through email. When the Legislature is in session, erratic hours are commonplace. This may mean that legislators are having to answer emails at odd hours, often before or after most folks are awake. Legislators are happy to call, if requested, so long as a number is provided and an understanding that it may happen outside of usual business hours.

An interesting opportunity for students to learn how their government works is by gaining a position in the Page Program in the House. This program gives Georgia students a first-hand look at their government at work. Pages work in the House, delivering messages to various members. They are paid for their work that day, and if the House breaks for lunch, they are provided with lunch from Chick-fil-A. Anyone with an interest in understanding how the government works is encouraged to apply to become a page. For more information about becoming a page, or to apply, visit House.Ga.gov/en-US/HousePageProgram.aspx.

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