Committees: The Heart of the Legislative Process
In every middle school government class, there is a lesson about how a bill becomes a law—complete with charts, diagrams and textbook chapters. We spent many hours as students reviewing and memorizing the process, and of course, passed the quizzes with flying colors. But with age sometimes comes a fuzzy recollection of those important lessons we learned so many years ago, and the one step of the process I am asked about the most is when a bill goes to committee. What is the function of committees? Who serves on the committee? Why are committee reviews necessary?
The Georgia General Assembly only has 40 days to consider the merits of hundreds of bills, and committees are the heart of the legislative process. Committees perform functions that the Senate and the House could not do efficiently as one giant body and do the fact-finding groundwork by studying bills in closer detail. The legislative session would need to be much longer if the fact-finding and testimony for each and every bill happened on the chamber floor.
Bills are sent to committees depending on the topic in order to be reviewed by legislators and to allow citizens and key stakeholders to offer words of support or opposition. Currently, there are 27 standing committees in the Senate impacting areas such as education, ethics, health care, public safety and transportation.
This year, I am serving in a new role as chair of the Senate Rules Committee. Every single bill being reviewed by the Senate must pass through this committee before going to the floor for a vote, and it is my intention to steer the committee’s concentration towards bills of merit that will keep Georgia on the road to prosperity. In addition to my chairmanship duties, I am also a member of the Senate Appropriations, Banking and Financial Institutions and Economic Development Committees. As the former chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I will have a vested interest in observing their actions and bills even though I am no longer a committee member.
Every year, the Georgia General Assembly is required to pass a balanced budget, but the appropriations bill is a very long and cumbersome piece of legislation. In order to fully understand the bill’s impact, subcommittees will closely review the bill by topic throughout the next few weeks. This process is one of the most important components of the legislative session because it safeguard’s Georgia’s fiscal health.
If you have any questions about Senate committees, the legislative process or the budget, please feel free to contact my office at any time. It is an honor to serve the 53rd District at the State Capitol!
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Sen. Jeff Mullis serves as Chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate District, which includes Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Chattooga County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404.656.0057 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.