“The Calendar”

Teri was kind enough to post the “adjournment resolution” agreed upon by the House and Senate yesterday in the Morning Reads. For those new to the Georgia General Assembly or those that haven’t delved deep into the sausage making process, let’s take a few minutes to explain what it means, and what tea leaves we can tell from what we have about where we are going.

First, the obvious is that the resolution sets the schedule for the House and Senate for the next couple of weeks. They will be in session through Thursday of this week. Friday will be a day “off”, but committees may still meet.

Next week is reserved for budget hearings. These days don’t count toward the 40 business days of the calendar, but given that this year has been deemed a “budget cutting session”, note that an entire week is reserved, off the clock.

The rest of the resolution gives us a five day week after the budget hearings, then a four day week with Friday off or for Committees, and ends on Monday February 10th, for Day 14. 26 legislative days will remain, and what happens between now and then will give us a glimpse of whether we’ll see Sine Die before the end of March, before the Master’s, or…if everyone hates everybody and your guess is as good as anyone’s.

This week, there are a couple of key events that will start to color in the gaps on the road map to sine die. Tomorrow morning, the “Eggs and Issues” breakfast at the Georgia World Congress Center. It will feature the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker with each giving public remarks on their priorities and, while not as always as obvious, setting or managing expectations.

Thursday, Governor Kemp will deliver the State of the State address. It is also anticipated that he will release his budget projections and revenue estimate. It’s simultaneously the end of opening pageantry and the beginning of “game on” for legislative work. The amount of money the legislature can budget is directly tied to the revenue estimate set by the Governor. We’ll know before legislative day four ends how bad the “budget cutting session” is going to be. On a positive note, December’s revenues were up 3% as released yesterday.

If you’re a serious capital observer or participant, don’t count budget hearings as a week off. It’s where legislators and the general public alike will learn the details of cuts ordered by Governor Kemp last spring. We’ll also be able to gage the level of acrimony that has developed between the executive branch and the legislative branch. Cuts tend to make everyone surly, so remember to grade on a curve.

After the budget hearings, legislators have the following two weeks to begin their work in ernest for the session. Legislative days during these two weeks are often dominated by the pastor-of-the-day and morning orders. Most of the real work is occurring in committees, which both bodies now livestream. Thus, don’t complain about legislation being written behind “closed doors”. The committee process is open to anyone with a working internet browser.

The closer we get to February 10th without a follow on resolution, the more testy some folks in leadership will get. They’ll be balancing the need to get legislative work done, find agreement on a budget (and how to fund it), and the need to allow their members to return home to campaign and resume fundraising, as they are prohibited from doing so when the legislature is in session.

And, fun fact I understand to be true, in the absence of an adjournment resolution, every day counts towards the 40 day limit. So, in theory, if the House and Senate can’t agree on a new calendar, they could be out theoretically as early as March 7th. I wouldn’t expect that.

Instead, quite the opposite. The agreement to stop the clock for a full week of budget hearings indicates that the House and Senate understand that cutting a budget requires a scalpel rather than a meat axe, and some work need not be rushed, no matter how badly they know that qualifying begins the month after next, and the campaign to return officially begins.

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