Floyd County’s four legislative delegates are preparing to head to Atlanta for the Monday kickoff of the Georgia General Assembly’s annual 40-day session.
Lawmakers will be meeting in person, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 180 House members will be split into three rooms with remote connections, including new technology to allow them to vote in real time, Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said.
“We’ve suspended the page program, guests, and group recognitions. We’ll still have the chaplain of the day, but they won’t be able to bring guests,” Ralston said at a press conference Thursday. “I have an obligation to take care of the health of the House, the staff and, yes, even the news media.”
The 56 Senators will have staggered voting and separated seating. Masks will be required in both chambers and other precautions are in place as well.
“Georgia Tech will be testing everybody twice a week,” Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said Friday. “They’ve already done one set this week.”
Hufstetler, an anesthetist at Redmond Regional Medical Center, will be getting his second dose of the vaccine on Tuesday. While it’s expected to be about 95% effective after seven days, he said he won’t be changing his distancing and mask habits.
The legislative sessions and other activities — including some committee hearings — will be livestreamed online through the Georgia General Assembly website at legis.ga.gov.
The first week will be mostly devoted to committee and office assignments, adopting procedural rules and setting the calendar. They’ll likely wrap up Thursday. Jan. 18 is the Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday, so they’ll be off that Monday. They’ll get down to work in earnest on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
“Some of those days that week may be budget days,” Hufstetler said. “We’ll have to see.”
While the legislative session is just 40 days a year, the calendar is suspended on days the chambers don’t convene in full. Budget hearings — where lawmakers get presentations from the governor, judiciary and agency heads — usually take weeks.
The legislature will adopt a supplemental 20-21 budget, which adjusts spending through June 30 based on updated revenue numbers. Their focus throughout the session, however, will be on setting the “big budget” — funding from July 1 through June 30, 2022.
Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to unveil his projected revenue figures and proposed budget at a joint session during the second week. The House and Senate will use those numbers in separate deliberations, and the various proposals must be reconciled and adopted before the session ends.
Here’s a look at Floyd County’s delegates and how to contact them:
♦ Hufstetler chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees taxing and revenue collection laws. A former county commissioner who led a major overhaul that stabilized Floyd County’s budget, Hufstetler’s avowed focus is on closing loopholes and “collecting everything we’re owed,” with an eye to further reducing taxes.
This year, he’s also applied for a seat on the powerful Senate Rules Committee. Bills passed by other committees go to Rules — and that’s the body that decides if they’ll go to the floor for a vote.
Hufstetler’s district covers all of Floyd County, southern Chattooga County, and the western parts of Gordon and Bartow counties.
His office address is 121-C State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. Phone: 404-656-0034. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
♦ Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the human resources subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee charged with writing the budget. Her subcommittee puts together the funding for social services ranging from foster care to mental health.
“There’s some heavy lifting to do in the world of addiction and mental health this year,” she said Friday.
Dempsey’s district covers the city of Rome and most of central Floyd County.
Her office address is 245 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. Phone: 404-463-2248. Email: email@example.com.
♦ Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, chairs the House Insurance Committee, which deals with legislation concerning insurance and the insurance industry. He owns a local State Farm insurance agency with his wife and is a retired Georgia State Patrol trooper who has been instrumental in public safety and homeland security legislation.
Lumsden’s district covers all of Chattooga County and the western half of Floyd County, including Cave Spring and stretching around to take in Shannon.
His office address is 220-A State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. Phone: 404-656-7850. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
♦ Rep. Mitchell Scoggins, R-Rydal, is starting his second two-year term and will likely see an upgrade of his committee assignments this year. The retired Bartow County probate judge was initially assigned to the House judiciary and transportation committees and he’s been keeping a close eye on the planned Rome-Cartersville Development Corridor linking U.S. 411 to I-75.
Scoggins’ district covers the northern half of Bartow County and the southeastern part of Floyd County.
His office, which could change next week, has been at 612-B Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA, 30334. Phone: 404-656-0325. Email: email@example.com.