Who makes the Rules?

Spring Frenzy Under the Dome

The temperature outside is rising, the birds are chirping at a more fevered pitch and the daffodils’ yellow blooms are popping out across Atlanta. Nature is in its spring frenzy. So is the Georgia General Assembly. This week marks the days leading up to crossover day (Friday, March 13th) so the line is long at the Rules Committee meetings in both chambers.

The power of Rules

House Rules Committee

House Rules Committee

In my first year as a lobbyist at the Georgia Capitol I have learned that there are specific people who it is important (for the legislators) to have a good relationship with. Two of those people would be the Chairman of House Rules and the Chairman of Senate Rules. The two most powerful committees in each chamber are the Rules and the Appropriations Committees. In the House, the Speaker appoints all committee positions. The Senate Rules passed during the first day of the session. These two committees also comprise the most members of any committee.

The Rules committee oversees the flow of legislation from passage in committee to making the determination of what bills should be debated and voted on the House floor. The House Rules Committee meets every morning at 9 AM on days the legislature is in session to determine which bills will be put to the floor for a vote on the next scheduled day. They can also add supplemental bills to the calendar for that given day. This happens more frequently as Crossover day approaches. Sponsors or supporters of bills must come to Rules and ask for the committee to consider their bill for a floor vote.

Senate Rules Committee

Senate Rules Committee

Last Thursday, I attended the Senate Rules Committee. The Senate Rules Committee meets each day, immediately following adjournment, to set the Calendar for the next convening day. It was quite entertaining, as Chairman Jeff Mullis seemed to be roasting each person who presented a bill before committee. Perhaps the humor helps lighten the strain of one wielding so much power. For example, when the Religious Liberty bill was named, Chair Mullis, said “I see you are bringing a non-controversial bill before us today.” Each time a legislator approached the committee, the Chair had commentary that elicited chuckles from the crowd. 

 

Stuck in Rules

Long line of Legislators waiting to present their bills to Rules

Long line of Legislators waiting to present their bills to Rules

This photo shows a long line of legislators waiting to have the floor during committee to ask for the favorable consideration of the committee to allow the bill out to the floor for a vote. You may have heard someone say “the bill got stuck in Rules” in reference to a bill that did not make it to law. A bill that never makes it through Rules will never have a chance to be voted on. During today’s House Rules meeting, there was a particular bill that had a proposed amendment. The chair, Rep. John Meadows, let the committee know that he would not release that bill for a vote until the amendment passed. The chair has control over what is proposed for a vote to be put on the calendar. Hence, you see the power the Chair of Rules wields. Luckily, our Elder Abuse Bill (HB 72) passed through House Rules today and will come to the House floor for a vote on Wednesday, March 11th, BEFORE Crossover day (Phew)! It looks like it will be long days for the legislators and lobbyists this week (Mon, Wed and Friday) because there are lots of bills on the calendar and even more to still be considered!

PB & J Update

PB&J Day at the GA Capitol

For those who have been following my blog (thank you), I wanted to let you know that I did get to experience PB & J Day at the Capitol and taste the infamous Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. I emphatically give it two-thumbs up and will certainly be giving it a try at home with my kids, for a new twist on one of our favorites. Here is a photo of the sandwich so you can at least imagine the taste. I also learned about the Peanut Proud Festival that is held in Blakely each year. This year it will be on Saturday, March 28th. I think you just might be able to get a grilled PB & J there if you are hankering for one. Click here for the details.