Have you ever wondered what legislators do while we’re not in session?
Well, besides taking care of constituent needs and attending the many meetings that are held throughout the year, we study. In fact, much of the legislation that’s taken up during the time we’re in session is a result of the work of study committees performed during the off session.
Study committees are established by resolutions passed by the House or Senate during the legislative session and deal with diverse subject matters that members have an interest in or that leadership believes need to be addressed in our state. While some study committees deal with local issues, most deal with statewide issues.
While there are some joint study committees made up of both House and Senate members, most of the study committees are separate. For instance, this year there are 20 Senate study committees, 15 House study committees and five joint House-Senate study committees.
In addition to House and Senate members, many study committees include professionals with expertise in the particular area being studied as well as ordinary citizens who may have an interest in the area.
Although it varies according to the subject matter, most study committees meet about three to five times in different areas of the state. Public hearings are often held to obtain input from citizens who have an interest in the subject matter.
While some of these studies may result in legislative action during the next session, others may find that no action at all is necessary. Assigning specific legislators to concentrate on specific issues allows for a more detailed understanding of the problems that can be shared with other legislators.
The subjects being studied this year are, as you would expect in a state of over 9 million people, as diverse as our population. For instance, the Senate has a committee studying the quality of child care in our state while the House has a committee studying the recruitment of terrorists in our prison system.
While both of these subjects are important, one would assume that the same people will not be testifying before the different committees.
Here’s a list of some of the different issues that the committees are studying this year:
• Transportation funding
• Cellular phone contract, billing and rebate practices
• Interstate gas capacity planning
• Eyewitness identification procedures
• Tanning salon consumer protection
• Self-employment assistance
• Bioeconomic development
• Pain management
• Flexible work weeks
• Funeral service professionals
• Trans fat alternatives for the Georgia food industry
• Continuing education and collegiate sports programs for students with disabilities
• Indigent defense
• Shortage of doctors and nurses in Georgia
• Rights relating to reproductive and genetic technology
• Advance directives registry
• Teacher complaint/grievance procedures
• Hate crimes legislation
• Use of brain fingerprinting
• Cigarette tax evasion
• Sex offender sentencing
While some of these issues may seem more important that others, the reality is that they’re all important to someone in our state and therefore need to be studied.
Earl L. (Buddy) Carter
State Representative, District 159
18 Capitol Square, Suite 508 LOB
Atlanta, Georgia 30334