Use the secretary of state’s poll locator service to identify your House and Senate districts and who represents you: http://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do.
Look for lawmakers in the House or Senate chamber or in their offices. You can find your legislators’ phone numbers and office locations on the General Assembly’s website: www.legis.ga.gov
When the Legislature is in session, volunteer pages (usually schoolchildren) will carry messages to legislators in the chambers.
The public is not allowed on the House or Senate floor while in session.
Legislators often will leave the chamber to meet with voters, especially their constituents. Page desks are directly in front of the main doors leading to both chambers on the third floor of the Capitol.
Top lawmakers’ offices are in the Capitol. The rest are across Mitchell Street (officially known as Capitol Square) in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Be prepared to pass through metal detectors in both buildings.
The General Assembly’s home page (www.legis.ga.gov) links to House and Senate members by name and district. The directory lists the legislator’s office phone and email. Some legislators also list home addresses and district phone numbers.
Find copies of bills in the House clerk’s office (Room 309) and the secretary of the Senate’s office (Room 353). Each has a desk where you can request a bill. Committee hearing notices are posted daily on a bulletin board outside both offices, and meeting calendars appear on monitors in the Legislative Office Building. You can also contact by phone. House clerk’s office: (404) 656-5015; secretary of the Senate’s office: (404) 656-5040.
Go to www.legis.ga.gov and click on “Legislation” at the top of the page. There, enter the bill number (if you know it) and whether it’s a House or Senate bill. This allows you to view the bill in its entirety, track it through committees and see roll call votes. Listings of committee meetings can also be found on the websites of both the House and Senate.
Heading to the statehouse
If you plan to visit:
Take MARTA. The Georgia State University station on the east/west line is a short walk from the Capitol. Most people drive, nonetheless, even though parking is limited. Lots generally charge a minimum $5 daily for parking.
Some options: No. 1 Capitol Lot, next to Liberty Plaza, at Capitol Avenue and Memorial Drive; Pete Hackney Parking Deck (162 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive); Steve Polk Parking Plaza (65 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive); 90 Central Parking Lot (accessible from Central Avenue and Courtland Street).
While you’re there
Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are available on the first, third and fourth floors of the Capitol, and other facilities are also on the second floor.
There are vending machines on the first floor, where coffee, sodas and snacks are available; a cafeteria on the sixth floor of the Legislative Office Building serves breakfast daily until 10 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. A food court in the bottom of the Sloppy Floyd Building keeps similar hours and features more options, including a Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.
Dozens of monuments dot the Capitol grounds and the building’s interior. Find a description of each here: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/monument.htm.
Now in its third year, Liberty Plaza, the public gathering space across Capitol Avenue from the Gold Dome, is a great place to eat lunch on nice days or watch protests and rallies that occur regularly during a session. The plaza features an outdoor amphitheater and several statues, including the replica Liberty Bell and Statute of Liberty.
Follow the money
Go to ethics.ga.gov, the website for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly the State Ethics Commission), to see campaign finance disclosures, lobbyist disclosure reports and lawmakers’ personal finance disclosures.
Lobbyists are required to file disclosures twice a month during the session. You can also request hard copies at the commission’s offices in the Sloppy Floyd Building. Call (404) 463-1980 for information.
Speak at the hearings
The real work on bills is done in committees and subcommittees, and that’s the place to weigh in. Contact committee members by phone, mail or email to make your voice heard. Speaking in person before a committee, though, is one of the most effective ways to reach legislators. The experience can be a little daunting, but legislators often appreciate hearing from taxpayers. Most committees have a sign-up sheet for speakers. Try to keep your remarks short and to the point.
Watch the action
Business begins at 10 a.m. most days in the House and Senate chambers, but legislators often arrive before that. If you want to catch a legislator before the day’s session, try waiting at the velvet ropes outside the chamber. Each chamber also has a gallery on the fourth floor of the Capitol. The hallways on the third floor have monitors that carry live feeds from the House and Senate. You will have to jockey with the lobbyists crowding the hallways for a good spot.
The live video feeds are also available online. Go to www.legis.ga.gov and look for the links under “Live Broadcasts” on the left. House committee meetings also stream live online. Look for the links at www.house.ga.gov/mediaServices/en-US/VideoBroadcasts.aspx. Only full House committee meetings — not subcommittees — stream live online. The Senate refuses to provide the public this opportunity.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will again have Georgia’s largest team covering the Legislature. No one will have more expertise on issues that matter to taxpayers when legislators return. Get complete daily coverage during the legislative session at myAJC.com/georgialegislature. Follow us on Twitter via @GAPoliticsNews and on Facebook at Georgia Politics News Now.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s exclusive Legislative Navigator provides a wealth of information not found anywhere else. Track legislation, see our own prediction of a bill’s chance of passage and explore a wealth of background on lawmakers, including their success at passing bills, top contributors and recent votes. Only at myAJC.com/navigator.