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What’s this Sine Die Business About, Anyway?

March 30, 2017

Unlike Congress in Washington, D.C., the Georgia General Assembly here in Atlanta meets for a total of 40 days each year to chart the course for Georgia’s government. The 2017 Legislative Session was my first under the gold dome, and I had to hit the ground running. I wasn’t particularly familiar with Georgia politics before, but as a communications aide in the Senate Press Office I had to adjust before things got too busy. In the first week or so, I learned about two events that always carried a tone of apprehension whenever they were mentioned: Crossover Day and Sine Die.

Crossover Day

For a bill to become a law, it has to pass in both chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives — and then pass through the governor with either a signature or no action. When a Senator introduces a bill, they have until Crossover Day to get it to the House of Representatives. Crossover Day is usually on Day 30, but this year it was on Day 28.

Since the General Assembly started out a bit slow this year, most bills passed over to the other chamber in the week leading up to Crossover Day. So, to send over as many bills as possible, both chambers filled their Crossover Day general calendars with more bills than we’d seen yet. For the Senate, this meant 32 Senate bills spanning 10 hours of cumulative debate.

Sine Die

And then there’s today: Sine Die, the final day of the legislative session. If any bills don’t pass through the General Assembly and onto Governor Nathan Deal’s desk before the clock strikes midnight, they’ll have to wait until next year. I thought Crossover Day was a long day, but I’m told it may pale in comparison to the chaos of Sine Die. Not only will the general calendar be jam-packed with bills and resolutions, but there may well be a host of other unplanned situations.

The chambers might disagree on changes to legislation, resulting in last-minute Conference Committees. A senator could introduce a controversial surprise amendment. A seemingly innocent bill could invoke heated partisan debate. No one can see into the future, but everyone in the General Assembly foresees stormy weather today.

My First-Hand Experience as an Aide

My role in all of this is small compared to that of our elected officials. As an aide in the Senate Press Office, I do most of the Senate’s photography and write occasional media content for a handful of Senators. Still, even if I’m just a fly on the wall, I’m a fly on the wall of the Georgia Senate chamber. Since I’m responsible for capturing moments that humanize all of the state Senators, I have the enormous fortune to document history as it unfolds every single legislative day.

And boy, have there been a lot of great things to see in the Senate chamber. There have been some controversial bills, of course, but the bills that go through uncontested vastly outnumber those that don’t. For example, upskirting was apparently legal by virtue of not having been outlawed yet, so I was able to see the Senators fight for women’s privacy in public places. And also this month, the Georgia Senate unanimously passed a bill to allow driverless cars on our roads! I firmly believe that this technology can radicalize our infrastructure in a positive way, so I was proud to see it go over to the House without issue.

However, one of the most rewarding parts of my experience so far has been seeing that all of these senators and representatives, and even Lt. Governor Cagle and Governor Deal, are really just people. They are loved and love in return. They deeply care for one another and enjoy each other’s company, regardless of the political divisions that define American politics. They laugh and they get upset at things that others don’t understand. But most of all, they each fiercely believe that they’re fighting the good fight for their constituents. I might disagree with some of their politics, naturally, but it’s impossible not to respect and admire their passion for Georgia and the people who live and dream here.

My time at the Georgia Capitol may be short-lived, but the world of governing in Atlanta will continue to turn. No matter where I go after this, I’ll carry a bit of that gold-leafed dome with me — even if the job drives me straight into the ground on Sine Die.

About the Author

Nick Seymour is a communications aide at the Georgia Senate Press Office. He recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism and has previously interned with Atlanta Magazine.

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