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Who Represents You, Part 1: State Legislators

May 2, 2017
Empty Senate chamber.

This is the first in a 2-part series on state and US legislators.

Senators, representatives, state, US, districts … There are several people and titles that go into the law-making process, on both the state and federal levels. What’s the difference between them? How do you know who to talk to and when? Who represents you in the government?

Let’s dig in.

State Legislators

We’ll start at the state level.

You’ve probably heard of the annual legislative session. 2017’s legislative session ended just over a month ago. It's 40 days at the beginning of the year when Georgia’s state senators and representatives — together forming the Georgia General Assembly — gather to discuss bills and vote to create new laws.

The bills change from year to year, but every year, they must determine the state’s operating budget. The budget is generally considered the most important item discussed, and takes up about half the hours spent in session.

Outside of the 40 days in session, members of the General Assembly meet in committees to discuss proposed legislation in more detail. These meetings occur year-round so the law-making process can continue efficiently when the legislators come together in January.

Other tasks include:

  • Considering proposed amendments to the Georgia constitution.
    If both chambers pass the proposal with two-thirds of members giving it a “yea” vote, the decision will turn to the Georgia voters.
  • Establishing the legislative districts.
    Every 10 years, the General Assembly determines where districts begin and end for the state House, state Senate, and US House.

State House

With 180 state representatives, the Georgia House of Representatives is the larger of the two chambers in Georgia.

The Speaker of the House, currently David Ralston, is the House’s leader. Other members of the House elect the Speaker each 2-year term. He or she, along with an advising committee, assigns representatives to committees — typically 2 or 3 committees for each representative — and appoints Committee Chairs. The Speaker only votes on bills when needed to break a tie.

State representatives must be at least 21-years-old, a Georgia resident for at least 2 years, and a resident of the district they represent for at least 1 year.

State Senate

Less than one-third the size of the House, the Georgia Senate has 56 state senators.

The Lieutenant Governor, currently Casey Cagle, leads as the President of the Senate and is elected directly by Georgia voters. As the second highest elected official in Georgia, the Lieutenant Governor can influence state policy and spending priorities. Like the Speaker, the Lieutenant Governor appoints Committee Chairs and cannot vote on legislation.

State senators must serve on at least 3 committees each 2-year term. Senators must be at least 25-years-old, a minimum 2-year Georgia resident, and a minimum 1-year resident of the district they represent.

Find Your State Legislators

Do you see a state law that needs to change? Get involved in Georgia’s law-making process by contacting your state legislators.

Simply enter your street address into the Open States search tool to find the state senator and representative for your district. This will also tell what number district you’re in for each chamber.

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About the Author

Rachel Hart is the User Experience Designer and Editorial Manager for GeorgiaGov. She visually organizes information and writes blogs on a variety of government-related topics.

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