Georgia General Assembly — Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

March 19, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

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For a complete look at federal and state action related to the coronavirus, visit MWC’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Facts and Resources website.

On March 13, the Georgia General Assembly completed Day 29 of its scheduled 40 day legislative session. The 2020 regular session was then suspended indefinitely. On March 14, Governor Brian Kemp declared a Public Health State of Emergency to address the COVID-19 crisis. In conjunction with the state of emergency, the governor called the General Assembly back for a special session on March 16 to ratify the declaration and pass a joint resolution granting the governor needed powers to address the emergency. The legislature is set to come back for another special session on April 15 to reassess the state of emergency. As of now, no date has been set to reconvene the 2020 regular session.

The sole constitutional duty of the General Assembly is the passage of the state budget, which it accomplishes in a regular session with the passage of the mid-year (supplemental) budget and the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The legislature completed their work on the supplemental budget on March 12 and Governor Kemp signed it on March 17. The supplemental budget for the 2020 fiscal year provides funding for state government through June 30, 2020. The mid-year budget also include $100 million from the state’s rainy day reserve funds for use in the state’s COVID-19 response. The budget for fiscal year 2021 has passed the House and is currently being worked on by the Senate Appropriations committee.

Every member of the General Assembly also faces the overarching concern of re-election this year. The state’s general primary election is scheduled for May 19 and many members have opposition. State law prohibits members of the state legislature from raising campaign funds while the General Assembly is in session, including during a time of recess. The same rule does not apply to their challengers, which puts sitting members at a fundraising disadvantage. Consequently, the longer the recess lasts, the more profound their disadvantage. Accordingly, one of the following scenarios appears most likely to transpire over the coming weeks:

  1. The regular session break will last a few weeks and the legislature will be called back to complete the remaining eleven days of the 2020 regular session.
  2. The legislature will return in a few weeks, pass the fiscal year 2021 budget and adjourn, forgoing any remaining days of the regular session.
  3. The legislature will return within a few weeks to adjourn sine die and forgo the remaining eleven days of the 2020 regular session and then return for another special session before July 1 to pass the fiscal year 2021 budget. 

Under scenarios two and three, the vast majority of currently pending bills would not make it into law in the current year and, as it is the second year in the two-year biennium, will not carry over to the 2021 session.  After a state senator tested positive for COVID-19, all members of the Senate and House, capitol staff, and the lieutenant governor have been encouraged to self-quarantine until at least March 30. As such, it appears any reconvening of the regular session will not occur until after that date.