Georgia House set to resume committee meetings suspended by coronavirus

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By Dave Williams
Bureau Chief
Capitol Beat News Service
 
ATLANTA – The Georgia House of Representatives is gearing up to resume a 2020 legislative session interrupted in mid-March by the coronavirus pandemic.


In a letter to House members and staff dated Thursday, Speaker David Ralston notified committee chairmen they may begin holding online meetings on Monday, May 4.


If all goes as planned, the House staff would report back to work in the state Capitol on May 18, and in-person committee meetings would resume on May 19.


“We remain mindful that the coronavirus still poses a risk, and we will alter our policies and procedures accordingly,” the speaker wrote. “Guidelines for employees will be provided in advance of a final decision on the staff report date. … [In-person committee] meetings will be subject to the provisions of any applicable public health directives.”


Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, indicated he is working with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the Senate’s presiding officer, to set a date to resume the legislative session. Duncan has expressed a preference for returning to the Gold Dome next month, but Ralston states in the letter he is anticipating lawmakers will reconvene on June 11.


Whenever lawmakers gavel in, it will be Day 30 of the 40-day legislative session. The most pressing business will be adopting a state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.


The House approved a $28.1 billion spending plan on March 10, three days before the session was suspended indefinitely. But all bets are off because of the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, from the need for additional health-care services to the massive losses of state tax revenue resulting from thousands of businesses shutting their doors and laying off workers.


An Atlanta-based think tank released a report last week suggesting the state is facing a fiscal 2021 budget shortfall of up to $4 billion.

(Capitol Beat is a nonprofit news service operated by the Georgia Press Educational Foundation that provides coverage of state government through Georgia Press Association members, such as the White County News.)