Structure & Power of the Georgia Legislature

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  • 0:01 The Georgia Legislature
  • 1:00 The State Senate
  • 2:32 The House of Representatives
  • 3:36 Responsibilities of…
  • 5:19 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the Georgia state legislature, a branch of local government older than the United States Congress. Discover how it works, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

The Georgia Legislature

It has been said that hospitality is the law of the South. I mean come on, we've all heard of Southern hospitality; it's one of those defining aspects of the Southern states, right up there with honeysuckles, barbeque, and NASCAR. But where is it actually written that you have to be a good host? Well, it isn't. Hospitality may be a social law of the South, but it's not a formal law.

For those, we need to stop sippin' sweet tea under the magnolias and take a trip over to the Georgia legislature, the branch of the state government in charge of making laws, which is called the Georgia General Assembly. Georgia's General Assembly was created all the way back in 1777, during the Revolutionary War, which actually makes it older than the United States Congress. So, Georgia has been making laws for a long time. I guess it's no wonder they take the laws of Southern hospitality so seriously.

The State Senate

According to the Georgia state constitution, the General Assembly has the power to make laws that are in accordance with the Constitution of Georgia and the Constitution of the United States. That makes this branch pretty powerful. To make these laws, the General Assembly, just like the United States Congress, is bicameral, or divided into two houses. Each house has its own powers and rights, and together they keep Georgia state laws up to date.

The upper house of the General Assembly is called the State Senate. There are 56 senators who are directly elected by the people of their districts to represent them. To be a senator, you must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the USA, and a resident of Georgia for at least two years. Senators are elected for a two-year term, but can be re-elected as many times as the people are willing to vote for them. The State Senate also has a leader, called the Lieutenant Governor, who is elected by the people of Georgia and is in charge of Senate proceedings.

The Georgia State Senate is divided into committees. This is how laws are actually debated and passed. Each senator must serve on at least three committees during each term. When laws come through the Senate, they are given to the committee to which the law is most relevant. So if there's a committee that specializes in agriculture, that committee would be in charge of debating any law related to agriculture.

The House of Representatives

The lower house of the Georgia General Assembly is called the House of Representatives. There are 180 representatives who are directly elected to serve in this house. They are also elected to serve a term of two years. To be elected, a candidate must be at least 21 years old, a US citizen, and a Georgia resident for at least two years. The leader of the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House, who is elected by the other representatives to preside over their meetings.

When laws come through the House, they are also debated in committees. Right now, there are 36 committees operating in Georgia's House of Representatives. They are organized by topics like agriculture, education, taxes, etc. These committees are in charge of passing, amending, revising, or rejecting laws related to their topics. So, if you're elected from a district where hospitality is a big deal, you'll want to make sure that you are on the hospitality committee so that you can best represent the interests of the people who elected you.

Responsibilities of the General Assembly

With its two houses, the General Assembly is able to represent the people of Georgia in its lawmaking. The committee system used by both houses allows legislators to specialize in a specific area of law, and in general they are elected for that expertise. It's a nice way to try and make sure that everyone's talents are put to their best uses, and it keeps people who know nothing about a topic from making laws about it.

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