ATLANTA, Ga. (WTOC) - Operating amid the coronavirus pandemic, members of Georgia’s General Assembly were sworn in Monday, marking the start of the new legislative session.
For the first time ever, state senators are required to wear masks. Both chambers also require COVID-19 testing twice a week for members and their staff.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about what this session will hold.
Lawmakers face many of the annual challenges in this General Assembly session. But also some unique to this COVID-19 era.
House members took their oath of office a handful at a time, just one sign of the impact COVID-19 has on business under the Gold Dome these days. State Senator Blake Tillery, who chairs the senate appropriations committee and helps write the budget, says the budget and elections reform will be two of the three main issues tackled this session.
“Other than that, COVID-19 relief, getting vaccines out to those who want them and PPE out to those who need them, and protecting our first responders,” said Sen. Tillery.
He says cuts made last year in the face of a pandemic have helped the state weather economic challenges so far. But what it could bring in 2021 is anybody’s guess.
Almost all agree that COVID-19 spending and policy will be among the top priorities, like getting the vaccine to more Georgians who want it.
“We need it in rural Georgia. It’s not up to speed in the metro areas. So that means when the metro areas get the sniffles, rural Georgia’s got pneumonia,” said Rep. Al Williams, (D) Midway.
Senator Tillery say the spending cuts made at the start of the pandemic last year have helped keep the state running.
“There was a lot of pressure initially to shut things down. The governor resisted that. Because of that, we’ve seen a reflection of his decisions in our revenue numbers. If the governor had not kept us open, we’d be in a much worse position,” said Sen. Tillery.
Both think you’ll see parties come together on fighting COVID-19 and protecting communities.
We’ll continue to follow the session through the spring.