The Georgia House and Senate voted Feb. 5 to split their 40-day session into two parts, meeting on a slower schedule through March and then reconvening in June.
The House approved the resolution unanimously; the Senate approved it 43-8.
The move is designed to give the General Assembly time to react to the funds that will be coming in from Washington as part of the federal stimulus plan.
President Barack Obama was set to sign the $787 billion stimulus plan on Tuesday. As a result, Georgia could receive $2 billion to relieve the state’s budget woes.
Dawsonville Republican Sen. Chip Pearson was one of the eight who voted against the measure. “I think it’s an admirable goal, but I didn’t like the delay in the middle. We don’t know where we’re going to be able to get with the budgets before day 35,” he said.
Legislators plan to pass both an amended budget and the budget for fiscal year 2010 prior to the March 25 adjournment.
Rep. Amos Amerson said it would be premature to finalize budgets without the critical information.
“We need to see if federal money will be coming to Georgia from the stimulus plan. That’s why the House passed the bill unanimously,” he said.
The state constitution requires the legislature to meet for 40 days each year, but there is no requirement that the days be consecutive. A session typically lasts well into March.
Instead, the legislature will meet three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday through March 25.
The remaining five days in June would be used to make any adjustment based in the changes in federal funds or if state revenue collections are lower than expected.
“The five days we have left in this session in June will be sufficient to make any amendments to these two budgets and accommodate any revenues generated from the stimulus plan,” Amerson said.
At any point during the session, legislators can revote on their meeting schedule, should a federal stimulus package pass sooner than expected.
Pearson said the vote to split the session could still be superseded by a resolution. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” he said.
DCN Regional Staff Jennifer Sami and Harris Blackwood contributed to this report.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.