The General Assembly has put in 38 of the 40 days it’s authorized to work each year, and the 2017 session ends this week. Most of what’s been done so far is window dressing.
After spending months and untold hours honoring high school football teams, beauty queens, 4-H members, local officials, celebrities, heroes, visiting politicians and pretty much anybody who happens to walk off the street and get past Capitol security, lawmakers could vote on more than 100 bills in the final hours of a legislative session that begins in early January.
Because “conference committees,” six-member teams of legislators, are often working out final deals on the fly, lawmakers frequently have little time to read what they are voting on, if they are so inclined. Sometimes, they complain, they are voting without actually having all the paperwork explaining what they are voting on. Almost every year legislators answer reporters’ questions about at least one bill by saying, “I didn’t know it did that.”
That’s what is ahead this week, with bills allowing more folks to carry guns on college campuses, lower income tax rates, raise levies on many used-car buyers, and a host of other big issues yet to be resolved.
It’s the time when a fishing license bill becomes a way to seal records of ethics allegations, when adoption legislation becomes a fight for religious freedom, and when tax breaks only whispered about by a few in dark corners of the Capitol become law.
“If you have no expectations,” said Rep. State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, a 28-year veteran of the General Assembly. “You have fewer disappointments and a lot less heartburn.”
To read more about the final days of the session, and the long history of last-minute deal-making at the Capitol, check out our story on myajc.com.