House & Senate Leadership

House & Senate Leadership – Currently the Senate leadership is up in the air. Formerly, the President of the Senate (which is the Lt. Governor) presided over the Senate. The Speaker presides over the House. Both positions are extremely powerful, making all committee assignments, while also controlling the day-to-day activities of their respective chambers. There are also positions of power called “floor leaders” which are appointed each session by the governor and have the responsibility of championing his/her legislation. While the House leadership structure remains largely the same, the Senate leadership will be decided as the legislative session approaches.

Democrats were the majority party in both chambers of the legislature until the 2002 elections. With the results of the 2002 elections, the Republicans had a majority in the State Senate. Since the 2004 elections, Republicans have had a majority in both the State Senate and the House.

Other leadership positions in the House and Senate are through the Democratic and Republican caucuses. Caucus officers and party leaders are elected for two year terms in each chamber. In each chamber, the party leader and the party whip of the majority party and the minority party are assigned as the majority or minority leader and majority or minority whip. Party leaders are responsible for handling organizational business and the party whips are responsible for communicating party positions to the membership. Also, the Women’s Caucus and the Black Caucus both wield sizable influence and are important spheres for advocates to be aware as an avenue to direct your lobbying efforts. For example, certain bills that have been fully endorsed by the Women’s Caucus or the Black Caucus are difficult for other members to oppose without appearing to be against women’s or civil rights.

Committees – Most of the work done on legislation occurs in committees. Bills must be passed in committee in order to be voted on the floor of either body. In the House, the Speaker makes all committee assignments. In election years, when the new Speaker of the House is elected by its members, sometimes House committee assignments are not known until the session begins (and the Speaker is elected). Formerly, the President of the Senate made all committee assignments. In more recent years it was the Committee on Committees. Again, this may change as the 2013 session approaches.

Committees usually adhere to a daily or weekly meeting schedule when the legislature is in session, although the meetings are often postponed or re-scheduled on a short notice. Most meeting notices are posted outside the offices of the House Clerk and the Secretary of Senate offices. If you are trying to closely monitor the activity of a specific committee, check with the committee secretary on a daily basis or check for notices outside the committee room.

You can also call the Clerk of the House at 404/656-5015 or the Secretary of Senate at 404/656-5040 for information about committee meetings. When the legislature is not in session, call the Legislative Counsel at 404/656-5000 and ask to be placed on their mailing list to receive a weekly schedule of meetings.

Before the 10th day in the House and the 15th day in the Senates, bills that receive a committee vote of “do pass” are automatically put on the House or Senate calendar. However, the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate must call the bill or place it on the daily agenda for debate and action. For the remaining 25 to 30 days, the Senate and House calendars are controlled by their respective Rules Committees, which must vote to put a bill on the daily calendar for consideration.

Committee chairs are considered part of the House or Senate leadership. Certain committees are especially powerful and chairs of these committees have close ties to the Speaker or the President of the Senate. These notable committees include the House Ways and Means, plus the House and Senate appropriations, Rules and Judiciary committees.



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