Georgia’s 2015 Legislative Session is over, but its impact will be felt for some time.
The 18-member Senate Democratic Caucus entered this legislative term one member shy of its ability to block state constitutional amendments. While Democratic numbers haven’t allowed the caucus to block simple majority bills on the floor for some years, the Caucus has shown an ability to stand together to fight for improving legislation introduced by the Republican controlled legislature.
Despite overwhelming odds, Senate Democrats worked as a team on priority legislation that would improve access and funding for education, create jobs and foster an environment for economic growth, while working towards honest and transparent government.
In particular, Senate Democrats worked together on HB 170, the 2015 Transportation Funding Act, demanding the bill include language committing the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to the create a state Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program that supports fair treatment of contractors in the awarding of state contracts. The Republican leadership and its road-building allies had refused to include such language.
When the bill came to the Senate floor, all 18 Democrats voted against the bill, which passed with only the bare minimum of votes necessary. Only after that show of unity did Republicans begin to earnestly negotiate with Senate Democrats. A compromise was reached.
The majority of bills introduced by the Democratic Caucus and its members were never given a fair committee hearing. Still, there were legislative successes, measured both by passing and working to defeat legislation and in obtaining funding for critical programs.
The following recaps the work of the Senate Democratic Caucus during 2015. Legislation that did not pass this year remains “alive” and eligible for a vote in 2016. The Governor has until May 12 to veto or sign passed legislation.