BY MIKE PRIETOEach year, on the first Monday after the second Sunday of January, 236 legislators from every corner of Georgia make their way to Atlanta to begin the 40-day legislative session, and 2018 was no different. On Monday, Jan. 8 (while many of us were preparing for the College Football Playoff National Championship game), your legislators began the often arduous, but always meaningful, task of passing, codifying and improving laws for all of Georgia’s citizens. The roughly three months they spend under the Gold Dome from January through March will not only shape the face of our state, but of our practices as well. Bill Clark and his team do an excellent job for us defending our clients’ rights and access to the Civil Justice System every day, but their influence can only go so far – which is where you and I come in.
In politics, as in much of life, your success is determined by the relationships that you build with others. The relationships that our legislative team has spent years cultivating with members of the legislature are certainly invaluable, but often times they are not enough. For the past two years, the GTLA staff and leadership have traveled the state to bring updates on our legislative agenda and political contributions to you, our members. If you have attended any of these events, or, if you have heard Bill speak at ANY event in the past two years, you have most likely heard this phrase: become a valued resource to your local legislators.
Now, for those who do not already have an established relationship, I know that this seems like a tall order. How do you make the introduction? What could you offer to them? Why is it important in the first place? Consider this: Georgia’s General Assembly is comprised of a citizen legislature, or part-time legislators. Of the 236 members, less than 20 percent have any formal legal training, meaning that in the 40 legislative days they are in session, they must all read, research and pass hundreds of pieces of legislation, in addition to the constitutional mandate that they pass a balanced budget (which takes multiple weeks in each Chamber). Every one of our elected officials comes into the legislature with prior knowledge on certain subjects, but for those who are unfamiliar with the practice of law, legislation pertaining to the courts can be even more daunting. But, if you, as a constituent and an attorney, are able to help navigate some of their questions, their workload could be lightened just a bit.
Many of you support our friends in the legislature through financial contributions or by giving to the Civil Justice PAC, and for that I cannot thank you enough. This involvement is vital to the success of our legislators and of our association, but it is imperative to remember that active engagement in the political process is equally as important. Your GTLA staff, lobbying team and leadership is committed to promoting opportunities for our membership to engage with the decision-makers in our state and would be happy to facilitate an introduction for you. If you do not know the names of your local legislators, you can find them by visiting www.openstates.org.
Together, we can continue the great work already taking place in the Georgia political realm for our clients by ensuring that each and every Georgia citizen has a clear and present pathway to justice in our court system.