ATLANTA | Politics took a backseat to college football as the Georgia Legislature opened its 2018 session Monday amid icy weather outside the state Capitol and feverish support for the Georgia Bulldogs within the House and Senate chambers.
Most state government offices were closed Monday as freezing rain in the morning made streets treacherously slippery in Atlanta and other parts of northern Georgia. Regardless, lawmakers convened at the statehouse as required by the state constitution, which says the Legislature must begin its 40-day session on the second Monday in January.
Election-year politics are expected to play a key role during the legislative session, which will be the last for term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal.
But lawmakers seemed more focused on Monday’s national championship football showdown between the University of Georgia and University of Alabama. Some lawmakers showed up in red blazers to support the Bulldogs. On the Senate floor, legislators joined in a chant of, “Go, Dawgs! Sic ‘em!”
Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, was among lawmakers heading to the big game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. Before entering politics, he played linebacker at Georgia in the late 1980s.
“It took me a little time to get ready this morning because I had to pack two bags,” Douglas told WSB-TV. “I don’t plan on going home. I’m going straight to the game.”
Planning ahead for a long night, House and Senate leaders agreed to a late start Tuesday with both chambers waiting to convene until 1 p.m.
Issues on tap for the session will come into better focus later in the week. Deal is scheduled Thursday to deliver his final State of the State speech to lawmakers, who can expect to hear an outline of the governor’s priorities for his last year in office.