My wife gave me an old book on the first day of the Legislative Session. The gold lettering on its worn bound cover was faded, but it turned out to be the Legislative Manual of the Georgia General Assembly for the 1929-1930 Legislative Session.
We no longer publish a legislative manual as such. This one included a list of the officers of the Executive Department and rosters of the officers and members of the General Assembly. It also included the standing rules of the Senate and House, as well as rules for when the Senate and House met in joint session and the Senate met in “executive session” to consider confirmation of the Governor’s appointees.
For those of you who are interested, the Governor of Georgia in 1929 was Larmatine Griffin “L.G.” Hardman, a physician and businessman from Commerce who as a member of the General Assembly had led the fight for prohibition. The office of Lieutenant Governor would not be created until 1946 so Senate President W. Cecil Neil of Columbus would have become Governor had tragedy befell Dr. Hardman during his term of office.
The State Senate of 1929 had 51 members, as opposed to 56 today. Most Senate Districts were composed of three counties. A handful of Districts were made up of four. The membership of the Senate, like Georgia itself, was predominately rural. In fact, not a single resident of Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb or Gwinnett County served in the State Senate. Today, residents of those four counties make up over a third of the body.
Sessions of the General Assembly began the fourth week of June, and they lasted no longer than sixty days. Today we start in January and must be done in forty days.
My Senate District, then numbered 51, was composed of Forsyth, Gwinnett and Milton Counties. It was represented by Senator Marcus Mashburn of Cumming. Senator Mashburn was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Printing and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Hygiene and Sanitation. Today we do not have either of those committees. We also do not have a Milton County, but that may soon change.
Among the other standing Senate committees were Agriculture, Amendments to the Constitution, General Judiciary Number One, General Judiciary Number Two, Special Judiciary, Commerce and Labor, Corporations, Drainage, Forestry, Game and Fish, Highways, Internal Improvements, Military Affairs, Mines and Mining, Public Schools, Railroads, and Temperance.
Several state enterprises merited their own standing committees, including Academy for the Blind, School for the Deaf, State Sanitarium, Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Alto, University System of Georgia and Its Branches, and Western and Atlantic Railroad.
The House did not have districts as such. Instead, the eight most populous counties each elected three Representatives, the next thirty largest each elected two, and all the rest each elected one, for a total of 207 members, as opposed to 180 today.
No one thought to identify the Governor and members of the General Assembly by party. They were all Democrats. They were also all white and almost all men. By my count, five women held posts in the Executive Department, serving as Executive Secretary to the Governor, State Historian, State Librarian, Executive Secretary to the State Library Commission and Acting Superintendent of the Georgia Soldiers’ Roster Commission.
It makes me wonder what our great grand children will think 80 years from now when they look at the names, pictures, party labels and committee assignments of the 2007-2008 Legislative Session.