As Coronavirus Spreads, Georgia Legislature Suspends Session

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston said he’d rather not “under-react” to the threat of coronavirus.

John Amis / Associated Press

Citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, the Georgia General Assembly has decided to suspend its current session until further notice.

“We are going to be calm and get through our business, said House Speaker David Ralston said Thursday afternoon. “And then we will entertain a motion to suspend later in the evening.”

Ralston said some might call the decision to suspend an “overreaction”

“But I’d rather do it this way than to under-react. And so that’s why we’re doing it this way,” Ralston said. “We will not be here for a few days. And hopefully, it won’t be long.

The session will be gaveled into session briefly on Friday as a formality, but Ralston has encouraged lawmakers to leave town as soon as possible.

Ralston says legislative staff will continue to work remotely. There will be 11 days left in the 40-day session when lawmakers return.

Both chambers on Thursday approved Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to draw $100 million from the state’s reserve fund to help with Georgia’s response to the coronavirus.

“Every dollar we got from the federal government we’d match it with 25 percent so those funds would come from that,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill.  “To the extent that we assist local governments, these funds would help to do that as well.”

The funds are part of the amended budget for fiscal year 2020, which also restores $5 million in funding for rural hospitals. That money was originally set to be cut.