Got a hankerin' to see your General Assembly in action? Really? Unless you want to crush your idealism and sadden your very soul, we'd counsel against this impetuous act. But if you're still morbidly determined, we offer the following tips to visiting the Georgia state Capitol:
• Check the website, www.legis.state.ga.us, before making the trip. The Legislature is terrible about informing the public when the House and Senate are meeting.
• If you're taking MARTA, get off at the Georgia State University station; the Capitol is a block south on Piedmont Avenue. You can't miss it. Limited paid parking is available on nearby streets. Five bucks will get you an all-day spot at a parking deck on Jesse Hill Drive two blocks away.
• There's a "Georgia Capitol Tour" iPhone app that will give you a tour of the many statues, portraits, and historic exhibits located inside and around the grounds of the historic building.
• Public-interest lobbyists, such as environmental advocates, criminal justice reformers, and health-care activists gather on the third-floor mezzanine of the Gold Dome's north end. Big-bucks corporate lobbyists lurk around the south end.
• Between the chambers is one of the best shoe-shine stands in the city. No joke.
• Wanna chat with your senator or rep? Fill out a form, wait your turn in line, and hand the paper to the staffers sitting at desks outside each chamber. They will, in turn, give it to a prepubescent page, who'll go inside and deliver it to the lawmaker. If the legislator isn't in the middle of a vote or otherwise engaged, he or she might come chat with you. Just as the Founding Fathers intended.
• If the resolutions honoring football coaches and PTA presidents becomes too much to bear, head to the fourth floor or the basement to see some of the curios that chronicle the state's history and indigenous wildlife. C'mon, who doesn't want to learn about Georgia's turpentine industry?
• Don't forget to look for the two-headed calf. No, we're not making this up.
• For lunch, most lobbyists and lawmakers venture across the street and eat in the basement of the Sloppy Floyd building — aka, the Twin Towers — which houses state agency offices. Salads, sandwiches, Chick-fil-A, burritos, you name it.
• Or, for a quick pick-me-up, swing by the governor's office to grab a free bag of peanuts, courtesy of the Georgia Peanut Commission.
• Oh, and while you're there, pop into either the House or Senate's viewing galleries, which overlook each chamber. From there, you can see lawmakers' bald spots and get a quick, depressing glimpse into why Georgia is so screwed up.
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