More Than a Building — Ways to Learn, Engage, and Connect at the Georgia State Capitol
About the Georgia State Capitol
The Georgia State Capitol is a place that is essential to pass policies, resolutions, and regulations. The building is accentuated by a beautiful gold dome where Lady Freedom, a statue holding a sword and a lantern on top, symbolizes enlightenment, liberty, and justice. In terms of its governmental function, the Capitol serves as the main operating building for the Georgia state government. The building also serves as the main location for the offices of elected officials such as the State Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and members of the General Assembly. The building is also commonly referred to as the People’s House, where visitors are encouraged and welcome.
My First Experience Visiting
I visited the state Capitol for the first time this year. It was an easy, positive, and insightful experience. At the entrance of the state Capitol, I passed through a simple security screening at the front desk where the guards check your ID and personal items. After being cleared to enter the halls, the building was bustling with people from all walks of life unified by the purpose to address issues important to the people of Georgia. I went up the elevator and stopped at the third floor. The State House is split between the House and Senate. However, many senators and congressmen interact in the halls with their constituents. Journalists from local media outlets were also conducting interviews in the main lobby. After looking at the different exhibits and floors, I went to the fourth floor. On the fourth floor, I was enthralled to see important state mementos, documents, and exhibits. Some of my favorites included native animals to the state, an exhibit about agriculture, and photos that highlighted influential people throughout the decade in local Georgia politics.
Lessons Learned at the Capitol
Throughout the calendar year, there are many celebrations for the accomplishments of citizens in the state and to promote awareness for important social causes. While I attended sessions, one notable activity included a resolution that aimed at working moms. This specific resolution called House Resolution 686 noted the unique contributions and impact of mothers for supporting the state’s economy and building strong families. I also heard debates and testimonies to improve various state policies and programs. In addition, organizations hosted a Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Day to educate others about the healing process and continued hope for those who are pregnant and previously impacted by loss. Finally, I tracked the progress of HB 129. This bill increased TANF to support more families in the state. All these activities, events, and prospective policies I observed greatly contributed to my immense education and positive experience at the center of local Georgia politics. Beyond connecting with legislators, the state Capitol is a wonderful place to connect with other community members. You can hold different and engaging conversations with friendly people, whether it is a concerned mother lobbying for her transgender child, students participating in Muslim Advocacy Day, or a plethora of legislative assistance. People work hard every day to conduct and address the business of the people. Behind the scenes, there are a slew of individuals who ensure that things are running effectively and efficiently. Some examples include an Executive Assistant for the Senate who has worked in the Capitol for over 20 years and a member of the custodial staff that takes great pride in maintaining the halls.
Things to Do at the Georgia State Capitol
As discussed, I was very glad to experience a day at the Capitol and definitely think you should take an opportunity to check it out. Be sure to bring a form of ID to enter the building. You can also look up your state representatives by using your precinct card or visiting the following website.
While at the Capitol, you can:
- Attend an Event or Key Meeting: The calendar of the day can be found on the website as well as colored handouts on the third floor. Many meetings are open to the public such as caucus meetings, public information sessions, and coalition/workgroup meetings. This is a great opportunity to learn more about upcoming efforts or initiatives related to the needs of you, your family, or your community.
- Listen to a Session: The legislative session begins from mid-January to the end of March. During this time legislators from the House and Senate new legislation, discuss issues, and cast votes. The public galleries are open for the public to sit and listen. However, no pictures are allowed and cell phones must be put on silent.
- Work the Ropes: At the entrance of the floors, there is an area where the public can stand to chat with legislators or request their representatives to come out during session. You can share your experience living in GA or pieces of legislation that have personal importance. Check out the HMHBGA Legislative Tracker important bills and resolutions to consider discussing.
- View Historic Artifacts: The Georgia State Capitol is also a museum that hosts multiple exhibits. Be sure to stop on the fourth floor and see the portraits of Grace Towns Hamilton and Lucy Craft Laney, prominent African American Women in Georgia. There are also bust of prominent women such as Juliette Gordon Low, Margaret Mitchell, and Moina Belle Michael. Here is a guide for self tours.
- Take a Photo and Share your Experience: Before heading out, the main floor area has a place to take stairs for individuals and groups visiting the capitol. Be sure to send your photo with HMHBGA and tell us how your visit went to the Capitol. You can also post your experience on social media. Tag us at @HMHBGeorgia!
Available Accommodations when Visiting:
The Georgia State Capitol also has a Momova if you need a private space for nursing on the first floor of the building. You can also take phone calls in the phone booths in the center of the third floor if you need some privacy. The following guide for accessibility needs for strollers and wheelchairs.
Civic engagement continues to be a great opportunity to improve maternal and child health outcomes and systems. The benefits for people staying politically engagedregardless of political affiliation strengthens the local government. You can continue to stay connected by signing up for the Keeping Current at the Capitol newsletter to receive updates about the legislative session and join a working group focused on different maternal and infant health topics. Also, a special thanks to the Director of Policy and Research, Madison Scott, for showing me the ropes.
Blog Writer: Joi Bradford