Lawmakers head to LA, local events for big game on first day of session

Jan 06, 2023

Social media is lit up over reports that Georgia lawmakers plan to duck out early on Monday — the first day of the 2023 legislative session — to follow the University of Georgia (UGA) Bulldogs to Los Angeles for the 2022 College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship game.

State Affairs went straight to the source, asking Georgians how they feel about state legislators flying the Capitol coop to see their defending CFP champs take on Texas Christian University’s (TCU) Horned Frogs in the title football game.

Go Dawgs! And, go lawmakers! 

Just over half — 56% — of those who responded to our very informal and unscientific poll said it didn’t bother them that legislators planned to skip town soon after the gavel drops opening the new legislative session. The House convenes at 9:30 am and the Senate at 10 a.m. on Monday.

Legislators are slated to be formally sworn in that day. They also will elect leaders in both chambers. The session is expected to adjourn around noon.

Grant Park law professor and football enthusiast Eric Teusink tweeted for calm and understanding

“Georgia Democratic friends, I am begging, do not start whining on this app about the legislative session being delayed or mildly truncated because of the National Championship,” Teusink wrote. “Our New Year’s Resolution should be to stop acting like we’re too good for the things Georgians love.”

Rev. James “Major” Woodall gave his blessing to the lawmakers leaving town, tweeting:  “One less day that they’ll have to legislate. I’ll take it.”

Georgia Tech freshman Yana Batra says she doesn't want to kill the enthusiasm for Monday's game but she wonders about the potential disruption such events can have on the General Assembly’s 40-day schedule. “It's an incredibly short legislative session compared to others around the country. That makes it really hard to enact and discuss actual policy,” Batra said. Case in point: Georgia’s efforts to revamp its election runoff system, she said.

“Forty days of session is a really limited time to reflect and hear new proposals and new ideas.”  

Weighing in, Sock Puppet Pundit tweeted: “Take a unpaid day off  like actual ‘Georgians.’ Many of us don’t give a damn about sportsball and we don’t get the day off to fly across the country. And we certainly can’t afford it. Suck it up and go to work like the rest of us.”

The love of football isn’t cheap

Airfare and hotel for the game is reportedly running about $2,700. And that doesn’t include the cost of a ticket. If you don’t already have a ticket or you’re not a UGA season ticket holder, nosebleed-section seats on ticket resale websites are about $800  while lower level seats start at $2,200 a ticket, news reports note.

But state legislators have made arrangements in their opening week schedule to make room for football — as they have in previous years.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a UGA grad and avid Dawg fan, created a three-day cushion into the schedule by having his inauguration on Thursday, Jan. 12. The annual Eggs & Issues breakfast where legislators talk about economic policy is set for the day before. 

UGA’s Fight Song “Glory, Glory” has been played in the House chamber over the years.

Incoming Lt. Gov. Burt Jones played football for UGA as did UGA Hall of Famer Rep. Demetrius Douglas, District 78,  who wore his helmet to the Capitol last January after the Dawgs clinched the CFP title.

“Football is as much a part of living in Georgia as sweet tea, warm summers, and strong families,” Kemp, who usually attends most UGA games, told State Affairs. “It’s in the very makeup of our communities, and that’s why even in the other major contact sport of politics, we can put aside our differences to root for a great Georgia team like the Bulldogs. That’s what we’ll be doing Monday night when they defend their National Championship, and we couldn’t be more excited. Go Dawgs!”

And in Georgia, you don’t mess with any part of that tradition.

When and where to watch the College Football Playoff Championship

On Thursday, Kemp criticized Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium for banning tailgating prior to the Dawgs & Frogs game at the Inglewood arena. SoFi, home of the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers, normally allows tailgating.

“While California may not know this, in the South a tailgate with friends & family is the only way to prepare for a big game. When Georgia hosts the 2025 #NationalChampionship, we’ll make sure fans are able to tailgate! Even if it’s at the state Capitol!” Kemp tweeted.

But according to media reports, it’s not California’s or the stadium’s decision to forbid traditional tailgating at the game. (In fact, SoFi Stadium normally allows tailgating in its parking lots). The Texas-based College Football Playoff made the call to ban tailgating

Senior Investigative Reporter Jill Jordan Sieder contributed to this article.

Contact Tammy Joyner on Twitter @LVJOYNER or at [email protected]




Header image: Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House Spiro Amburn (left) and Rep. Demetrius Douglas celebrating in the House Chamber on Jan. 12, 2022. (Credit: Georgia House of Representatives)

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