The joint meetings, which run Tuesday through Thursday, serve as both budget hearings and forums for lawmakers with complaints about high-profile state agencies or their actions.
In some ways, it's an accountability appearance," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville.
The department heads who testify also get something out of the hearings, though: A chance to win over lawmakers with stories of their agencies' success and an opportunity to pitch their budgets and maybe even ask for a bit more than Perdue initially set aside.
"It's the one chance they get to speak to everyone at one time. ... It's pretty important on both sides, in my opinion," Hill said.
Since taking control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2005, the GOP has severely curtailed the hearings, which used to last several days. However, this year's meetings will last three days, instead of the two days that had become customary.
"I think the three days give us a little wider coverage," Hill said.
Also different from 2007, lawmakers won't face the daunting task of trying to plug a massive hole in the joint state-federal PeachCare program, which provides health care for children whose families earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. The legislative session stretched into late April last year as the state waited for Congress to pass legislation to fill the shortfall.
Meanwhile, the Senate Rules Committee could meet to consider at least some of the veto overrides that coasted through the House on the first day of the legislative session. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, apparently eager to avoid widening a rift that opened between Perdue and legislative leaders at the end of the 2007 session, shuffled the overrides to the influential panel, angering House members.
House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, was among those who said the Senate was flouting a provision of the state Constitution requiring the upper chamber to act "immediately" on any vetoes overridden by the House.
"I did not want the session bogged down by this process," Cagle said late last week. "I don't feel that the Senate is going to be in a real big hurry."
A deliberative approach is unlikely to tamp down the anger among some House members, including one lawmaker who has drafted a resolution to impeach Cagle.
Rep. Ron Forster, R-Ringgold, said he didn't want Cagle removed from office and noted the Senate can opt for a lighter punishment for the lieutenant governor, such as a loss in compensation, if he is ultimately found guilty of impeachable offenses.
Forster, who isn't expected to get much support for the measure, said he wanted to see quick action on the vetoes.
"In my opinion, it appears that 'immediately' has passed already," he said.
Brandon Larrabee can be reached at email@example.com or (678) 977-3709