Kelly Loeffler sworn in as Georgia’s new U.S. senator

By Dave Williams / Bureau Chief – Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – With the two words “I do,” Kelly Loeffler became Georgia’s new U.S. senator Monday.

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Loeffler during a brief late-afternoon ceremony inside the Senate chambers.

Republican Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman and political newcomer, was Gov. Brian Kemp’s choice to succeed former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired at the end of last year due to health concerns.

Loeffler emerged from a competition of more than 500 hopefuls who responded when the governor posted the job opening online.

Isakson, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, announced in September he would be leaving office at the end of December, halfway through his third term in the Senate.

High-profile Republicans who applied for the opening included U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville; former Congressman Tom Price, who also served as secretary of health and human services during the first year of the of President Donald Trump’s administration; state Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, who serves as House speaker pro tempore; Tim Echols, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, and Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton.

Trump let it be known that he preferred Collins, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and a strong defender of the president.

But Kemp chose Loeffler instead in a move widely seen as a bid to increase diversity within Georgia Republican ranks.

Until her appointment to the Senate, Loeffler was CEO of Atlanta-based Bakkt, a Bitcoin-focused subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., another Atlanta company run by her husband, Jeff Sprecher. She also is co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.

Loeffler, who is currently serving in the Senate on an interim basis, has said she will run in November to complete Isakson’s unexpired term.

She is certain to draw Democratic challengers, and Collins has said he is considering seeking the seat as well.

Rep. Carl Gilliard named Chair of Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee on International Trade and Commerce

ATLANTA – State Representative Carl Gilliard (D- Garden City) was recently named Chairman of the House Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee on International Trade and Commerce by State Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savanah), Chairman of the Economic Development & Tourism Committee.

“I am humbled and thankful to serve in this capacity and hope that we will be able to build new relationships to foster new economic development for the State of Georgia,” said Rep. Gilliard.

Other members of the subcommittee include: Rep. Dwayne Hill (R-Ringgold); Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia); Rep. Karen Mathiak (R- Griffin); Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone); Rep. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross); and Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville)

For more information on the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee, please click here.

Rep. Jesse Petrea named Chairman of House Human Relations & Aging Committee

ATLANTA – The Georgia House of Representatives’ Committee on Assignments named State Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) as the Chairman of the House Human Relations & Aging Committee.  Rep. Petrea will also serve as a member on the Science & Technology, Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, Game, Fish & Parks and Health & Human Services committees.

“I am honored to be entrusted with this chairmanship,” said Rep. Petrea. “I have spent my entire career as an advocate and a provider of services to the aged, developmentally disabled and physically disabled populations. These Georgians are our most vulnerable. Our committee will continue to solve the problems faced by these populations to ensure the greatest quality of life for all.”

The House Committee on Assignments, chaired by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), is charged with making all House committee assignments for the members of the Georgia House of Representatives.

For a complete list of all House Committee assignments, please click here.

Speaker Ralston Announces Members of the House Working Group on Creative Arts & Entertainment

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced the members of the House Working Group on Creative Arts & Entertainment.

“I am proud to ask these members to serve our citizens by focusing on the creative arts and entertainment industries,” said Speaker Ralston. “We will redouble our efforts to support the growth of these industries throughout our state and ensure that our workforce is ready for the jobs they create. We are committed to Georgia remaining a leader in the creative economy.”

The members of the working group are:

  • Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) – Chair
  • Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) – Vice Chair
  • Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna)
  • Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville)
  • Dave Belton (R-Buckhead)
  • Park Cannon (D-Atlanta)
  • Mike Cheokas (R-Americus)
  • Winfred Dukes (D-Albany)
  • Spencer Frye (D-Athens)
  • Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City)
  • Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta)
  • Randy Nix (R-LaGrange)
  • Bert Reeves (R-Marietta)
  • Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville)
  • Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs)
  • Lynn Smith (R-Newnan)
  • Ron Stephens (R-Savannah)
  • Al Williams (D-Midway)

The House Working Group on Creative Arts & Entertainment will work with state agencies and stakeholders to bolster investment and job creation in Georgia by the film, television, music and video game production industries among other creative industries. Combined, these industries employ 200,000 Georgians and generate more than $60 billion of economic activity in the state each year.

The House Working Group on Creative Arts & Entertainment is constituted pursuant to the authority granted to the Speaker by House Rules. The working group is authorized for the entirety of the 2019-2020 legislative term.

Sen. Ben Watson appointed Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services

Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah) was recently appointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and to serve on several influential committees for the 2019 Legislative Session by the Senate Committee on Assignments.

“I am humbled to be named chairman of this committee and eager to get to work on the many issues that the healthcare industry faces,” said Sen. Watson. “I believe that healthcare, or lack thereof depending on where you live, is our state’s largest shortcoming. However, I know that by thoroughly vetting legislation and considering new solutions to increase quality and access to care will help our citizens live longer, healthier lives. I look forward to this opportunity to use my experience as a doctor to bring change that will benefit all Georgians.”

In addition to serving as Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. Watson will serve as a member of the Public Safety and Appropriations committees, as well as an ex-officio member of the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security and Insurance committees.

“I am incredibly excited to work alongside Sen. Watson and the entire Health and Human Services Committee during the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “The committee process is extremely important to producing sound public policy and we’re confident that Sen. Watson’s leadership as a committee chair will be an invaluable asset to the Georgia Senate. We’re excited for the opportunity to serve and look forward to delivering on reforms that benefit Georgians in every part of our state.”

Once a piece of legislation is introduced in the Senate, it is assigned to a committee, depending on its topic. If the committee gives the legislation a “do pass” recommendation, then the proposed law is sent to the Rules Committee for consideration. The appointed chairs will oversee the operation and order of Senate committee meetings, including calling for action on bills, resolutions or other matters assigned to that committee.

The first session of the 155th Georgia General Assembly convened on January 14, 2019, at the Georgia State Capitol.

Viewpoints: Georgia legislature readies to address full agenda


[Photo from Wikimedia Commons]
Georgia lawmakers go “under the gold dome” as the 155th session of the Georgia General Assembly opens at the Capitol in downtown Atlanta.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston will welcome the 236 legislators as they begin approximately three months of work. Duncan will preside over the Senate, the first time in 12 years someone other than Casey Cagle had that role. Ralston, meanwhile, enters his ninth year leading the House.

Legislators, including our eight-member local delegation, will address a range of issues facing the state, with bills and resolutions that pass both chambers moving on to new Gov. Brian Kemp to be signed into law. Kemp is expected to present his agenda, including his first budget, during the session’s opening week.

Pressing matters for the legislature include school safety, the state’s voting system, healthcare coverage for the uninsured and support for rural hospitals, education funding and spending, gaming and gambling, gun rights, immigration reform and rural development initiatives.

Our local delegation will be among the leaders at the Capitol. Chairmanships won’t officially be awarded until the session begins, but both our local senators, Lester Jackson and Ben Watson, are expected to lead committees, and Jackson is the head of the Democratic Black Caucus.

On the House side, Reps. Ron Stephens and Bill Hitchens expected to head committees while Reps. Carl Gilliard and Jesse Petrea are considered strong candidates.

The local legislative priorities include continued support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, funding for a Savannah Convention Center expansion, extension of a historic preservation tax incentive, dollars for funding for facilities and programs at our area public colleges and universities, and pushing for a study on replacing or elevating the Talmadge Bridge.

“All I’ve ever seen in my time in the Georgia General Assembly is a delegation that works together and for the most part a legislature working together,” Rep. Jesse Petrea said. “I’m sure that will continue.”