Casey Cagle a winner from Senate Leadership elections

From Sarah Mueller of the Gainesville Times:

A change of leadership among state Senate Republicans may mean more power for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and lead to more influence for a local senator in the upcoming 2013 session.

The Republican Senate caucus will meet Dec. 15 to decide what responsibilities Cagle will assume in addition to his official duties as president of the Senate.

Cagle had broad powers in 2006, but Senate leaders relieved him of many responsibilities in 2010. With those revolutionary leaders remaining in the Senate but out of the top positions, friends such as Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, may help the second-highest elected official in the state regain some power.

Charles S. Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, said he thinks Cagle will get some of his power back but not all of it.

“He won’t be just a figurehead,” Bullock said. “But he won’t have the power of his first term or historically.”

The Republican Senate caucus met Nov. 15 to elect leadership positions for the next term, choosing Sen. David Shafer of Duluth as president pro tem and Sen. Ronnie Chance of Tyrone, the governor’s floor leader, as majority leader. Miller was elected caucus chairman.

Miller said he was grateful and encouraged that he was the choice of his fellow colleagues. The caucus chairman for each party helps determine what bills reach the floor and helps directs the caucus on the bills and issues they’ll take up.

“Primarily I will run the meetings and try to keep order and productivity,” he said.

Issues likely to come up next year include water issues, ethics, education, health care and the state budget, Miller said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November19, 2012

Biscuit (black-and-tan) and Mayflower (yellow) are lab-hound mix puppies who are approximately 3-4 months old and weigh about 15 pounds each; the littermates are available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control.

June is a happy , beautiful, adorable, playful, very affectionate lab mixed puppy, who is about 3 months old and weighs around 8 lbs; she is available for adoption from the Savannah Chatham Animal Control.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Because GeorgiaDailyDigest.com and GeorgiaPoliticalDigest.com have shut their doors, we’ve started GaNewsDigest.com to provide a wider variety of links to news stories about Georgia politics, business & economy, education and energy issues. The site is updated through the day.

On Friday, Governor Nathan Deal announced that he decided against setting up a state healthcare exchange under Obamacare.

“I remain committed to common sense health care solutions that empower consumers to take responsibility for their own health, motivate the private sector and drive efficiencies for consumers, employers and governments alike,” Deal said. “I continue to hope that we might finally engage in a serious conversation about restoring meaningful flexibility to states around health care programs.”

Deal said the federal government needs to loosen regulations that restrict states’ options.

“We have no interest in spending our tax dollars on an exchange that is state-based in name only,” Deal said. “I would support a free market-based approach that could serve as a useful tool for Georgia’s small businesses, but federal guidelines forbid that. Instead, restrictions on what the exchanges can and can’t offer render meaningless the suggestion that Georgia could tailor an exchange that best fits the unique needs of its population.

“I have joined numerous other governors seeking guidance from the federal government on establishing exchanges. We’ve yet to receive serious answers to our questions. I will not commit Georgia taxpayers to a project with so many unknowns.”

State Senator Vincent Fort (D) doesn’t like anything ever done by any Republican anywhere  Governor Deal’s decision.

“I bet this crowd, when the feds set up the health care exchanges, are going to howl about that,” Fort said.

Fort also said that putting uninsured people in the Medicaid program would decrease the costs that insured patients pay to cover the bills of those who need medical care but lack insurance to pay for it.

“It’s unfortunate that the governor’s chosen to put politics over the need of Georgians,” Fort said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a feature on the long, strange trip that is Glenn Richardson’s political career. The story is worth reading in its entirety.

In Senate District 30, where Richardson failed to make the December 4th Runoff, State Rep. Bill Hembree will meet Carrollton businessman Mike Dugan, and it’s a jump ball.

Hembree led the four-candidate field in all three counties of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding, which comprise District 30. He led Carroll with 12,173 votes, topping two Carroll County candidates — Dugan, with 9,703 votes, and business consultant Jim Naughton, who had 5,091 votes. Former Georgia Secretary of State Glenn Richardson of Hiram finished a distant fourth in Carroll County with 3,627 votes.

In the total district vote, Hembree got 27,565 votes; Dugan, 13,843; Richardson, 8,467; and Naughton, 7,043.

Hembree believes the upcoming advance voting will be important to his chances of winning — he said his campaign determined that he received roughly 15,000 votes during the general election’s early voting cycle. That would account for more votes than he received on Election Day.

“We received more in advance voting than we did on election day,” Hembree said. “With 15,000 voting for me early, if we can get that same type of commitment we feel like that is a real positive step for us.”

In 2011, a pair of Senate special elections held in November went into December runoff elections; in SD 28, Duke Blackburn led the first balloting but was overtaken by now-Senator Mike Crane in the runoff and in SD 50, former State Rep. Rick Austin led the first election but lost the runoff to Senator John Wilkinson. There was some spillover in those elections from the leadership battles in the State Senate that may be absent this year, but those examples should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone finding himself or herself in a December runoff.

Here’s what I told the Carrollton Times-Georgian:

“I could go on all day with examples [of December runoffs that reversed earlier results],” said Todd Rehm. “That said, Bill Hembree still has to be considered the leader in the runoff for SD 30. Hembree’s experience and ability to fundraise, along with the fact that Hembree carried Carroll County, make it his race to lose. But if there’s a lesson for candidates who come in first in November elections and head for a runoff it’s that they can’t afford to take anything for granted and Bill Hembree should be doing everything possible to ensure his victory.

“And remember, there’s yet another election in January.”

Speaking of Senate leadership, here’s an interesting inside tidbit: Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) punched above her weight at the Swamp Showdown in Little Ocmulgee State Park, where the Senate Republican Caucus elections were held last week.

Renee Unterman, another powerful senator from the Gwinnett delegation, said she was honored to nominate and second Shafer for the position [of President Pro Tem], during a meeting at Little Ocmulgee State Park. She had 19 proxies from the Reform Caucus to support her colleague.

“Our Reform Caucus is committed to uniting fellow senators with the lieutenant governor restoring order, transparency, and ethics to the Georgia State Senate,” she said of the group.

The appointment is a coup for the county, she said.

“Gwinnett’s prominence continues to rise with the state’s legislative leadership, as our delegation leads both in the Senate and the House,” she said. “Sen. Shafer is a shinning example of our talent in Gwinnett County.”

So, including her own vote, Unterman was voting for an absolute majority of the Republican Caucus.

Walter C. Jones of the Morris News Service writes about what changes in Senate leadership may mean for the state.

The leaders legislators picked says a lot about them and the coming two-year term of the General Assembly.

House Republicans made no changes. Most observers figure they didn’t need any. They had success on Election Day, during the last session passing major legislation and in negotiating contentious bills like the budget and tax reform with the Senate and the governor.

His loss continues the concentration of power in North Georgia. With the exception of mid-state residents House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal of Bonaire and Senate Majority Whip Cecil Staton of Macon, the leaders reside upstate.

The Senate Republicans did make changes to their leaders.

Winning the nomination for president pro tem was David Shafer of Duluth. Other winners are Ronnie Chance of Tyrone as majority leader and Butch Miller of Gainesville as caucus chairman.

Consider how their elections consolidate power. Shafer has been a long-time ally of Cagle, who’s from Hall County like Miller and Gov. Nathan Deal. Chance has been Deal’s Senate floor leader.

Having the bulk of the legislative leadership living close enough together to carpool to the Capitol could mean favoritism toward the region they all call home. But remember that two of Deal’s top projects are the deepening of the ship channel in the Savannah River and investing enough in Georgia Regents University in Augusta to make it one of the country’s premier medical schools.

At the very least, it suggests there will be close cooperation. It may not seem possible to exceed last year when Deal’s signature legislation, criminal-justice reform, passed unanimously and his HOPE reforms nearly did the year before. But other bills ran into less harmony, and Deal and Ralston reportedly held off on more ambitious legislation out of fear of discord, mainly in the Senate.

Now, a new combination of leaders will give their full attention to legislation. And as Shelton said, “Any organization is a reflection of its leadership.”

The image in the reflection is coming into focus, and it looks a lot like a soft-spoken grandfather, Nathan Deal.

Given Governor Deal’s leadership in bringing jobs to Georgia, and his respectful approach to working with the legislature, this bodes well for our state.

State Senate Democrats will meet today to elect their leadership.

Welcome to the 2013 season of Georgia Republican Party elections! I’ve already received a piece of direct mail from John Padgett, who is running for First Vice Chair. Here’s my two cents: if you want my vote, you have to ask me for it personally. The pool of eventual voters for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party is small enough that you can identify frequent flyers from past convention cycles and start calling them personally.

The first rule I tell anyone running for office is that the best way to earn someone’s vote is to ask them for it personally; everything else, all mass media, are second-best ways of dealing with the fact that in most elections above the level of State House, you won’t be able to reach every voter personally. This is the most fundamental rule of winning elections.

Unfortunately, the last few cycles have seen GAGOP elections take on the aspects of large-scale media-driven campaigns featuring direct mail, robocalls, websites, and mass emails. But it doesn’t speak well of your promise to be the “Grassroots” candidate if you don’t personally contact the actual voters who make up the grassroots, tell them about yourself, and ask personally for their vote.

If you want a truly grassroots-drive Georgia Republican Party, join me in declining to vote for anyone who does not ask personally for your vote.

Speaker David Ralston will address the Nov. 28 breakfast of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Marietta Chapter.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials has notified the Gainesville City Council that it objects to the at-large districts in which council members are elected.

“At-large voting processes have been undone by litigation in many jurisdictions across the county,” said Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO’s executive director. “We believe the city of Gainesville is not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and we want to work to eliminate the at-large voting process with the City Council cooperatively.”

File under bad headline writing: “Gov. Deal to pay fees in failed ethics complaint” states the headline in the Rome News-Tribune, which might sound like Governor Deal was being fined for an ethics complaint filed against him. But the story is about the State Ethics Commission deciding against making Rome-based ethics gadfly George Anderson pay the legal fees incurred by Deal’s campaign to defend against a frivolous ethics complaint that was dismissed.

The Government Transparency Commission voted 3-1 on Friday against making Anderson pay a portion of the legal fees that Deal spent to address complaints from Anderson….

Anderson apologized for some of the language used in his complaints. But he said it’s unfair to ask citizens to pay for lawyer fees when their complaints against public officials are rejected.

The executive director of Georgia Common Cause, William Perry, said his group was concerned that forcing citizens to pay would discourage others from filing complaints.

File this one under “please don’t give the General Assembly any ideas.”

Moonshine distillers are making their first batches of legal liquor in this tiny Georgia town’s city hall, not far from the mountains and the maroon, orange and gold canopy of trees that once hid bootleggers from the law.

A handful of moonshine distilleries are scattered around the South, but observers say this is the first they’ve ever seen right in a city hall. The distilleries come amid an increased interest in the U.S. for locally made specialty spirits and beer brewed in homes and micro-breweries.

The Dawsonville moonshine makers and city officials say the operation helps preserve a way of life. It also carries on traditions of an era when moonshine meant extra income for farmers, medicine for their children and helped fuel the beginnings of NASCAR racing.

“Dawson County was, sure enough, the moonshine capital of the world at one time,” distiller Dwight Bearden said, as he checked on the still where the third batch of Dawsonville Moonshine was being prepared. “It was just a way of life back then.”

Last week, the distillery was delivering the second batch of moonshine it’s made to its distributor, which has orders from liquor stores and other businesses around the state. Georgia law prohibits the distillery from selling its liquor at the site, but allows a distributor to ship it to stores with a liquor license, where it can be sold legally.

Wood recently got approval from state officials to offer small samples for tourists to taste.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville, who introduced that bill during the most recent session, said Thursday he believes there will be more legislation during the upcoming session that would allow the Dawsonville distillery and others in the state to sell a single bottle of moonshine to tourists who want to take one home.

Locally made and locally grown products are a key aspect of the business, she said. A batch of apples fermenting last week came from the north Georgia town of Ellijay, about 30 miles away, she said.

The local movement has been a successful one in north Georgia, where several vineyards dot the mountain landscape and offer tastings of wines made with locally grown grapes. In Blue Ridge, at least one apple orchard brews and bottles its own apple and peach ciders.

Corn used by the distillery is also grown locally, and the distillery sticks to authentic recipes and doesn’t use any sugar, Wood said.

“This ain’t sugar liquor,” she said, “this is the real deal.”

Senate Leadership Elections: Official Press Releases

Shafer Elected President Pro Tempore by Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) has been elected by the Senate Republican Caucus to serve as the next president pro tempore of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I am humbled by the support shown by my Senate colleagues in today’s election,” said Senator Shafer. “With the upcoming legislative session less than two months away and with several critical issues needing immediate attention, it is imperative that we begin work now.”

“I congratulate Senator David Shafer on being nominated by the Republican Caucus for President Pro Tempore and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Senator Shafer will become the 68th president pro tempore in the history of Georgia, the Senate’s second-highest ranking position after the lieutenant governor.  The president pro tem chairs the Senate Administrative Affairs Committee, which is responsible for operations of the Senate, and is charged with speaking on behalf of the entire Senate. He also assumes the duties of the lieutenant governor in his absence.

Senator Shafer most recently served as chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, vice chairman of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee, and as a member of the Senate Finance, Government Oversight and Rules Committees. He also served as an ex-officio member of the Health and Human Services Committee.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol. At that time, the entire Senate will cast a formal vote for president pro tempore.

Chance Elected Majority Leader by the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Senator Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) was elected by the Senate Republican Caucus to become the next majority leader of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I am honored that my colleagues have placed their faith and confidence in me to serve as Senate Majority Leader,” said Senator Chance. “Looking towards the upcoming legislative session, it will be more important now than ever before to remember why we became a public servant. We are not here for partisan politics or personal benefit. We are here because our constituents have entrusted each one of us to represent their best interests, and we must be held accountable to that task.”

“I congratulate Senator Ronnie Chance on being elected Majority Leader and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Once sworn in, Senator Chance will hold the second-highest ranking position in the Georgia State Senate.  The majority leader is the primary spokesperson for the majority party and works closely with Senate leadership to develop policy platforms.  In addition, the majority leader is also charged with setting the legislative session calendar.

Senator Chance most recently served as chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee and as a member of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions, Ethics, Finance and Higher Education Committees.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol. At that time, the entire Senate will cast a formal vote for majority leader.

Sen. Cecil Staton Re-Elected to Serve as Majority Whip

ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) was re-elected today to serve as Majority Whip of the Georgia State Senate, for the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.“It is a great honor to be re-elected to serve as the Republican Party’s Majority Whip in the Georgia State Senate,” said Sen. Staton. “As Majority Whip, I remain committed to advancing conservative leadership and supporting our caucus and its commitment to legislation that makes Georgia a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

Sen. Staton previously held the position of vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus prior to his appointment as Majority Whip. This will be his second concurrent term as majority whip in the state senate. The Majority Whip’s primary responsibility is to research legislation, educate and inform caucus members, ensure that majority members are present during important votes, and is also responsible for counting votes. The Majority Whip is the third ranking leadership position within the Republican caucus.

“I congratulate Senator Cecil Staton on being elected Majority Whip and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Sen. Staton is also currently a member of the Senate Committee on Assignments and the Senate Appropriations Committee and is Chairman of the sub-committee on Higher Education. Additionally, he serves on the Rules, Finance, Transportation, and Banking and Financial Institutions committees and sits on three sub-committees.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

Sen. Butch Miller to Serve as Republican Caucus Chair

ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) was recently elected to serve as Republican Caucus Chair of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I want to thank the previous leadership team, the Lt. Governor and my colleagues in the senate for electing me to serve as the Republican Caucus Chair,” said Sen. Miller. “I am honored and humbled by the trust and confidence of my colleagues, and especially the citizens of the 49th Senate District.”

Sen. Miller currently serves as the Governor’s floor leader and will begin serving his first term as caucus chair in January. The Senate Majority Caucus Chair is responsible for working with caucus leaders to develop the caucus agenda, oversee meetings and assist in the development of policy.

“I congratulate Senator Butch Miller on being elected Majority Caucus Chairman and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Sen. Miller currently serves as chairman of the State and Local Government Operations Committee and as secretary of the Economic Development Committee.  He is also a member of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and Transportation committees and is an ex-officio member of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

Sen. Judson Hill Elected Vice Chair by the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Senator Judson Hill (R-Marietta) was elected yesterday to become the next vice chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, effective with the start of the 152ndLegislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections yesterday during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.“It is an honor and a privilege to receive such strong support from my fellow Republican State Senators,” said Senator Hill. “I look forward to serving as Vice Chair, and it is my intention to drive the Senate Republican Caucus towards good policy measures that are fiscally responsible and promote government efficiency.”

“I congratulate Senator Judson Hill on being elected Majority Caucus Vice Chair and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Senator Hill most recently served as chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee and as a member of the Senate Appropriations, Health and Human Services and Special Judiciary Committees. He also served as an ex-officio member of the Insurance and Labor, Judiciary and Transportation Committees.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

Sen. Steve Gooch Elected Caucus Secretary by Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) was recently elected to serve as Majority Caucus Secretary of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152ndLegislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I am deeply honored to be chosen by my colleagues to serve as the Secretary of the Senate Republican Caucus,” said Sen. Gooch. “I wholeheartedly believe this newly-elected Senate leadership team is committed to advancing fiscally-responsible state government and creating policies that bring about positive change for the people of Georgia. I am humbled by my colleagues trust and look forward to working closely with members of senate leadership and the General Assembly during this upcoming legislative session.”

Sen. Gooch currently serves as Secretary of the Transportation Committee and is also a member of the Economic Development, Government Oversight, State and Local Government Operations and State Institutions and Property Committees. He also serves as Ex-Officio of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee. In addition, Governor Deal appointed Senator Gooch to the MARTOC Committee in 2011.

“I congratulate Senator Steve Gooch on being elected Majority Caucus Secretary and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

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