ATLANTA – Georgia
Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, will succeed the late Rep. Jay Powell as
chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, Speaker David Ralston announced
Smith has earned the trust and respect of every member of our House of Representatives,”
said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “He is a wise and thoughtful leader who always puts
the interests of this state and its citizens first. We are fortunate to have
Chairman Smith in this new role, and I congratulate him on his appointment.”
died unexpectedly in November at age 67. He had chaired the Rules Committee,
the “traffic cop” of the House because it decides which bills reach the House
floor, for just one year following the death of then-Rules Chairman John
Smith has served
since 2011 as chairman of the House Insurance Committee. He was elected to the
General Assembly in 2004 after serving on the Columbus City Council and, for
several months, as interim city manager of Columbus.
Smith’s House District 134 includes portions of Muscogee and Harris counties.
Ralston also named Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, to succeed Smith as chairman of the Insurance Committee.
ATLANTA – The
historic limestone and granite steps at the north and south entrances of the
Georgia Capitol will get a makeover next year.
State Financing and Investment Commission has released a request for
qualifications seeking a contractor for the $1.5 million project.
repairing and reinstalling the steps, the work will involve installing concrete
support walls, a waterproofing system, bronze handrails and floodlights.
Workers also will repair the crosswalk at the base of the south stairs.
Capitol has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Bids on the
project are due Jan. 15. The work will begin at the end of the 2020 General
Assembly session, likely in early April, with completion expected within 210
ATLANTA – Georgia
Lottery ticket sales increased by $178.2 million during fiscal 2019, driven by
a huge jump in Mega Millions ticket sales.
Millions sales rose by $73.5 million, or 58.6%, to $199.1 million during the
fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to an annual independent audit the
Georgia Lottery Corp. released last Friday.
attributed the popularity of the Mega Millions game to the size of the
Millions jackpot exceeded $400 million on three occasions during the year,
reaching a high value of $1.537 billion in October 2018, $522 million in June
2019 and $437 million in January 2019,” the audit stated.
Millions is a multi-state lottery game operated with 10 other states: California,
Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio,
Virginia and Washington.
lottery accounted for $4.776 billion in ticket sales during fiscal 2019, up
from $4.598 billion the previous fiscal year, representing an increase of
$178.2 million, or 3.9%.
amount, a record $1.207 billion was returned to education, including the HOPE
Scholarships program, up $63.9 million compared to fiscal 2018.
games accounted for the most lottery ticket sales. Scratcher game sales
increased by $77.6 million to $3.219 billion, according to the report.
attributed the growth of scratcher game sales primarily to the popularity of
the $10 and $20 games.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., retired this month after 45 years in public
service. He leaves Congress as the only Georgian ever to serve in the state
House of Representatives, the Georgia Senate, the U.S. House and the U.S.
Senate. After helping build the state Republican Party as Georgia House
minority leader, Isakson went on to serve as chairman of the state Board of
Education. In Washington, he spent six years in the House representing a
district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs and 14 years in the Senate, including a
stint as chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Recently, he looked
back on his career in an exclusive interview with Capitol Beat News Service:
Q: What made
you decide to enter politics back in 1972, five years into your real estate
A: I was
active in the real estate business but also in my civic association in a small
neighborhood in East Cobb. There were beginning to be a lot of issues dealing with
zoning … and there was an incumbent county commissioner up for re-election who had
been the proponent of all the multi-family units being proposed at the time. …
I never intended to run for anything, certainly not county commission, but I
did and did pretty well for not being experienced and not having any money. … I
did well enough to whet my appetite and said, ‘If I get a chance, I’ll try this
one more time.’ I did two years later for the legislature and won that seat.
That year, I was the only Republican to defeat a Democrat in the state of
Georgia who was an incumbent. … That’s how I started my career.
essentially built Georgia’s Republican Party in the ‘70s and ‘80s along with
A: A lot of
people deserve credit for that. I was on the building team, but I was not the
builder. … [The late U.S. Sen.] Paul Coverdell and I did a lot of work to get
people to come to Saturday morning breakfasts and get enthusiastic about being
outnumbered 10 to 1.
difficult was it in a state Democrats had dominated since Reconstruction?
A: It was
easy back then to get attention because the press would settle for anything
from us because there weren’t many of us. … As we grew our numbers and got
influential enough to start driving issues, for awhile, it worked to our
advantage … because they let us state our case without having anybody give the
alternative. That went away as we won more seats.
Q: How did
you get along with majority Democrats during all those years you spent in the
General Assembly as a minority leader?
A: Tom Murphy
was the longest serving [state House] speaker in the country at that time. He
hated Republicans, had open season on them any time he could find one. … I
said, ‘I’m going to see if we can find common ground.’ … In rural Georgia,
there were no four-lane highways. We helped [then-Gov.] Joe Frank Harris pay
for the GRIP [Governor’s Road Improvement Program]. … All of a sudden,
[Democrats] liked the idea of doing something comprehensive. I won a few points
Q: Did you
hesitate before jumping into that special election race for Congress in 1999,
considering you were looking to succeed such a high-profile politician as Newt
night I was on an airplane to Anaheim, [Calif.] to make a speech to the
Realtors Political Action Committee. When I got to the hotel that night, there
were 72 messages for me. The first 71 were from my wife. She said, ‘Newt quit
and everybody says you ought to run.’ … I’d run statewide three times before
and lost. … But I had the name ID. We put together a heck of a campaign in
seven weeks and won the seat.
played a leading role in the No Child Left Behind Act in the House in 2001 and
helped improve the law while you were in the Senate. Did that stem from your
time as chairman of the state Board of Education?
federal government doesn’t really have a role in education, but it is the first
priority of state government. I knew what the state’s problems were and how to
account for the money. I had some working knowledge. … [George W.] Bush was the
new president and decided he was going to make that a signature issue. He asked
me to lead that effort.
Q: You were
awarded the inaugural ‘John McCain Service to Country Award’ earlier this year.
What does that mean to you in terms of the time you spent in the Senate with
A: John was
a product of my era, the best we had. He went to Southeast Asia and fought in
the worst war America ever fought in. I lost some very good friends in Vietnam.
… I’m very close to that whole era. John epitomized it. He was a volunteer. …
He wanted to go and not use his father (a Navy admiral) for any preferential
placement. … I worked with John when I got elected on issues including
immigration and ethics. … What really got me close to him was President Trump
went after him after he died. … I got upset and made about a 20-minute speech
calling the president out on it. That was no way to treat one of our heroes.
have been one of your priorities. Looking back, what do you feel were your
greatest accomplishments chairing that committee in the Senate?
committee never did much because it was what you call a ‘B’ committee. … But
when I got it, I said, ‘We’ve been fooling around with these issues for 10
years. I want to make this thing work for veterans.’ … The Mission Act replaced
the Choice Act. A veteran can go to a private doctor or a VA doctor. It makes no
difference. … Vets don’t need to be told a doctor is not being paid. … It’s
working really well now. I believe last year, they did 1,000 more appointments
for veterans than the year before.
Q: The theme
of your farewell speech on the Senate floor this month was a plea for
bipartisanship. With the toxic atmosphere in Washington, do you believe there’s
hope for that?
A: My hope
for it is what’s kept me in politics. … If you’re in politics and you do a
favor, you get one in return and you remember that. … Three years ago, I pulled
a Democrat out of a committee room and got him to switch a vote. Once people
know you have the ability to deliver that kind of power, they respect you and
will negotiate with you. … In my speech, I tried to get across what happens in
the real world and the need to be cooperative.
ATLANTA – The
“heartbeat” anti-abortion bill Gov. Brian Kemp pushed through the General
Assembly this year will not take effect Jan. 1 as intended, blocked by a
than a dozen less controversial measures Georgia lawmakers enacted during the
2019 legislative session will become law with the coming of the new year.
new business court will become operational, patients in need of certain
medications will get an easier path to a prescription, Georgians saving for
their children’s college tuition will get a more generous tax break and two
judicial circuits will get additional judges.
Here is a
breakdown of some of the new laws taking effect Jan. 1:
Technically, House Bill 239 establishing
a statewide business court in Georgia took effect last May, the day Kemp signed
it into law. But the court doesn’t become operational until Jan 1. In August, members
of the state House and Senate Judiciary committees confirmed the governor’s
nominee to head the court, Walter F. Davis, a partner in the Atlanta office of
Jones Day. The new court, aimed at expediting the handling of cases requiring
expertise in business law, was created by a constitutional amendment Georgia
voters ratified in November 2018.
Under House Bill 63, doctors can seek
exceptions from insurance companies to “step therapy,” which requires patients
to try certain preferred medications and wait for them to fail before they can
receive a prescription for the medication they want. The law will apply to any
health insurance plan that takes effect or is renewed on or after Jan. 1.
House Bill 266 doubles the state
income tax deduction awarded through Georgia’s 529 Plan for college savings
from $2,000 per year to $4,000 for single taxpayers and from $4,000 per year to
$8,000 for married couples filing jointly. The legislation takes effect with
the 2020 tax year.
Under House Bill 166, all genetic
counselors in the state must be licensed, making Georgia the 28th
state with such a requirement. The law is intended to provide consumers
assurance that when they make an appointment with a genetic counselor, the
clinician has been suitably trained in
genetics. Genetic counselors provide risk assessment, education and support to
individuals or families at risk for or diagnosed with a variety of inherited
House Bill 478 creates stricter requirements
for listing an offender on Georgia’s child abuse registry. Under the new law,
abusers must be at least 18 at the time the abusive act was committed to be
listed, up from the current 13. Abusers put on the list have a right to a
hearing on whether their name should be removed, starting three years after
being placed on the list.
House Bill 21 provides an additional
Superior Court judge for the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit.
House Bill 28 provides an additional
Superior Court judge for the Griffin Judicial Circuit.
Senate Bill 118 is aimed at leveling
the playing field between health care provided through telemedicine and health
services delivered by other means. The
law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage of health care solely
because it was provided through telemedicine rather than in-person consultation
with a health-care provider.