Brian Kemp: Like all governors, Georgia’s new one will set the agenda for the session. He’s got promises he wants to keep from the campaign trail, such as teacher pay raises and cutting business regulations, and he’ll also likely spend a good bit of time making appointments to various boards and posts. Like all governors, he has the power to veto legislation and spending, and dole out jobs to employment-seeking lawmakers. And he sets the revenue estimate, which determines how much money lawmakers spend.
CHIEF OF STAFF
Tim Fleming: Kemp didn’t look far when he tapped his new top aide. Fleming first worked for Kemp in 2002 during his successful bid for a state Senate seat, and he later managed Kemp’s unsuccessful campaign for agriculture commissioner in 2006 and his run for governor last year. Fleming inherits one of the most challenging — and powerful — jobs in state government from Chris Riley, the most influential gubernatorial chief of staff of his generation.
Geoff Duncan: The president of the Senate, Duncan, a former House member, will get on-the-job training early on in a chamber whose majority caucus didn’t back his campaign. However, he’s got a veteran political consultant running his office and a ready-made signature issue — a tax break he promoted to persuade companies and individuals to donate big money to help keep rural hospitals afloat.
Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, Senate president pro tem: A floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal, Miller is a car dealer used to wheeling and dealing at the statehouse as well. Miller was considered a possible candidate for lieutenant governor before last year’s race and is seen as a likely future candidate for office such as the U.S. Senate.
Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, Senate majority leader: A U.S. Army Ranger who retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2008, Dugan, like Miller, is personable and has the ability to clearly explain the Senate Republican stance on issues. Like Miller, he was also a floor leader for Deal. He won over the Republican caucus that had been led by Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, the new governor’s brother-in-law.
Jack Hill, R-Reidsville: A retired grocer who has long run the Senate Appropriations Committee, he’s a former Democrat whose party switch helped the Senate turn Republican in 2002. Hill follows economic indicators closely and knows everything about how state tax money is spent, and he plays a key role in deciding where it goes.
Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome; An anesthetist, Hufstetler rose quickly after being elected in 2012 and runs the Senate Finance Committee, which considers tax legislation and is one of the most active late-session panels at the Capitol. He’s been involved in a wide range of issues including health care and ethics, and he hasn’t been afraid to stand against his Republican colleagues on issues.
Others: Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga; Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker; Sen. Rene Unterman, R-Buford; Sen. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta.
David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, speaker: The level-headed, plain-spoken mountain lawyer has earned high marks for leading a chamber that can be raucous and fractious at times. He faces increasing pressure from the right within his own caucus, but he has managed to maintain control when it matters.
Jan Jones, R-Milton, speaker pro tem: She’s seen as a smart, stable leader from a politically important part of metro Atlanta. A former journalist and marketing executive, Jones is the highest-ranking woman in General Assembly history. Last year, she headed a committee to review how the House and Senate handle sexual harassment issues.
Terry England, R-Auburn, House budget chairman: England was Ralston’s choice to take over the money committee, and like his Senate counterpart Hill, he is an extremely hardworking lawmaker who follows the state’s finances closely and knows where pretty much every cent of the state’s $26 billion budget is spent.
Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, minority leader: An attorney, Trammell was picked to replace Stacey Abrams, the party’s nominee for governor last year. He has been more publicly aggressive on some issues than Abrams in that role, but he strongly backed her candidacy for governor. Trammell narrowly won re-election against an opponent who might — or might not have — lived in the district and followed it up by winning a caucus vote to continue leading the Democrats in the House.
Jay Powell, R-Camilla, new chairman of the House Rules Committee: Powell, a lawyer, is best known for handling big tax legislation as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Like Mullis in the Senate, Powell plays a major role in deciding which legislation gets to the floor of the chamber for a vote and which bills die.
Others: Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington; Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville; Health and Human Services Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta.
Top lobbying firms and individuals/influencers:
Holland & Knight: The firm is led by Robert Highsmith, a lawyer and former counsel to Sonny Perdue when he was governor who has also represented several lawmakers when they got into legal trouble or faced ethics complaints. The team also includes Jeremy Collins and Koko Lewis, two onetime aides to former Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer. The legal side of the firm also includes Jake Evans, the chairman of the state ethics commission, which regulates lobbyists and enforces campaign finance laws. Holland & Knight represents the city of Atlanta, the airport, those involved in the massive Gulch development in downtown Atlanta, MARTA, gaming giant Caesars Entertainment, small-loan giant Titlemax, Total Wine & More, Verizon, and the optometrists lobby.
Troutman Sanders Strategies: Lots of big names and top professionals in the group, led by Pete Robinson, who was on Gov. Nathan Deal’s transition team. The group also includes the House speaker’s son, Matthew Ralston, and veteran lobbyists Lawrence Bell, Samantha Hill, Hannah Irvin, Ragan Marsh and Rob Willis. It represents a long list of big names, including Aflac, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, General Motors, the home builders lobby, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Scientific Games, the managed care company for PeachCare, Synovus and Verizon.
GeorgiaLink Public Affairs Group: It has one of the longest client lists at the Capitol and a veteran team of top lobbyists, two of whom served in the General Assembly. Clients include the Atlanta Braves, Comcast, CVS, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power, Koch Industries, T-Mobile, UPS, and a host of Georgia associations representing the powerful auto dealer, beer wholesaler and hospital industries.
Dentons: Headed by Eric Tanenblatt, a former top aide to Perdue, and former Georgia House Republican Whip Edward Lindsey, the long-powerful group did legal work for both the Kemp and Duncan campaigns. The firm’s team represents the Boy Scouts, DeKalb County government and its school system, the Georgia Aquarium, the charter schools and craft brewers associations, politically influential Jackson Healthcare and Northside Hospital.
Massey, Watson & Hembree: The team includes a former Georgia secretary of state and the chairman of the state Republican Party, and it represents a long list of companies and groups interested in both legislation and state contracts, including Anthem, Citigroup, Comcast, Dell, the Hospital Corporation of America, Unisys and Boyd Gaming, one of the companies hoping the General Assembly approves casino gambling legislation.
McGuireWoods Consulting: The group has close legislative ties, especially in the Senate, and deep political experience. It’s led by Brad Alexander, a former chief of staff to outgoing Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and includes former Georgia Senate leader Eric Johnson and a team of veteran lobbyists, including Robert Fortson, Ashley Groome, Misty Holcomb, April Ruark and Michael Shelnutt. Clients include Aetna, AT&T, Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia Power, Gulfstream, Hertz, Honeywell, independent doctors, MARTA, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Office Depot, Zillow, the Walt Disney Co. and several groups involved in the film industry.
Mark Middleton: Middleton was a legal adviser to the Kemp campaign and a member of his transition team who was one of few statehouse lobbyists who backed the new governor’s campaign from the start. He’s also a veteran lobbyist with strong, long-standing state Republican ties who represents a long list of top clients.
Other top groups and lobbyists include those representing the car dealers, counties and cities, the Georgia and Metro Atlanta chambers, grocery stores, hospitals, insurance agents, liquor distributors, manufacturers, nursing homes, school boards, trial lawyers, the University System of Georgia, Brian Robinson, Don Bolia, Ronnie Chance, Chuck Clay, Wendi Clifton, Earl Ehrhart, Ben Harbin, John Haliburton, Chandler Haydon, Cynthia Studdard Garst, Neill Herring, Brian Hudson, Lee and Amy Hughes, Sheila Humberstone, Tharon Johnson, Billy Linville, Jamie and Andy Lord, Chuck McMullen, Jay Morgan, Amy Odom, David Pratt, Roy Robinson, Richard Royal, Rebecca Chamberlin Ryles, Rusty Sewell, Jared Thomas, Graham Thompson, Mo Thrash, Jet Toney, Monty Veazey, William Woodall, and lobby teams from Connect South, Fiveash-Stanley, Southern Strategies, and Tanner & Associates.
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