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State Rep. John Meadows dies, chaired Georgia House Rules Committee

State lawmakers will assemble this afternoon for a five-day, special lame-duck session of the Legislature on the news that one of its most powerful members has died.

State Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, chairman of the House Rules Committee, died of stomach cancer, according to a Tweeted message of condolence from Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor.

From Kemp, who has claimed victory in a gubernatorial contest that has yet to be called:

“Saddened to hear that House Rules Chairman John Meadows passed away after a hard fought battle with stomach cancer. Rep. Meadows was a devoted public servant and community leader. He will be missed and our prayers are with his family as they mourn.”

From a statement issued by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge:

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“My dear friend John was a great man – brave Marine, loving father and adoring grandfather. He loved his family with total devotion. His public service, both as a Marine and a state representative, was grounded in trying to ensure his children and grandchildren saw a better tomorrow. 

“John was outwardly fierce and courageous but he was, at the same time, one of the kindest and most generous souls you have ever met. There aren’t words to describe the magnitude of this loss for our House of Representatives or the state of Georgia, and my heart is simply broken under the weight of this sad news. 

“My heart goes out to John’s family – particularly his beloved wife Marie, his children B.J. and Missy, and his grandsons Will, Patrick, and Max.” 

Meadows’ House District 5 includes portions of Gordon and Murray counties in north Georgia. Prior to his election to the House in 2004, he served as the mayor of Calhoun for 13 years. In the Legislature, as chairman of the House Rules Committee, Meadows had more clout than anyone in his chamber save Speaker Ralston. From a 2016 article on state Capitol clout, written by our AJC colleague Jim Denery:

Consider House Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, or, as he refers to himself, the "judge and the jury." Meadows' power is such that he keeps an apartment between the ears of every legislator. His name often appears in sentences that contain the phrase "live or die" because if he doesn't like a bill, you might as well bury it in six feet of dirt.

Bills that Meadows likes, on the other hand, have a certain resilience. On Monday, the Senate Insurance Committee refused to move House Bill 838, which would have guaranteed a 5 percent commission for agents who sell small-group health insurance. A majority of the senators on the committee refused to vote, which might seem peculiar except that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story the day before raising questions about conflicts of interest concerning the bill and its patron, Meadows, an insurance agent. The lawmakers who took a pass also have ties to the insurance industry.

Meadows responded the next day, when he said during a Rules Committee meeting that he was inclined not to schedule any Senate bills for a vote.

Now, maybe Senate leaders, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, just happened to take pity on struggling insurance agents --- it's hard to tell. But two days after Meadows bill was shoved into limbo, it came out to meet the sun and a newly revamped Senate Insurance Committee sporting two additional members. And, lo, HB 838 won the committee's endorsement and appears headed for a floor vote.

State Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, is vice-chairman of the Rules Committee, and presumably will take the helm of the panel for this week’s brief session, the primary purpose of which is to pass emergency funding for aid to portions of South Georgia ravaged last month by Hurricane Michael.

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Several lawmakers already planned to miss the opening minutes of today’s special session of the Legislature to mark another death, that of former state Supreme Court chief justice Harris Hines, who passed last week at age 75. Services are at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Marietta.

Read and sign the online guestbook for State Rep. John Meadows

Read the full post from AJC’s Political Insider blog

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