Georgia’s two new U.S. senators got several plum committee assignments yesterday, with Sen. Raphael Warnock landing on the Senate’s Agriculture, Banking and Commerce committees, while Sen. Jon Ossoff was appointed to the Senate Judiciary, Banking, and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees.
From the Agriculture Committee, Warnock will be a key voice on Georgia farm issues, as well as nutrition assistance, which flows through the USDA. He’ll also oversee banking and lending industries from the Banking Committee, including FinTech, the dynamic and often lucrative area of payment processing that’s established a stronghold in Atlanta, as well as tech and interstate commerce issues from the Commerce Committee.
Ossoff will tackle judicial nominations, immigration, and possible Big Tech anti-trust issues on Judiciary; immigration, homeland security and extremism from HSGAC; and banking and lending from the Banking Committee.
One committee notably missing from the roster: the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has included a Georgia senator nearly consecutively since the committee was established in 1946.
Sens. Richard Russell and Sam Nunn each chaired the committee for years and vastly expanded the role Georgia bases play in the U.S. defense infrastructure. Former Sens. Max Cleland, Saxby Chambliss, and David Perdue all sat on the committee and directed work, missions, and procurement to Georgia 13 military installations.
For a crucial period of time, U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson, Nunn’s uncle, chaired the House Armed Services Committee while Russell sat atop the Senate committee.
Those efforts were so successful that the Department of Defense is now Georgia’s largest single employer.
First-year senators typically are not appointed to more than one “Super A” committee, but look for calls for one of the two senators to bump up to SASC in the coming years to oversee the state’s crucial, multi-billion dollar industry.
Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 11):
The House convenes at 10 am;
The Senate gavels in at 10 am;
House and Senate committees meet throughout the day, beginning at 8:00 am.
Tuesday recap from the Capitol:
A House panel easily passed a bill to move sports betting in Georgia one step closer to reality;
State Rep. John Carson announced he’ll try to close the loophole that lets some people avoid fines after getting busted for distracted driving; and
Lawmakers introduced two term-limit bills to cap members of Congress’ time in D.C.. No mention in those bills of term limits for members of the Georgia General Assembly.
Oh, the irony! Our pals at WSB-TV broke the story late Tuesday that Georgia elections officials opened an investigation into whether pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Lin Wood voted illegally in November.
Wood, who has spread dangerous lies about voting fraud, told our AJC colleague Mark Niesse that he was a legal resident of Georgia during the Nov. 3 election. We’ll let Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office hammer out the truth.
The news that Wood had decamped to South Carolina brought flashbacks of a meeting among high-ranking Georgia Republicans days after the November vote to discuss strategies to overturn the state’s election results.
According to two GOP insiders, the conference room at the Georgia GOP headquarters was crammed with a Who’s Who of the pro-Trump crowd seeking to undermine Georgia’s election. Among them was Donald Trump Jr. and state GOP chair David Shafer.
Lin Wood was not. He was on speaker phone. And the last item of the meeting’s to-do list involved arranging for a private jet to fly to South Carolina, pick him up and ferry him back to Georgia so he could help with the legal battle.
In the end, his error-riddled legal cases he filed were practically laughed out of court. He headlined a rally urging Trump supporters not to vote in the Senate runoffs.
True to his word, records show he didn’t cast a ballot in the Jan. 5 contests.
We told you last month that former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is eyeing another potential bid for U.S. Senate next year. Two “unnamed sources” in his camp floated a trial balloon to Fox News online Tuesday, with the allies predicting he could announce by April.
The Gainesville Republican is mindful that the GOP contest to face Democrat Raphael Warnock could look a lot like the 2020 contest: Namely, a rematch between Collins and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler for GOP support.
Dan McLagan, a former Collins spokesman, nodded to that prospect without mentioning Loeffler’s name in a statement that revived the same line of attack that dominated the 2020 campaign.
“There’s simply not a lane for a squishy moderate in a GOP primary — there’s not even a bike path.”
Today will be a pivotal day for the Republican Party, and Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene remains at the center. Multiple news organizations reported that she met with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy Tuesday night, although both were mum afterward on what they discussed.
Remember, Democrats are planning to move forward this afternoon with a first step that could result in a floor vote on stripping Greene of both her assignments. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m.
Although many Republicans are upset that the majority party is trying to force their hand, they also know it would be a bad look if it happens. They don’t want to cast a vote interpreted as defending Greene and her past statements putting down a teenage mass shooting victim, offending the Sandy Hook families, spreading baseless conspiracy theories about wildfires and insulting people of color.
After the Rules meeting, House Republicans will gather behind closed doors. While some members are concerned about Greene, others are more bothered that the party’s No. 3, Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, GOP senators are starting to signal they want Greene reined in. And Democrats have a new TV ad campaign tying GOP House members to QAnon conspiracy theories that Greene once supported.
“They can do QAnon, or they can do college-educated voters. They cannot do both,” U.S. Rep. Sean Maloney said of Republican members running for reelection in 2022, according to Politico.
A storm is brewing in Savannah, where Bacarra Mauldin, the CEO of Chatham Area Transit, was abruptly fired last week by the authority’s board.
One problem with the CAT board vote, as reported in detail by Katie Nussbaum of the Savannah Morning News — Tabitha Odell, the board member who seconded the motion and voted to terminate Bacarra, may not be a member of the CAT board at all.
Now Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office has gotten involved, notifying the Chatham Commission of a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act, when the commission may or may not have voted to appoint Odell to the CAT board.
Perhaps importantly, the now-former CEO has alleged multiple federal procurement violations by the CAT board. It feels like this one is just getting started.
Charlie Hayslett over at Trouble in God’s Countryhas a terrifically important analysis of the have and have-nots in Georgia as delineated by the state’s famous “gnat line,” the boundary that separates the state in more ways than one.
“The key takeaway from this map isn't that the best-scoring counties are concentrated in and around Metro Atlanta — that's no surprise. It's that the largest group of the middle-range counties — those shown in the lighter shades of blue — surround the Metro Atlanta region, reflecting the region's expanding economic influence.
“The EIG data and its DCI scores are in line with other assessments that make it clear that Georgia's economic strength is concentrating more and more from roughly the gnat line north — as is its population growth and, therefore, its political power. This will ultimately — and sooner rather than later — undo a rough balance of political and economic power that has prevailed in the state for more than a century. It will also complicate the process of addressing the challenges in the state's rural areas south of the gnat line."
- Trouble in God's Country
Hayslett also pulls out data showing Oconee County as having not just the strongest economy of any county in the state, but also the strongest of nearly any county in the country.
The Southwest Georgia hospital system was one of the worst hit in the country when COVID first hit. The Albany Herald now reports that the hospital system believes it’s gotten past its winter COVID-19 case surge, but the threat is still very real, CEO Scott Steiner told the Herald.
“The virus continues to take a heart-wrenching toll on our communities,” Steiner said. “Thirty-eight COVID-19 patients in our health system lost their lives in January, making it the third-deadliest month of the pandemic behind only the early days of our COVID-19 fight last March and April.
In the strange-but-true department, the Valdosta Daily Times reports the mayor of Nashville, Ga.,Taylor Scarbrough, has been indicted by a grand jury for using his neighbor’s excavator without permission.
This may be Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ worst nightmare. Mary Norwood, the woman she defeated to become mayor, says she will run for a now-open seat on the Atlanta City Council.
Norwood, who served three terms on the council before running twice for mayor unsuccessfully, has been a thorn in Bottoms’ side these last few years, especially on the issue of crime in Buckhead.
We missed this a few weeks ago, but it’s a great read on state Rep. Demetrius Douglas’s adventures as a standout Georgia football player. Check out the interview here.
The Political Insider column is back. Patricia Murphy takes up the mantle right where Jim Galloway left it in her debut column. Check it out.