The players to watch in the 2022 legislative session

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

GOVERNOR

Brian Kemp: Like all governors, Kemp will set the agenda for the session. He will do so in a hyperpartisan environment in an election year in which he faces both tough Republican and Democratic opposition. He will also do so during a session in which he has an economy and fiscal situation that would be the envy of any governor seeking reelection, which means he will have plenty of money to spend. Like all governors, Kemp has the power to veto legislation and spending, and he can dole out jobs to employment-seeking lawmakers.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Geoff Duncan: In his role as president of the Senate, Duncan, a former House member, has proved a steady hand since taking office in 2019 and played a key role in getting legislation passed. This session he will be a bit of a lame duck, since he is not seeking reelection. The Republican came to national prominence after the 2020 vote by publicly defending how the state ran the presidential election. In doing so, he went against Republican leaders, such as state GOP Chairman David Shafer and some senators who repeated then-President Donald Trump’s conspiracy claims of massive voter fraud. That made his chances of winning the Republican primary for reelection slim.

SENATE

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, Senate president pro tem: A floor leader for then-Gov. Nathan Deal, Miller is a car dealer used to wheeling and dealing at the Statehouse as well. Miller is running to replace Duncan as lieutenant governor, facing a Trump-supported colleague in the Republican primary. He has already come out with GOP-base-friendly proposals, including eliminating both the state income tax and absentee ballot drop boxes. While he wasn’t a leader of the Trump conspiracy caucus in the Senate, he’s moved in that direction since joining the lieutenant governor’s race.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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 then-Gov. Nathan Deal.

Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, Finance chairman: An anesthetist, Hufstetler rose quickly after being elected in 2012 and runs the committee that 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.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, Appropriations chairman: Elected in 2016, Tillery rose quickly to head the budget committee in the Senate, taking over last spring after longtime Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill died. His first budget involved helping to cut state spending by 10% because of expectations that revenue would decline during the COVID-19 recession. Now he is in the opposite position: trying to tamp down spending enthusiasm in light of record state tax collections.

Others: Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga; Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain; Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega; Senate Minority Whip Harold Jones, D-Augusta; Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Elena Parent, D-Atlanta.

HOUSE

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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. Under his leadership, his chamber has also tended to tamp down some of the Senate’s more incendiary proposals. Ralston has helped raise big money for Republican House members, and the GOP did better than expected in 2020. Ralston guards the House’s authority in making key decisions, and like another longtime speaker, Tom Murphy, he is willing to stand up to the governor.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

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. She’s been able to win reelection at the edge of a part of metro Atlanta that is trending Democratic.

Terry England, R-Auburn, Appropriations chairman: England was Ralston’s choice to take over the House budget committee after he became speaker in 2010. England is an extremely hardworking lawmaker who follows the state’s finances closely and knows where pretty much every cent of the state’s budget is spent. Like Tillery, he has worked to lower expectations heading into a session at a time of record state finances, believing the state should take a conservative budget approach, as has been tradition, no matter the party in power.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, dean of the General Assembly and the nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic. He came to office in the first post-Watergate election in 1974. Smyre has held numerous positions, but he is been best known as the consummate deal-maker, working across party lines to pass legislation. He is awaiting U.S. confirmation, but in the meantime, he will play a behind-the-scenes role in crafting legislation.

Richard Smith, R-Columbus, Rules chairman: Smith’s committee decides which bills move to the House floor for a vote. Smith, who retired after working many years for the University of Georgia, had previously served as chairman of the Insurance Committee for about a decade.

Others: Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington; Health and Human Services Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta; House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon; House Minority Whip David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs.