published Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Gaining clout?: Georgia State Sen. Jeff Mullis eyes Rules Committee chairman job

Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, talks during an interview.
Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, talks during an interview.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Georgia State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, hopes to be the next chairman of the Rules Committee, and he appears to have a good shot at getting the powerful assignment when the legislature convenes on Jan. 14.

"Last I heard, he was in pretty good position," said Tom Crawford, whose blog, the Georgia Report, provides daily coverage of the Capitol for paid subscribers.

Mullis' appointment would double Northwest Georgia's clout in Atlanta, since Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, in 2011 was appointed chairman of the state House Rules Committee.

"That would be a real potential boost for the northwest corner of the state," Crawford said.

The committees have the power of life and death over proposed legislation. They set the legislative calendar and decide whether or not proposed laws are voted on.

"That's a lot of power to have," Crawford said.

Mullis, who took office in 2000, is hoping to beat out veteran Sen. Renne Unterman, R-Buford, who's also vying for the position.

"My gut feeling is Jeff Mullis is probably a stronger candidate at this point," Crawford said.

All Mullis would say is, "I'm very honored that I'm being considered for such an important committee chair appointment."

Current Rules Committee Chairman Don Balfour, R-Lilburn, is losing his post, Crawford said, after being fined $5,000 last year by the Senate Ethics Committee for filing inaccurate travel expense reports.

Another sign that Mullis' star is rising was his inclusion in the 2013 list of "100 Most Influential Georgians" in January's issue of Georgia Trend magazine.

Walker County Economic Development Director Larry Brooks said it helps when local lawmakers hold significant legislative positions.

"It really is to our advantage when we see one of our local guys climbing that ladder of influence," Brooks said.

The fact that Northwest Georgia is staunchly Republican and voters tend to re-elect incumbents helps give the region legislative clout, Crawford said.

He said another powerful Northwest Georgia lawmaker is Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Brooks noted that Gov. Nathan Deal represented Walker County in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 9th District. That district has been redrawn, but previously represented 15 counties in the northwest corner of the state.

"We do count him as being part of North Georgia," Brooks said of the governor.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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