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Political Notes: February 2015

Mr. Perdue Goes To Washington: Georgia’s new junior U.S. Senator, Republican David Perdue, hit the ground running as the new Congress convened and the Senate majority leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, established a busy schedule and longer work week for senators.

Missing from Capitol Hill for the first January in more than 20 years was former Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who retired at the end of the last session.

In the House, four new Georgia representatives, all Republicans, took office as the 114th Congress began: Buddy Carter, District 1, replacing Jack Kingston; Jody Hice, District 10, replacing Paul Broun; Barry Loudermilk, District 11, replacing Phil Gingrey; and Rick Allen, District 12, replacing Democrat John Barrow.

A Top Spot For Yates: President Barack Obama’s nominee for Deputy Attorney General is Sally Quillian Yates, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. The announcement drew praise from Atlanta’s legal community and from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson – indicating, perhaps, a speedy confirmation.

Yates has been with the U.S. Attorney’s office since 1989. She was the lead prosecutor in the case against

Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, and much of her career has involved public corruption cases. She became U.S. Attorney in 2010.

More Runoffs: Both of the vacant Georgia House seats that required special elections in January will be decided in runoffs Tuesday, Feb. 3, since neither race produced a candidate with a majority of votes.

In District 50, formerly represented by Lynn Riley, who resigned to become state revenue commissioner,

Bradford Jay Raffensperger is running against Kelly Leigh Stewart. Both are Republicans.

In District 120, Republicans Jesse Copelan and Trey Rhodes are vying for the seat vacated by veteran lawmaker Mickey Channell, who resigned for health reasons.

Voter turnout for the January elections was low, with only 13.31 percent of all registered voters casting ballots.

And Another Consolidation: The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) has voted to consolidate two more schools: Georgia State University (GSU) and Georgia Perimeter College. GSU President  Mark Becker will head the school, which will retain the Georgia State University name.

This is the sixth consolidation since Chancellor Hank Huckaby took office in 2011. He called Georgia State “a

recognized national leader in improving student retention and graduation rates,” and said “combining these attributes with Georgia Perimeter College’s leadership in providing access to students across the metro area presents a major opportunity to improve student success.”

Once the merger is complete, the university system will have 29 institutions. At its meeting last month, the Board of Regents also finalized the consolidation of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University under the leadership of longtime Kennesaw State President Dr. Dan Papp.

Graves Takes The Chair: U.S. District 14 Rep. Tom Graves (R-Dalton) is chairing the House Appropriations

Committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the House, the Capitol Police, the Library of Congress and the Government Accountability Office.

Graves was elected to Congress in 2010 and became a member of the Appropriations Committee in 2011. A release from his office notes that it is unusual for a House member to become a subcommittee chairman after just four years of service.

Graves called it an honor to be entrusted with the job.

Farewell Tribute: U.S Sen. Johnny Isakson said farewell to his retiring colleague Saxby Chambliss on the floor of the U.S. Senate, saying, “The country will miss you but my grandchildren are safer, my state is better and our relationship has never been stronger.”

Isakson compared him to past Georgia senators Richard Russell, Zell Miller and Sam Nunn and said, “Saxby will be fourth on the Mount Rushmore of Georgia senators who served Georgia with distinction and with class.”

The two have been friends since they were college classmates at the University of Georgia in the 1960s.

Let The Sun Shine: The Georgia Public Service Commission has approved and certified 10 solar power agreements for the Georgia Power Co., which it says will add more than 515 megawatts to the company’s energy mix.

PSC Commissioner Tim Echols said Georgia is emphasizing utility scale projects. “We didn’t subsidize or require power companies to reach some lofty percentage of generation,” he says. “As a result, the market will actually put downward pressure on rates.”

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