ATLANTA — State Representative Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville) was sworn into office as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives on Monday, January 11, 2021, which was the first day of the 2021-2022 legislative term. In addition to being officially sworn in, the Georgia House of Representatives’ Committee on Assignments named Rep. Gunter as the Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He will also serve on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and the Economic Development & Tourism Committee.
“I am honored that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments have entrusted me to serve on these committees,” said Rep. Gunter. “It is humbling as a freshman to be named Vice Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and to also be selected to serve on the Appropriations Subcommittee for Public Safety. Serving on the Committee for Economic Development and Tourism will also be of great benefit to our district. I am excited and privileged to serve the citizens of House District 8.”
The House Judiciary Committee considers a wide variety of measures relating to law, courts and judges, as well as constitutional amendments. Any legislation that carries a possibility for civil penalties can be referred to this committee.
The House Committee on Assignments, chaired by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), is charged with making all House committee assignments for the members of the Georgia House of Representatives.
Representative Stan Gunter represents the citizens of District 8, which includes Rabun, Towns and Union counties and portions of White County. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2020 and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and the Economic Development & Tourism Committee.
ATLANTA, Ga. – House members assigned to the Special Committee on Election Integrity currently have a full plate as they sort through numerous bills with more expected to drop.
Before the session, Speaker David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge) expressed the importance of a committee dedicated to tackling voter confidence after the divisive Presidential and Senate elections of 2020 and 2021.
“Many Georgians are concerned about the integrity of our election system. Some of those concerns may or may not be well-founded, but there may be others that are,” said Ralston while speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event.
With a lot riding on the hot button issue, Ralston tapped fellow Republican and lawyer Rep. Barry Fleming (R – Harlem) as Chairman to the Special Committee on Election Integrity.
“I am excited and humbled that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments has entrusted me with this committee chairmanship on such a vital issue,” Fleming said in a press release.
As of February 4, 14 different pieces of legislation have been sent to the committee for review. On the Senate side, Members of the Senate Ethics Committee are dealing with another 17 election-related bills.
Only one bill, HB 59, carries bipartisan support. In summary, the legislation would create an instant runoff election, also known as a ranked-choice system for military and overseas voters. HB 59 is authored by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R – Woodstock). Also, Rep. Health Clark (R – Warner Robins) and Bonnie Rich (R – Suwanee), have co-sponsored the legislation.
Rep. Bee Nguyen (D – Atlanta), one of three Democrats to co-sponsor the bill, stated, “The bipartisan bill on rank-choice voting is a step in the right direction and would reduce the cost of running elections in the state of Georgia.”
A cautious Ralston previously commented that he would need a “real strong case to convince him” of anything that would challenge Georgia’s no-excuse absentee voting system.
So far, similar legislation has fallen along partisan lines. After social media giant Mark Zuckerberg donated 400 million dollars in the 2020 election cycle, Republican lawmakers have vowed to put an end to private funding aimed at what conservatives feel unfairly influences elections. 42 Georgia counties received private grant money last year. Authored by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R – Dallas), HB 62 would bar local elections officials from accepting private funds. HB 62 currently has five co-sponsors.
One of the more bold pieces of legislation doesn’t come from the House, but rather the Senate. Proposed by Sen. Gloria Butler (D – Stone Mountain), SB 37 calls to replace the electoral college with a National Popular Vote. So far, Butler’s bill has 15 other so-sponsors. 15 states plus the District of Columbia have signed on to similar legislation.
While Republicans still hold to a majority at the state level, 2020 marked the year of the Democrat for Georga after it swung for Joe Biden (D), then Senators Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) took their runoffs. Republicans’ legislative action must prove that future elections aren’t lost after 75,000 voters didn’t show for the January run-off.
ATLANTA, Ga – Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston announced intentions to change the way Georgia selects a Secretary of State. He favors placing the power with the legislature.
Ralston will ask the Governmental Affairs Committee to craft a constitutional amendment that changes the Secretary of State to an appointed position. The bill would need to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. Currently, Georgia citizens elect the Secretary of State.
“I think it’s time in Georgia that we look an alternative way of electing a Secretary of State. There’s more than one option as an alternative. Frankly, I like the option of having the General Assembly elect that individual for a set term,” Ralston commented.
The Secretaries of State of Tennessee, Maine, and New Hampshire are all elected by their respective state legislatures.
“I feel like it’s the only way to right this ship. I don’t do this lightly or disrespectfully to the incumbent who I have high personal regard for. I do this because we have a job to do as members of the house and members of the senate,” Ralston finished.
The move comes after several weeks of questions, concerns, and Republican in-fighting over the November 3 elections. One concern that several elected Republicans in Georgia take issue with is the consent decree signed by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp without informing the General Assembly until afterward.
If the bill becomes law, a Secretary of State couldn’t enter into a consent decree without first consulting the legislature.
It would also remove power from the hands of the voter and place it with the General Assembly. Ralston argued that the people are feeling “excluded” by the Secretary of State’s Office.
If the bill passed the House and Senate, then it would land on the governor’s desk. Kemp has supported Raffensperger through much of the post-election disputes, aside from calling for future reforms. At this point, it’s unlikely he would sign the bill.
This isn’t the first time Ralston and Raffensberger didn’t see eye-to-eye. Before the June primary, Ralston expressed disapproval in the Secretary of State’s plan to send all Georgians an absentee ballot application. Some reports suggest that these applications carried over through the General Election.
The House’s Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing concerning election irregularities today. They invited the Secretary of State Raffensperger and team. Last night, the Secretary of State’s Office informed the committee that they declined to attend the hearing. The committee wanted to speak with the Secretary of State about potential improvements that could be made to the system. Ralston ensured that the Secretary of State knew it would be a “fact-finding” and “non-adversarial” meeting.
“I’m completely shocked. I’m disappointed. I don’t ever remember in my time serving in this Assembly, a Constitutional Officer refusing to come before a House or a Senate Committee to offer up information that might be helpful to the people’s representatives,” Ralston remarked. “The people of Georgia are wanting answers out of their representatives.”
He believed Georgia’s representatives are entitled to a question-and-answer session with the Secretary of State’s Office.
The Secretary of State’s Office did hold a 3 p.m. press conference to debunk more voter fraud claims.
“Today we have yet another example of a Constitutional Officer who has chosen to be on his own and disregard input from the people who he looks to for his budget and to consider legislative changes to his office,” Ralston added.
Video footage courtesy of 11Alive.