by Dave Williams | Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA — The Georgia House of Representatives set an example of efficiency Monday its congressional counterpart could only dream of emulating.
Lawmakers elected House Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington, to move up to speaker of the House in just a single ballot and by acclamation.
Burns succeeds the late Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who died in November at age 68 following an extended illness.
“This is a very bittersweet moment,” Burns told his House colleagues following Monday’s vote. “The passing of Speaker David Ralston has left a hole in the heart of this House.”
House members also reelected Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, to continue as speaker pro tempore, the second-in-command position she was first elected to in 2010. Jones took the reins temporarily as speaker after Ralston’s death, becoming the first female House speaker in Georgia history.
Burns was elected to the House in 2004. His Republican colleagues elected him majority leader in 2015.
It took the Georgia House less than an hour to get its leadership team in place, in sharp contrast with the U.S. House of Representatives, where the new Republican majority took four days and 15 ballots last week to choose U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House speaker.
On Monday, both Burns and Jones thanked their colleagues for their support and vowed to work with lawmakers from both parties to move the state forward.
“This House will continue to lead,” Burns said. “It will continue to be independent. … It will continue to champion the policies that make Georgia the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”
On the Senate side Monday, Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, was unanimously elected Senate president pro tempore, that chamber’s second-highest leadership position. Newly elected Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones did not preside over the Senate as he will during the remainder of the session because he won’t be sworn into office until Thursday.
“My office will be here to serve this entire chamber … whether Republican or Democrat,” Kennedy told his fellow senators. “We may not agree on all issues … but you will be treated respectfully.”
Lawmakers in both legislative chambers also voted unanimously Monday to set the schedule for the entire 40-day session. The House and Senate will take off Tuesday to allow members to return from Monday night’s college football championship game in Los Angeles featuring the Georgia Bulldogs.
The General Assembly will hold a joint session on Thursday for the inauguration of Gov. Brian Kemp to a second four-year term.
After meeting this Friday, the legislature will not meet again on Fridays throughout the session to give lawmakers more time with their families.
Crossover Day, the deadline for bills to clear at least one legislative chamber, will take place on March 6. “Sine Die,” the final day of the session, will take place on March 29.
— [This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.]
Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns