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Legislative shakeup lands N.F. leaders in right spot


Jones, Shafer share power with Legislature's elite



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January 23, 2013
NORTH FULTON, Ga. North Fulton legislators are gaining clout that comes with seniority in the House and Senate, but two have emerged now with posts that will increase this region's leverage in the General Assembly.

With former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers bowing out of the state Senate to take a political plum of a job as a $150,000-a-year executive with Georgia Public Television, part of the new broom in the Senate has Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, promoted to president pro tempore, the No. 2 slot in the Senate behind Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

State Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, is already ensconced as speaker pro tempore in the House of the General Assembly and has the No. 2 slot in the House.

They also both serve in the Fulton County legislative delegation, which means any petitions for special legislation by the delegation are likely to receive favorable attention.

Both Jones and Shafer are longtime members of the legislature, with Jones' almost meteoric rise as the first woman speaker pro tem in Georgia in 2011. As the No. 2 legislators in both houses, they have a good deal of power in their respective houses as well as with the GOP caucuses.

They can help or hinder the path of legislation as it moves through the houses, and most of the bills never reach the floor, in part because of the volume and the legislative bureaucracy involved.

"We have strong leadership in the upper echelons [of the legislature]," said Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs. "It's very positive for the area [North Fulton] to have two of the top three district-elected leaders in the General Assembly.

"When you have things that shape your area or have an effect on your area, it's good to have some good people to talk for us and get the message across," Willard said.

Jones and Shafer will work closely during the session not only with each other but also with Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who serves as president of the Senate.

That means when the big decisions are made about what gets done in the General Assembly, Shafer and Jones will be at the table. And each stands in if the Senate president or House speaker is absent or cannot serve.

Each has the responsibility for the operations of their respective houses during the session and serves on their chamber's Committee on Assignments, which hands out committee chairmanships.

Shafer, a 10-year member of the Senate, has had precincts in Johns Creek for several years, and is no stranger to the needs of Fulton County.

"Jan Jones and I have been friends for over a decade, and have always worked well together," Shafer said. "We have a common vision for North Fulton."

Jones agreed, saying their 10-year relationship will be "helpful" during the session, and they will meet every week of the session.

North Fulton has always had a "strong and influential delegation," Shafer said. And he does not see that changing.

Neither revealed much in the way of how their partnership will proceed in the coming session. But they are sitting in positions that can influence state and local legislation.

As Jones noted, the Fulton legislative delegation (See article on Lynne Riley Named Delegation Chair) will have a Republican majority on the delegation.

"This has been a long time coming [a majority on the delegation]. I'm going to make my No. 1 priority to reduce the costs of living in Fulton County," Jones said.

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