It has been the honor of my life to serve you these passed eight years as your state representative. However, as a person who believes in term limits, and our Founding Father’s vision of a citizen-legislator who serves for a short time and then returns to his former life, I will not be seeking another term of office.
I feel that I am leaving on a good note. Georgia is currently on a record-setting pace of economic development, much of which has come to Newton and Morgan counties.
During the last eight years, we’ve been blessed by the opening of Takeda, a $2 billion project that brings in 1,300 jobs. We have also welcomed Facebook, a $84 billion investment that provides 700 jobs. SK Semiconductor Plant just announced they will invest another $473 million and 400 Jobs. Three Ring Studios (which is now Cinelease) is operating at full capacity. And of course, we expect another huge announcement in the coming weeks.
I’m proud to have been a part of a fiscally-conservative state government that has the second lowest per capita taxpayer burden, and the second best bond rating in the nation. Because of these sound policies, Georgia is blessed with a record low unemployment rate of 3.1%. Last year alone, Georgia won $11 billion in new investments and 200,000 new jobs, 74% of which are outside of Atlanta. And we’re finally committing $70 million to rural development and broadband.
During COVID, Georgia experienced the fifth lowest jobs lost in the nation. After COVID, she boasts the fifth best jobs regained. We’ve deepened the port in Savannah, making it the fourth busiest in America. The ATL is still the busiest airport in the world, providing $82 billion of revenue every year (double the state budget). Georgia’s air is cleaner than it was before, her water is purer, she has more trees, her farmers are more productive, and she’s now the fifth most solar-powered state in the nation.
Most importantly, for a record nine years in a Row, Georgia is the Best State in the Nation to do Business In.
We have passed many important bills during the last eight years. One of the most necessary was the repeal of the Citizens Arrest Law, necessitated by the horrible tragedy of Ahmad Aubrey. Other important bills include the Hate Crime Bill, Anti-Human Trafficking Bill, and Maternal Mortality measures. We’ve also increased standards for nursing homes and made it easier to vote and harder to cheat with the Election Reform Bill last year.
I’m especially proud of laws that help children. These include the Vaping Bill, Marcy’s Law for victim’s rights, an improved Adoption Bill, and the medical cannabis bill. I was also honored to pass “Kelsey’s Law” that helps protect young girls from internet porn abuse.
As a school board member who led the passage of Georgia’s first texting-while-driving bill (“Caleb’s Law”), I was very pleased that we updated that measure to a hands-free law. Three hundred Georgian lives are saved every year because of these efforts. I am also grateful that we passed the pro-life “Heart Beat” bill.
I’m very glad that Georgia invests 53% of our state budget into our 2.1 million students. I’m pleased that we’ve halved the number of standardized tests, an initiative I championed. I’ve personally passed many education bills, including a fiscal transparency bill, a Teacher Tax Credit bill, and three military children laws. I also worked with State Superintendent Richard Woods to create the Military Flagship Award that celebrates military-friendly schools. Most important, I have fought to return control of the classroom back to teachers by ensuring that we don’t add more mandates and don’t continually change their curriculum.
The result is the best ever education scores that Georgia has ever had. Twenty years ago, we were dead last on the SAT. Now we are better than the national average on the SAT, and the ACT four years in a row. Our graduation rates are up by a third to a record 82%, and our K12 scores are now 13th best in the nation. We are also 13th best in college Advanced Placement scores, Dual Enrollment has been a smashing success, and we have protected the HOPE Scholarship… one of the strongest scholarship programs in the country. Letting teachers teach has created much better results than the previous decades of meddling by the state and the feds.
I am most proud, however, of the 13 military friendly bills that I have personally passed — as well as the 54 pro-military laws that the committee I chaired passed — to make Georgia the most military-friendly state in the nation. These include several laws that allow military spouses to practice physical therapy, psychiatry, counseling, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and nursing in Georgia. They also allow greater rural access to these fields, as well as telemedicine. I also sponsored the creation of the Georgia Defense Commission, which works with the Pentagon to improve the lives of our military families.
In total, I have passed 27 bills in seven years, nine of which were local measures, as well as 57 resolutions, mostly to honor local leaders.
During my tenure, we’ve widened many roads in the district, including Highways 441 and 278. Significant state investment has also greatly improved the FFA Camp in Newton County, as well as the middle and high schools in Morgan County. Overall, some $80 million of state and federal dollars have come to Newton and Morgan counties during the past eight years.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you. Over the last 36 years, I have served 23 years in the military, flying in combat zones during five different wars. I have also served as a PTO treasurer, and then Band Booster president for 10 years. I have also served as a school board member for eight years, and state legislator for another eight years.
I can honestly say that being a legislator is the most rewarding and yet odious job I have ever had. The current level of political vitriol — from both the left and the right — makes me wonder why anyone of good conscience would ever seek public office.
I hope I’ll be remembered as a happy warrior, a Reagan Republican who always championed Unity, Prosperity, and Liberty. And like Reagan, I still firmly believe that America is the last, best hope for freedom throughout the world.