Dear Friends and Fellow GOP House Caucus members:
Let me begin by thanking so many of you who have taken the time to talk to me during this busy Christmas season about the Majority Whip race. I promise to continue listening to all of you after the election.
One recurring question that I have heard is whether I can work with the different leading candidates in the Speaker and Speaker Pro Tem races? I have worked closely with all of them on various legislation, appeared before each of the committees they have chaired, and had them appear before my committees. They are all thoughtful and well knowledged representatives who have the temperament and character to lead the House in these difficult times. If you honor me tomorrow by electing me as your Majority Whip, I can work with any of them to tackle the serious substantive issues which await us in the 2010 session.
I realize that you are receiving a crush of e mails from all the candidates leading up to tomorrow’s vote. I hope you will give me a few moments to present my “closing argument” on my background and why I believe that I am the best candidate to be your next Majority Whip.
I am a Georgia native with deep roots in this state. My mother’s family has farmed in Wilcox County since the 1830’s. My father’s family first arrived in Atlanta shortly before the Civil War. As a child, I attended Atlanta public schools and spent every summer on the family farm from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
After high school, I was fortunate to attend Davidson College and Georgia Law School on scholarships, student loans, and a side business started by me and my dad operating vending machines. (If any of you have ever worked for your parents, you know it is the toughest job you will ever have.)
After graduating from law school, I moved to Toccoa, Georgia for three years to practice law. My legal work consisted of anything that came through the office door from real estate and wills to civil and criminal cases. I also served as a Special Assistant Attorney General representing the Department of Transportation and the Department of Family and Children Services.
I subsequently returned to Atlanta to practice civil litigation, and in 1990, I started my own firm, Goodman McGuffey Lindsey & Johnson, LLP, with three friends. Since then, we have grown to approximately thirty five lawyers and almost 100 employees. We have offices in Atlanta, Orlando, and, beginning this month, Savannah.
My practice has centered on civil litigation, primarily representing and defending insurance carriers, businesses, professionals and individuals in law suits. I have been recognized by Atlanta Magazine as one of the Georgia’s Super Lawyers and by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the regions’ top 100 attorneys.
In 1988, I married my Elizabeth Green Lindsey. She and I have been fortunate to have three great sons, Harman, Charlie, and Zack. We attend All Saints Episcopal Church where I usher and teach Sunday School, on and off, and Elizabeth does just about everything, including serving on our parish Vestry.
II. Political Career
After one earlier failed attempted at running for the State Senate (forgive me), I was elected in 2004 to the House as part of the sweep that year that ushered in our GOP majority.
Since arriving, I have served as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee (2005-2009), Deputy Whip (2005-2009), and as Chair of the House Appropriations Sub Committee on Education (2009- ). I have also served on the Appropriations, Ways and Means, Judiciary, Education, and Industrial Relations Committees.
In addition, I served in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles on the House GOP Caucus Politics Committee that oversaw the successful enhancement and maintenance of our House majority. I was also tapped in the summer of 2008 to Co Chair our House Republican Policy Committee where we have sought to develop a bottom up approach to setting caucus policy. .
As part of my legislative duties, I also serve on the Southeast Regional Education Board, as one of Georgia’s three Commissioners to the national Uniform Law Commission, and as Vice Chairman of the Georgia Child Support Commission. I am also active in ALEC.
III. Legislative Accomplishments
Moratorium on Property Reassessment Increases (HB 233): Sponsored this legislation to impose a three year moratorium on increased property reassessments for tax purposes to protect property owners during the current economic crisis.
Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (HB 126): Sponsored this legislation to provide for uniform requirements for transacting business over the internet.
Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (HB 127): Sponsored this legislation to provide for a statewide uniform system for electronic filing of court documents in each of Georgia’s 159 counties.
Sales Tax Exemption on Construction for the Atlanta Zoo (HB 129): Sponsored this legislation to exempt the Atlanta Zoo from sales taxes on construction material for its planned expansion.
Placement Assistance for Hard to Place Foster Children into Permanent Adoptive Homes (HB 237): Sponsored this legislation to assist foster children who are older or who have special medical or emotional needs in permanent adoptive homes.
Charter School Reform (HB 881): I chaired the House Education Sub Committee on Charter Schools which held hearings in the fall of 2007 on needed changes to Georgia’s Charter School laws. The result was HB 881 sponsored by Jan Jones and co sponsored by myself and Chairman Brooks Coleman. The bill provides for a dual track chartering system between the local school board and the state and insures that state and local education dollars follow the child.
Uniform Environmental Covenants Act (HB 1132): Sponsored this legislation to create a uniform statewide system for recording and maintaining environmental restrictions on contaminated property that cannot be realistically returned to a pristine condition. By doing so, property owners are able to return the property to a marketable state and reduce brown space, while at the same time protecting surrounding property owners.
Child Guardianship legislation (HB 1040): Sponsored this legislation which provides the courts with a third alternative in chronic child abuse and neglect cases. In such cases, the courts historically could only choose between termination of parental rights and continuing temporary foster care. This bill allows for the child to be placed with a permanent guardian, which allows the child to maintain at least some connection with his/her biological family.
Revise Foreclosure Notice Requirements (SB 531): I chaired the House Judiciary Sub Committee that heard this bill first sponsored by Senator Bill Hamrick in the Senate and carried the bill in the House. The legislation enhances the notice requirements for distressed property owners prior to foreclosure and encourages the parties to try and negotiate a compromise.
Georgia Development Impact Fee reform (HB 232): Sponsored this legislation to require local governments that collect impact fees for transportation purposes to actually use the funds collected in the area impacted by the new development.
Georgia False Medicare/Medicaid Claims Act (HB 551): Sponsored this legislation that provides for a State Medicare/Medicaid False Claims Act to provide for civil remedies to sue those entities which engage in fraudulent Medicare/Medicaid activity.
Child Custody Reform (HB 369): I served on a study committee in 2006 with Chairmen Tom Rice, Earl Ehrhart, Judy Manning, and Mark Butler to review how child custody proceeding are conducted in Georgia. The result was this legislation which I co sponsored and helped shepherd through the Judiciary Committee and presented to the House. The bill provided for greater definition of what constitutes the “best interest of the child,” encourages greater cooperation between the parents, requires expedited rulings in contested custody cases, and allows for direct appeal of child custody orders.
Notary Qualifications (HB 274): Sponsored this legislation which tightens the requirements for those seeking to become a notary in response to the concerns that have arisen in the mortgage fraud crisis.
Increased fines for establishments serving alcohol (HB 1501): Sponsored this legislation that provides for enhanced penalties for bars selling alcohol to minors or otherwise operating as a nuisance in their communities.
Pre Trial Diversion Programs (HB 718): Sponsored this legislation that provides for an expansion of the pre trial diversion program in state, magistrate, and city courts for certain crimes.
City of Sandy Springs (HB 37): Co Sponsored along with Joe Wilkinson, Wendell Willard, and Harry Geisinger this legislation to finally allow for the creation of the City of Sandy Springs.
Georgia Residential Mortgage Fraud Act (SB 100): Sponsored in the House this legislation that gave the Georgia Attorney General the power to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud and provide for enhanced penalties under Georgia’s RICO statute.
IV. The Majority Whip position
As I mentioned in my initial e mail, I look upon the role of Majority Whip as being, in effect, our caucus lawyer. In order to be effective, I need to do the following:
1. Listen to the House GOP Caucus
It has been my long term belief that we must have a bottom up approach to caucus policy. In the summer of 2008, several of us proposed to Speaker that we need to embrace this approach. As a result he appointed me to Co Chair our Policy Committee along with Chairman Tom Rice. My goal as your Majority Whip is to enhance the Policy Committee’s role as a voice of the entire caucus.
2. Educate the House GOP Caucus
We need to continue the excellent work of the present Whip team in staying on top of bills moving through the committee process and providing daily digest in both a paper and electronic format of upcoming legislation. I also want to expand our present caucus huddle system to provide for greater caucus “bull sessions” on key upcoming legislation. I was fortunate to belong to the 216 Group when I first arrived in the House and found that the informal discussions organized to discuss upcoming bills was greatly beneficial – especially for newer members.
3. Advancing the House GOP Caucus legislation
My entire professional career has been about developing action plans and setting them into action to win and carry the day. As the majority party in the House, we must do the same. Our days of merely pulling the pin on a hand grenade and rolling it into the middle of the room are over. Our constituents expect us to not only make headlines but produce results on the breakfast room table issues of concerns in our communities. My ability to successfully strategize a legislative game plan is shown in the wide ranging legislation that I have passed since arriving.
I want to be your Majority Whip because the stakes are too high to our communities for us to fall short this year. Georgians elected us to provide strong conservative solutions and reforms to solve our present problems and I want to help guide the way to success.
Therefore, we must end the internal strife that has gripped us over the past few weeks and swiftly return our attention to the job before us. We face multiple challenges in the coming session. Our budget must be cut to reflect sagging revenue, while we also preserve critical government programs in education, public safety, and public health. A workable transportation plan must be developed and passed. Water capture, capacity, and conservation must be advanced. Education reform is vital. Private sector job growth must be nurtured and encouraged. Ethics laws, of course, need to be reassessed, strengthened, and swiftly passed to assure public confidence in our efforts after the recent events.
The people of Georgia expect us to approach these and other challenges with a strong pro growth, pro jobs, and fiscally conservative agenda to have their backs — without reaching deeper into their wallets – during these difficult economic times.
I ask for your support and vote for Majority Whip. Together, we can make the 2010 Session an historic one in terms of our advancement of the lives of all Georgians.