State house elects Jon Burns as speaker, joining Burt Jones as new Senate leader

State legislature has new leaders for first time in decades; Gov. Brian Kemp leads GOP trifecta of political power
Interview with Dr. Charles Bullock, UGA
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 12:33 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:37 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - House Majority Leader Jon Burns was elected the new speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives on Monday.

Burns represents District 159 in southeast Georgia, including Effingham and Bulloch counties.

While keeping his seat as a state representative from Dalton, Ralston resigned as speaker of the House last week due to health reasons.

For the first time in recent memory, the state House and Senate will have new leaders, as state Sen. Burt Jones was elected as the state’s new lieutenant governor last week.

“Georgia doesn’t turn over speakers very often,” said Dr. Charles Bullock of the University of Georgia, adding he cannot remember a legislative session where both the House speaker and lieutenant governor - who is president of the Senate - were new.

Burns was first elected to the house in 2004, and served as the House Majority Leader since 2015. He is currently serving his eighth two-year term of office, and has been widely seen as a Ralston ally.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, a conservative Republican from the Augusta area, was also running for speaker.

Burns now becomes one of Georgia’s most influential political leaders. Gov. Brian Kemp was easily re-elected last week to a second term, and Republicans hold a 100-80 advantage over Democrats in the state House.

On Friday, Senate Republicans - who hold a 33-23 majority - nominated a new president pro tempore and elected new caucus leaders.

State Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) was nominated as president pro tempore. If elected by the full Senate when it convenes in January, he he would succeed former Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), who left the Senate to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

State Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) was elected majority leader.

Over the weekend, Kemp named Amelia Hawkins, his deputy re-election campaign manager to become the new executive director of the Georgians First Leadership Committee.

Also, Cody Hall, who was Kemp’s director of communications and senior advisor during his campaign, will serve as senior advisor to the committee and for Kemp’s political activity in his second term.