Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, has landed the second-highest seat in the Georgia Senate as its president pro tem.
Miller sought the role three years ago but was beat in the GOP race by David Shafer, R-Duluth, who is now running for lieutenant governor. The selection is made by a majority of the Senate, but with Republicans controlling almost 40 of the 56 seats, Republican senators decide who fills the spot.
The vote took place last week at a Republican meeting ahead of the beginning of the Jan. 8 legislative session. The formal vote will take place after the legislature convenes.
Miller’s elevation to the role gives Gainesville and Hall County a strong hand in the Georgia General Assembly, as Gov. Nathan Deal, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle are also from Hall County.
As the president pro tem of the Senate, Miller leads the body when the lieutenant governor is unavailable. The position also comes with a greater role in the budget-building process.
Both Deal and former Gov. Sonny Perdue, now the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were presidents pro tem of the Georgia Senate, though Miller had no comment Friday on future races and said his focus is on his current role as a senator.
He told The Times on Friday that Republican senators from around the state supported his bid for the new position.
“It wasn’t just a North Georgia coup,” he said.
He noted the support of Sens. Jeff Mullis, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Renee Unterman, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Larry Walker, Deal’s floor leader, John Wilkinson and Steve Gooch. Wilkinson represents an area including Toccoa and Gooch represents an area including Dahlonega.
Running against Miller for the Senate leadership position were Sens. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, and Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta.
On Friday, Miller said the focus of the legislature is likely going to be on the state’s rural economy, which has lagged behind prospering metro Atlanta in recent years, and statewide transit and transportation. Miller noted rural health care and broadband are going to be big issues to address in the state’s more than $23 million budget in 2018.
Miller is a member of Senate appropriations, banking and financial institutions, ethics and regulated industries and utilities committees. He’s also the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Overview committee.
He was first elected in 2010 and is general manager of Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville.Miller spoke with other members of the Hall County delegation on Thursday at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues breakfast.