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Senator Chuck Hufstetler to chair Senate Finance Committee

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Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome

The tax rate went down and the fund balance rose when state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler was a Floyd County commissioner. Now the Rome Republican is taking the helm of the Senate Finance Committee.

Hufstetler, who is starting his third two-year term in the Georgia General Assembly, was notified of the chairmanship Monday, the start of the 40-day session.

“I felt that finance was perhaps my biggest contribution at the county level and that this was a good fit for me at the state level,” he said. “The leadership rewarded me with the position and I’m excited to get to work.”

Hufstetler chaired the county’s finance committee for six years when he served on the board.

During that period the county earned its first AA bond rating in modern history.

He said he has no specific plans for the Senate Finance Committee yet, “but I do think our revenue and tax structure needs to be looked at to see if it’s the best for taxpayers and the state.”

Lawmakers were sworn into office Monday, and spent the day electing leaders and adopting changes to internal rules. Gov. Nathan Deal is scheduled to lay out his legislative agenda in his State of the State speech Wednesday.

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Rome, said House committee assignments are expected Wednesday. Lumsden is one of 11 deputy whips, tasked with monitoring legislation as it moves through both chambers.

The majority whip is another Floyd County delegate, Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville.

Coomer was elected to the leadership position in November and will be giving up the chair of the House Transportation Committee. Other chairs are vacant due to retirements or election losses.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said the open chairmanships make for a “very fluid” situation — one that’s full of excitement and possibility, especially for the new lawmakers.

She’s expecting to keep her focus on health and human services and her chairmanship of the human resources subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

“I had meetings all day in my office, listening to agencies about their budgets,” she said.

She has subcommittee hearings scheduled for Thursday and Friday, then the Legislature will be off the next week while the Appropriations Committee gets started on its work.

Also on Monday, the Senate voted to move up the deadline for bills to pass from one legislative chamber to the other. The so-called “Crossover Day” deadline for bills starting in the House to reach the Senate, and vice versa, was changed to the 28th day of the session. It had previously been day 30.

“We would have liked day 27,” Hufstetler said. “A lot of times committees don’t act on the other chamber’s bills until then and we didn’t feel that was enough time.”

Coomer said expects the House to agree to the new schedule.

“In the end, I think it benefits the House above the Senate,” he said. “We tend to pass a lot more bills because there are more of us.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.