Balfour, Unterman get national committee appointments

Two high profile senators from Gwinnett picked up national roles.

In the spate of offseason committee assignments doled out this week, Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, and Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, were named to committees of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In his role on the two committees, Labor and Work force Development and Legislative Effectiveness and State Government, Balfour will be responsible for state and federal labor and employment issues, including public and private sector employment, wage laws, pensions and retirement, employee benefits, social security, unemployment insurance and benefits, unions, work force training, adult education and school-to-work transition as well as examining strategies, practices and procedures for making legislators, staff and legislatures more effective.

"I am so honored by this appointment," Balfour said. "Working with my colleagues from other states has been a great experience. Sharing ideas regarding legislation - what works and what doesn't - has been invaluable to me as a legislator. It has made our legislative process more effective and that is important to those of us who serve in the General Assembly and to our constituents."

Unterman, R-Buford, also was named to National Conference of State Legislatures' Agriculture and Rural Development; Budgets and Revenue; and Health and Human Services and Welfare committees.

"After serving in the House as well as the Senate, I am more aware of the legislative process than ever. The legislative structure is complex and now I realize how important it is to work with both sides of the aisle to get things done," Unterman said.

Reed's roots

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Ralph Reed said he's going to run a grass-roots campaign and has the names to prove it.

The political consultant from Duluth this week released the names of 473 Georgians from 104 counties who will make up his 2006 campaign steering committee.

"This is a leadership team that embraces the full diversity of Georgia,'' said Reed.

At the top will be former University of Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier, who will serve as Reed's campaign chairman.

Among the half dozen honorary co-chairmen will be Nancy Coverdell, widow of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell; former Sen. Mack Mattingly; and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Grantville.

State Sen. Ralph Hudgens, R-Comer, another co-chairman, said he's known Reed since 1989.

"I've never seen any inconsistency in his talk or his plans with the values that I hold true as a dedicated, conservative businessman,'' said Hudgens, who represents Barrow County. "I think Ralph will be a tremendous addition to the leadership team in the Senate.''

One key to Reed's support among Republican politicians is that, as a leader in the state party for years and its chairman in 2002, he helped put many of them in office. There's a sense that they owe him one.

"For years, he's been helping us get elected,'' said Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens, another honorary co-chairman. "Now, it's our turn to help him get elected.''

However, Sen. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, Reed's opponent for the Republican nomination, has lined up some support of his own. Cagle's campaign announced this week that he's been endorsed by 23 of his Senate GOP colleagues, including Sen. David Shafer of Duluth.

Shafer lost to Reed in 2001's race to become the state Republican party chairman.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Staff writer Dave Williams contributed to this report.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com .