State Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, opened the state’s 2018 legislative session Monday with a big announcement: He will no longer be the state Senate’s No. 2 official.
Shafer, who is running for lieutenant governor this year, officially stepped down from his high-ranking leadership position as Georgia State Senate’s president pro tempore after five years in the role. The lieutenant governor serves as the Senate’s president, with the president pro tempore filling in when needed.
Shafer, who will remain in the Senate, told his colleagues shortly after the chamber convened at the state Capitol for the opening of the legislative session that he decided in early December to leave his leadership position. Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, was elected Monday as the new president pro tempore.
“Since we were last together, the lieutenant governor has announced that he is running for governor and I have announced that I will be a candidate for lieutenant governor,” Shafer told his colleagues. “With the primary months away, that campaign will occupy increasingly more of my time and attention.
“Therefore, I tendered my resignation as president pro tempore in early December, to take effect upon the election of my successor.”
The move clears some of Shafer’s plate as he runs for higher office, allowing him to juggle that bid with his role as a Senator without having to also handle a leadership role. He stopped taking campaign contributions Monday morning because state law prohibits state government officials from accepting campaign contributions while the General Assembly is in session.
The rule means legislators have to wait until the session ends, likely to happen near the end of March.
Shafer has served in the Senate since 2002. His colleagues elected him to the president pro tempore position in 2013.
As he addressed his colleagues, Shafer recalled joining the Senate midway through the 2002 session. At the time, Republicans held 21 seats in the Senate and were therefore the chamber’s minority party. Shafer’s seat mate in the Senate was then-Sen. Casey Cagle.
“Most of us believed that we would eventually become the majority party, but none of us realistically thought that moment was only months away,” Shafer said.
“While I cannot say that I have enjoyed every minute of my time in the legislature, as I survey the last seventeen years, I feel immense gratitude at the opportunity to be part of what we have accomplished together.”
Shafer also told the Senate that he is proud of some of the things that have come from the chamber over the years including a shift toward zero-based budgeting and amending the state Constitution to cap the state income tax.
“And I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had to participate in the work of this body,” he said. “I am especially grateful for the opportunity to serve as your president pro tem.”
Meanwhile, Miller said he was honored to be chosen as the new president pro tempore and thankful to be supported by his fellow senators.
“This job is a big undertaking and one that I know will come with disagreements and differences of opinions but I know that our chamber can have our disagreements without being disagreeable,” Miller said in a statement. “And for this reason, I am confident that we will be able to pass meaningful legislation for all Georgians, regardless of where they live or what they do.”