ATLANTA – Newly elected Lt. Gov. Burt Jones says he is “laser-focused” on the well-being of Georgians.
The Jackson Republican and businessman ran for lieutenant governor after a decade as a state senator because he wanted a new challenge and thought he could help ordinary Georgians, Jones told Capitol Beat this week.
“I have always been of the mindset that you shouldn’t stay put for too long,” he said. “You either move up or move on.
“I saw an opportunity to lower our state income tax to put more money back into the pockets of hardworking Georgians, empower parents and teachers, and to make our communities safer.”
Jones beat out then-Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller in last May’s Republican primary and went on to defeat Democrat Charlie Bailey by 5 percentage points as part of the GOP’s November sweep of statewide constitutional offices.
Jones’ campaign was helped along by loans from his personal fortune. His father founded Jones Petroleum Company, a wholesale fuel distributor that also owns retail and fast-food outlets.
Besides being a businessman and lawyer, Jones’ father, William “Bill” Jones, served in the Georgia House of Representatives for four terms beginning in 1976 – as a Democrat.
The younger Jones, who was born in 1979, attended the University of Georgia, where he majored in history and served as captain of the 2002 SEC championship-winning football team after initially joining as a walk-on.
Jones went on to found J.P. Capital & Insurance, an insurance agency in Jackson, and won his first run for the Senate in 2012.
Now that Jones is firmly ensconced as head of Georgia’s upper chamber, he is concentrating on workaday issues such as public safety and growing the state’s workforce.
He called addressing gang violence in Georgia “a top priority for my office.” This week, he announced his strong support for a bill that would institute mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of gang recruitment.
Jones also wants to fix Georgia’s workforce challenges. He is backing a Senate bill that would make it easier for state agencies to hire people who do not hold college degrees.
“I want to increase Georgia’s workforce by taking a holistic approach to increase the number of Georgians all types of business can hire, immediately and long term,” he said.
Jones wants to make Georgia “the most affordable place to adopt a child.” And he supported the creation of the new Senate Committee on Children and Families, which has already held an in-depth hearing on problems in the foster-care system.
Two issues likely to draw heated debate this session are abortion rights and whether the state can pre-empt local control of housing regulations.
When it comes to abortion, Jones said he stands by the abortion regulations outlined in the “heartbeat law.” Passed in 2019, the law prohibits abortions in most cases after about six weeks of pregnancy, although it allows exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. The law is currently in effect in Georgia but faces a legal challenge, with the state Supreme Court expected to hear arguments on the matter next month.
“We’re going to have a wait-and-see mode on that front as [the law] moves through the court system,” Jones said.
Local governments’ control over housing regulations is also likely to draw controversy this session as lawmakers consider how to increase the supply of affordable housing around the state.
“I am not against local control,” Jones told Capitol Beat. “Like any other issue, I think it deserves to be heard and go through the legislative process. I look forward to seeing how this shapes up.”
One of the lieutenant governor’s main responsibilities is managing the day-to-day workings of the Senate. Jones said he is committed to allowing debate in the Senate chamber.
“I believe in allowing … robust and open debate,” Jones said. “I’m not going to shut down the conversation if a senator brings an issue forward because they have legitimate issues that may address the needs of their district or constituency.”
“I’m solely focused on being a really good lieutenant governor for the people of Georgia,” Jones said. “I am laser-focused on the future and doing all that I can to ensure our state continues to move in the right direction.”