“I am really flattered and honored to be named to this top position in the Senate,” Mullis said.
Mullis said that two years ago a freshman group of senators, unaware of tradition, took away a lot of Cagle's powers in the Senate because they were unfamiliar with Senate traditions.
“Tommy Williams (Republican from Lyons), president pro-tem, wanted more power,” Mullis said of the coup, the successful attempt to overturn Cagle's power as Senate president.
The Rules, adopted at the premier of the legislative session, establishes who is in charge of the Senate. Mullis was a strong advocate to return Cagle to power and when it came to a vote; 35 senators agreed. Among Cagle's responsibilities is sitting on and appointing people to the Assignments Committee. This committee appoints senators to a variety of positions, including the chairman of the Rules Committee. The chairman is the gatekeeper to the Senate, Mullis said.
“No piece of legislation goes to the Senate unless I allow it,” Mullis said.
Mullis said he was not appointed to Rules chairman because he supported Cagle, though the relationship is relevant.
“The chairman of the Rules (Committee) is more about seniority than anything else,” the 12-year senator said. “Being one of the lieutenant governor’s staunch supporters and my seniority all played into it, but it (my appointment as chairman of Rules) is not solely for my support of him.”
The president of the Senate assigns duties to the committee on assignments at his discretion, according to the state website.
“Senator Mullis was a strong ally for Cagle as the coup ran its course,” said Walker County Republican Party chair Nathan Smith.
Likewise the opponents of Cagle two years ago are seeing their positions change as well. Among those losing powerful positions is prior Education Committee chairman Fran Millar, Republican from Atlanta. Previous Senate president pro-tem Williams was replaced by Senate vote for David Shafer, Republican from Duluth, Smith noted.
“A little retribution for those that did not support him (Cagle) is expected, but I hope the lieutenant governor is reaching out to mend those relationships,” Smith said.
Mullis said the situation with Cagle is all in the past. He does not expect any backlash for those who supported Cagle's exile.
When it comes to Mullis' new position as Rules chairman, it could result in good things for constituents in District 53, which includes all of Catoosa, Walker and Dade counties and most of Chattooga County.
Mullis is also executive director for the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, which is tasked with bringing business and industry to Walker, Catoosa, Dade and Chattooga counties.
“I am always on the job with the Joint Development Authority. This new position enhances my ability to do this job “ Mullis said. “The new Senate position (Rules chairman) gives new opportunity for economic development.”
Though the Rules chairman does not draft new legislation, he can push legislation to the Senate floor. Mullis will be in a position to have the Senate vote on bills to benefit north Georgia, Walker County commissioner Bebe Heiskell said.
“He is a Walker County person and we are very proud of him and his opportunity to reach a powerful position in the Senate,” Heiskell said.
Being Rules chairman won't interfere with Mullis' position at the development authority, according to Heiskell.
“He's done very well with managing his time when he was the chairman of the (Senate) Transportation Committee. It's just a lot more driving for him,” Heiskell said. “He stays in touch all the time. Walker County is very active in development and he is a large part of that. Sen. Mullis works with the state Department of Economic Development and locally with industry to go after incentives.”
The move to Rules chairman meant a new office for Mullis. Rising to the fourth floor, Mullis found himself in a smaller office connected to the Rules Committee room, he said. And as for money, Mullis is receiving the same $17,000 a year that all senators make. But that amount is before furlough days are subtracted.
“It's okay, I'm not there for a bigger office,” Mullis said. “I'm there to serve.”