Speaker Ralston Announces Passage of Heartbeat Bill (HB 481)

State & National



Contact: Kaleb McMichen

Friday, March 8, 2019

(404) 656-5020


Speaker Ralston Announces Passage of Heartbeat Bill (HB 481)

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) announces that the House of Representatives passed House Bill 481, commonly referred to as the “Heartbeat Bill,” on Thursday, March 7. The legislation is officially titled the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality” (LIFE) Act.

“I am proud that the House acted in a deliberate way to protect the unborn and passed the nation’s strongest pro-life protections,” said Speaker Ralston. “Working with Governor Kemp and the Senate, we will see to it that Georgia remains a state where each and every human life is treated with the dignity and respect it deserves. In addition to this legislation, we will continue to fight for Georgia’s children by making it easier to adopt, improving our foster care system and ensuring better access to healthcare for infants and their mothers,”

“I appreciate that abortion can be a divisive issue, and I respect that there are people with strong convictions on both sides,” continued Speaker Ralston. “That is why I am proud that the House had a thorough and civil debate which allowed members to give voice to their viewpoints.”

Supported by Governor Brian Kemp and sponsored by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), HB 481 prohibits abortion when an unborn child has a detectable human heartbeat. It contains exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, risk to the life of the mother and medically-futile pregnancies. The measure now moves to the State Senate for consideration. If approved by the Senate, it would go to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature. More information about HB 481 may be found here:http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20192020/HB/481.

University of North Georgia breaks ground on standalone Blue Ridge Campus


The University of North Georgia (UNG) broke ground Oct. 17 on a new standalone Blue Ridge Campus facility, with a host of state officials, community members and university representatives joining President Bonita C. Jacobs to mark the occasion.

The sunny fall day in the Fannin County mountains matched the excitement about the opportunities the new facility will offer for current and future students, as 150 people celebrated the groundbreaking.   The new campus, located off Ga. 515 about three miles from the current Blue Ridge Campus, is scheduled to open in 2020.

Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston.

Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston, a UNG alumnus who represents Georgia District 7, including Fannin County, in the General Assembly, helped secure $5.5 million for the new Blue Ridge Campus in 2019 fiscal year budget. He said Gov. Nathan Deal’s trek to Blue Ridge in May to sign the budget was the city’s first time hosting such a visit. Ralston called the new campus “a dream come true.”



“This new, permanent campus in Blue Ridge will open doors to both a college education and better job prospects for generations to come in our north Georgia mountains,” Ralston said. “UNG’s role to provide greater access to quality education will continue to expand, and I am proud to support that noble mission.”

Jacobs presented Ralston with a commemorative shovel in gratitude for his efforts in securing the standalone campus. She thanked the community, the University System of Georgia, and state and local lawmakers for making the standalone campus possible. She noted how the Blue Ridge Scholars program encourages students to be enrolled full time.

“We’re all in on graduating students,” Jacobs said. “We are creating a workforce that appeals to businesses and supports economic growth in this community.”

The current Blue Ridge Campus has experienced almost 800 percent growth since its opening in 2015, reaching 156 students this fall. It will allow for additional courses in the core curriculum, which means students will be able to spend a longer period of their college career at Blue Ridge.

Nelson Soriero, a freshman from Blue Ridge and a Blue Ridge Scholar, said the new campus “will create an excellent learning environment for generations to come.”

“I could have ended up somewhere else, traveling endless miles and hours to a different university,” Soriero said. “But because of this campus, I get to go to college locally, continue working at my job and even live in my own home.”

UNG established the Blue Ridge Campus in 2015 in response to a need for access to higher education that was identified through UNG’s Regional Education and Economic Development Task Force, a group of more than 100 business, education, government, and community leaders from northeast Georgia. The new location will further cement UNG’s efforts in the region.

“This campus is bringing a college education much closer to home for a large number of students in the north Georgia area,” said state Sen. Steve Gooch, also a UNG alumnus. “I’m excited to be a part of this development and look forward to watching the impact of this campus continue to increase.”

In 2012, the state launched the Complete College Georgia initiative based on a 2011 study by Georgetown University that indicates Georgia needs to add 250,000 postsecondary graduates to the state’s workforce by 2025. Census data indicate nearly half of the counties in UNG’s immediate service area have a college completion rate of less than 20 percent.

“This campus will make a difference in the lives of students, their families, this community, and region for generations,” Blue Ridge Campus Director Sandy Ott said. “Thank you for being a part of the University of North Georgia’s history and the brighter futures that begin here today.”



Feature image caption:
Representatives of the University of North Georgia, state officials and community members celebrated the groundbreaking of a new standalone Blue Ridge Campus on Oct. 17.

Speaker David Ralston to Discuss Fannin County Priorities in the FY 18 State Budget

Announcements, Community

Speaker David Ralston


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Kaleb McMichen
Friday, July 14, 2017 (404) 656-5020

Speaker David Ralston to Discuss

Fannin County Priorities in the FY 18 State Budget

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) will discuss Fannin County priorities included in the Fiscal Year 2018 State Budget on Tuesday, July 18, at 3:30 p.m. at McCaysville City Park.


WHO:             House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge)

WHAT:          Discussing Fannin County priorities in the FY18 State Budget

WHEN:        Tuesday, July 18
3:30 p.m.

WHERE:     McCaysville City Park
223 Blue Ridge Drive
McCaysville, Ga.   30555

Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Primary Candidate Forum, Magistrate Judge, School Board, Tax Commissioner, GA House of Rep District 7, GA Senate Dist 51, Fannin Commission Chairman and Sheriff


Scroll down to watch video of the forum.

Fannin County Chamber of Commerce 2016 Primary Candidate Forum.

Cynthia Panter, Chairman Fannin County Chamber Board.

Rob Kaser, Co-Moderator

Fannin County Magistrate Judge

Sherri Walker (I) NP

Dannette Davis  NP

Brian D. Jones  NP

Fannin County School Board

Jeremy Davis  R

Clarence Junior Farmer  R

Chad Galloway   R

Fannin County Tax Commissioner

Shirley Sosebee (I) R

Marie Woody R

Georgia House of Representatives District 7

Speaker David Ralston (I) R

Sam Snider  R

Georgia Senate District 51

Senator Steve Gooch (I) R

Fannin County Commission Chairman

Bill Simonds (I) R

Stan Helton  R

Fannin County Sheriff

Dane Kirby (I) R

Larry Bennett Sr.  R

Johnny Scearce  R

Jack Taylor  R

Rusty Whittenbarger  D

Will Governor Nathan Deal Sign HB 757 “Free Exercise Protection” Religious Freedom / Pastor Protection?


Senator Steve Henson Democratic Leader District 41. Henson said the bill allows for discrimination and it’s the wrong message for Georgia to send the world.

(Scroll to the bottom to read the entire amended Bill)

On the afternoon of March 16th, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge, District 7) did what many of his critics said he would never do, allow a religious freedom bill to come to the floor for a vote.


The original sponsor of HB 757 “The Pastor Protection Act’ now known as the “Free Exercise Protection Act” Kevin Tanner (R – Dawsonville District 9) presented the amended version of the bill to the House for a vote.


Randy Nix (R – LaGrange District 69) and Allen Peake (R – Macon District 141) spoke in support of the bill as they shared with the House they have gay family members.


The original version of HB 757 passed the House with unanimous support from both parties but the Democrats did not show the same support for the amended version.


Karla Drenner (D – Avondale Estates District 85) said that if she would have known she was going to vote on this bill when she left the house this morning she would have worn a black suit, “The Bill is a license to discriminate.”

Taylor Bennett (D – Brookhaven District 80) shared that his mom is gay and has been married to her partner since 2014.

Stacy Abrams (D – Atlanta District 89) “Bill makes it lawful to discriminate.”

After House debate closed, the bill passed 104-65 and was sent to the Senate.

When Senate Democrats unsuccessfully attempted three amendments to the bill, Kirk gave a brief description of the bill before the vote.

The Senate passed the bill 37-18.

Senator Josh McKoon (R – District 29) released the following statement “After three years of speeches, meetings, town halls, debates, amendments and forums — many miles on the highways and byways of this state — final passage at last of a REAL religious freedom bill. Thank you to all who have been on this journey with us.”


The bill now ends up on Governor Nathan Deal’s desk. Will the governor accept the bill as a good compromise or feel it discriminates and will cause economic backlash against the state?


Free Exercise Protection Act Adopted in the house 3/16/2016 Ayes 104 Nays 65

Senator Vincent Fort Democratic Whip District 39. We will be endorsing a boycott of the state.

Senator Harold V. Jones II District 22 Democrat. What day and time did you become a heterosexual person? God made you that way. God made someone gay there is no difference. What difference does any of it make. There is nothing wrong with liking someone the same sex. This is not a proud day in the state of Georgia.

Senator Greg Kirk District 13 Republican. Sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act. Kirk said this is a great compromise and encouraged the Senate to pass the House amended version of HB 757.


House Speaker David Ralston Announces Re-Election Bid for House District 7

News, Politics

Blue Ridge, Georgia—House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) announced Saturday, March 10 at the Fannin County Courthouse that he will seek re-election to the Georgia House of Representatives. Ralston represents District 7 in the State House, which includes Fannin, Gilmer and the western portion of Dawson County.


St. Valentine’s Banquet Bolsters GOP Candidates

Featured Stories, Politics

Fannin County Republicans were undeterred by last Saturday’s cold weather. (more…)


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