Weekend Read: Motivated by deep commitment to change, senator from Cataula promotes 369 bills

Sen. Randy Robertson. (Credit:Tammy Joyner)

Shortly after the 2024 legislative session ended in the wee hours of March 29, state Sen. Randy Robertson began working on legislation he plans to introduce during next year’s legislative session, which starts in January 2025.

“I easily spend eight or nine months researching, working through, sitting down with attorneys making sure what I'm doing is constitutional,” the third-term Republican from Cataula told State Affairs. “[I’m] reaching out to subject matter experts to make sure that we are addressing a problem and we are addressing a problem with the right solutions and we're not creating an additional problem.”

Raised by a single mom, the retired law enforcement officer was surprised to learn that his name was attached to 369 bills, the most introduced in the Senate during the 2024 legislative session.

Robertson said his upbringing and career in law enforcement has helped him focus on the types of bills and decisions he makes whether in the Senate chamber or on the nine committees on which he serves. 

His middle name might be “over achiever.”

Robertson is vice-chair of the Senate Public Safety committee and also serves on the appropriations, children and families, ethics and government oversight committees. Last fall, Robertson took on the duties of heading the Senate’s Fulton County Jail subcommittee which is looking into problems at the Atlanta facility where 13 inmates have died in the last year. 

In addition to his committee work, Robertson is the majority whip in the Senate, the fourth-highest ranking member of Senate leadership behind the president pro tem, Majority Leader and lieutenant governor.

Robertson spoke with State Affairs about the motivation behind the legislation he has sponsored. The conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q. You had a productive legislative session. You sponsored or co-sponsored a total of 369 bills during the session, making you the senator who introduced the most pieces of legislation in the Senate. What was your motivation?

A. There's a big difference between sponsoring and co-sponsoring. Sponsoring is that individual bill that I sat down and have written up and walked through with the attorneys. The co-sponsorships a lot of times are issues I absolutely agree with and I'll support a sponsor as they carry that bill forward, as far as debating the issue and voting for the issue and things like that.

Q. What legislative goals did you set for yourself for the 2024 session?

A. Well, to basically just finish the drill. In 2023, we passed the Prosecutorial Qualification Commission. And there'd been a change that the [Georgia] Supreme Court had asked us to make. We were able to do that with new legislation. Then, the completion of our bail bond reform legislation that we had done and just a few other things related to adoption and election integrity. Those were my primary drivers.

Q. So you got those things done?

A. We were able to get those done, for the most part. There was a bill on adoption that, for some reason, did not get through. So that’s something we’ll continue to work on. The bill would have allowed an adoptee the opportunity to get their original birth certificate once they turned 18. That was something we were hoping we'd be able to get done and sadly, we weren’t. But we'll be back championing that legislation next session.

Q. What were you looking to accomplish with bail bond reform?

A. In the previous year, a lot of groups would come forth and they would say there are people in jail who could not afford to make bond. So we have now included in the law that  nonprofits can actually establish bonding companies under Title 17 in Georgia. And since they have the opportunity to raise money, this  would put them in a better position to help get some of these individuals out of jail that they’re concerned about being left there.

Q. So this will help make that a little bit easier?

A. It’s a matter of risk. Bonding companies would love to get everybody out but the problem with that is some individuals, even though they have bonds, they are at greater risk of flight, of not showing up in court, which would put the bonding companies in a precarious situation. So we tried to explain this to a lot of these groups [who felt people should still be able to get out on bond]. So we expanded the opportunities for other groups that wanted to be a part of the bail bonding community.

Q. What percentage of your bills were passed?

A.I don’t know. I don’t track that. Like I said, a lot of them I was just a co-sponsor on or I signed on with somebody else. I try not to get caught up in that. Some people worry about that. You just support good, quality legislation and understand that what doesn't get through this year, if it's something that is still an issue next year, then there’s always that opportunity to bring it back. The most important thing we have to do is get a balanced budget put out for the taxpayers and then those public safety issues, health care issues and  things of that nature. Those are the most important things to get out there in session. Once those get out, everything after that a lot of times are just small pieces to correct particular issues.

Q. How has your career in law enforcement shaped your time in the Senate?

A. Well, my experience not only in law enforcement but working in the infrastructure of a local government that is subject to a lot of state laws, rules and regulations has had a huge influence on me.

In law enforcement, you're out in the real world. And sadly, we have some legislators that really don't understand what abject poverty is. They don't understand what abuse is. They've never seen domestic violence up close. So I tell everybody, as human beings, it seems like the vast majority of us live in the zoo, where everything is controlled and we get fed, we get water we get really taken care of. But there's a lot of people still trying to survive out in the jungle, on the Serengeti and in the forest where life is real. And, law enforcement is one of those careers that puts you out there in that environment to see what goes on.

I was primarily raised by a single mother — me and my two sisters. And so my mother worked two jobs. The things that we thought were hard growing up, now I realized were blessings. So now I am able to support a cross section of Georgians, whether they be Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. Poverty doesn't know a political party. Crime doesn't know a political party. So to have the experiences I've had, I feel it's really benefited me in the Georgia Senate.

Q. What were you hoping to achieve for your constituents, and Georgians in general, through the types of bills that you sponsored or co-sponsored?

A. For the citizens, the one thing I really wanted to accomplish was lower taxes. With the economy the way it is and the recession moving up and down, it doesn’t seem like prices are changing at all. It seems like we’re still paying exorbitant amounts for fuel and other things. So, lowering taxes in Georgia I think was probably the biggest win.

Q. Of all the bills you introduced or co-sponsored, which were you the most proud of?

A. The Prosecutorial Qualification Commission and the bail bond reform.

Q. What was the impetus behind creating the Prosecutorial Qualification Commission?

A. We had an experience in my district with a district attorney. He came in and instead of enforcing Georgia laws and prosecuting Georgia laws, he was just going to pick and choose what he prosecuted and what he didn’t. He violated Georgia law in several ways that he chose to do that and he ended up going to prison. 

The problem with that is there should have been something before that where citizens had a voice in getting that district attorney removed other than a recall, which is extremely cumbersome and very, very, very rare in Georgia. 

So, just by putting this Prosecutorial Qualification Commission in place, we're going to address those prosecutors who don't do their job according to Georgia law. Out of the 50 to 60 prosecutors in Georgia I think we've had four that spoke out against it. All the rest of them realize if they're doing their job, they never have to worry about this.


Title: Georgia state senator representing the counties of Troup, Meriwether and Harris as well as parts of Columbus-Muskogee County. 

Age: 61

Birthplace: Hamilton

Residence: Cataula

Education: Harris County school system. Columbus State University where  he majored in criminal justice. The FBI National Academy and a few other specialty schools throughout his career.

Career: Served 30 years with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, retiring in 2015 as a bureau commander at the rank of major. 

Hobbies:  He enjoys exercising. He also is an avid reader and collector of books. He estimates he has around 1,800 books. 

Family: He and his wife Theresa have three children and five granddaughters. (He recently shaved his beard so that his five-year-old daughter would see his actual face for the first time in her life.)

What would you be doing if you weren’t in the Legislature:  “I’d be doing research in public safety, and maybe writing a book or two about how we can make policing better, more professional, how we can avoid the occasional bad apples and reduce crime and uplift citizens all at the same time.”

Top 5 Bill Sponsors in the Georgia Senate

Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula: 369 bills

Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell: 365 bills

Steve Gooch

Sen. Steve Gooch, R- Dahlonega: 361 bills

Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon: 358 bills

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta: 349 bills

Source: LegisScan

Have questions, comments or tips? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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