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Senate candidate Bill Hembree
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Leaders in the public sector have plenty of public resources to promote their political views, accomplishments and experience. Often the public record holds much more: personal and campaign finance disclosures, expense reports, and business, tax and court filings. Here’s what they show:
William Aubrey Hembree (R-Winston)
Running in Senate District 30 (Carroll, Douglas & Paulding counties)
Bill Hembree chaired both the Higher Education and Industrial Relations committees in the Georgia House. His interest in insurance issues, though, drew the most interest from campaign donors during his 18 years in that chamber. The owner of a Nationwide Insurance franchise, Hembree collected more than $95,000 in campaign money from the insurance industry from 1998 to 2012, as well as $167,000 more from health care interests, an analysis of campaign disclosures shows. That represents 44 percent of all his reported donations in that span.
Hembree showed a particular interest in insurance legislation in the House. He co-sponsored a bill to allow Georgia companies to take out so-called “dead peasant” insurance on their employees. In 2007, he introduced a bill that would have allowed automobile insurers to raise rates without getting prior state approval. He pushed a 2012 bill to overhaul the state fund set up to partially compensate policy holders when insurers don’t pay up. His HB786, passed in 2012, absolved insurers from having to file proposed rate hikes with the state consumers’ insurance advocate, a position that the state hasn’t funded for years.
In 2011, as chairman of Industrial Relations, Hembree sponsored legislation that cut back planned hikes in employers’ payments to Georgia’s unemployment insurance fund, which had been forced to borrow $757 million from the federal government due to years of reduced rates. A year later, a different bill of Hembree’s was used as a vehicle to raise those employers’ rates but cut back unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to a maximum of 20 weeks, said to be the lowest maximum in the United States.
In 2012, Hembree took advantage of a loophole in state election law to indirectly transfer $60,000 from his House campaign account to his Senate campaign. Candidates can’t spend money raised to seek one elected office to seek another. Instead, Hembree refunded $59,400 to donors to his House campaigns who then gave an identical amount to his Senate committee. Some of the refunds came for donations that had been made as much as 11 years previously.
Hembree was one of at least 15 insurance agents in the Legislature who received waivers from continuing-education requirements to keep their licenses, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2011. He told the newspaper that he completed some continuing education anyway “because it makes me a better agent” but was not sure whether lawmakers should continue to get the exemption.
In 2005, Hembree helped make Georgia government a little less transparent when he sponsored a law that allows foundations for the state’s public universities to conceal the names of their donors. The measure was introduced shortly after the AJC reported that donors to the University System’s foundation had done $29 million in business with the system. The bill became law after the Senate amended it to require disclosure of donors’ names if they’d done at least $10,000 in business with the state system within three years.
- Elected to the House in 1992, re-elected in 1994 with 59% of the vote.
- Ran statewide in 1996 for the Public Service Commission, finishing second with 47% of the vote in the GOP primary.
- Appointed in 1997 as a citizen member of the Atlanta Regional Commission.
- Won his old seat in the House back in 1998, unseating first-term incumbent Tom Worthan in the Republican primary.
- Re-elected six times from 2000 to 2010 with at least 58% of the vote.
- Finished third in Republican Caucus voting for speaker of the House in December 2009. Hembree then threw his support behind eventual winner David Ralston, who named him chairman of the powerful Rules Committee.
- Won the Republican nomination for re-election in 2012, only to resign a month later to seek a suddenly open Senate seat. He led the field of Senate hopefuls with 48% in a special Republican primary, but lost to Mike Dugan in a runoff with barely one-tenth the turnout.
- Faces Dugan again in the May 2014 Republican primary.
House committee assignments
- Appropriations (2003 – 2010)
- Defense & Veterans Affairs (1999 – 2001)
- Governmental Affairs (1993 – 1996)
- Health & Ecology (1999 – 2001)
- Health & Human Services (2003 – 2012)
- Higher Education (1999 – 2012; chair, 2005 – 2009)
- Intragovernmental Coordination (2005 – 2006)
- Industrial Relations (chair, 2011 – 2012)
- Insurance (2007 – 2012)
- Motor Vehicles (1993 – 1996)
- Rules (2010 – 2012; chair, 2010)
- State Planning & Community Affairs (1993 – 1996)
- Insurance agent, Nationwide Insurance
Business ownership interests
- UNDISCLOSED Bill Hembree & Associates LLC
- None disclosed.
- None disclosed.
Real estate holdings
- Personal residence in Douglas County valued at $333,000.
- Paid $100 in late fees for missing two filing deadlines for campaign disclosures.
Friends and family
Hembree made the 2009 nominating speech to make then-Rep. James Mills of Gainesville, who wound up losing to Rep. Larry O’Neal, the House majority leader. Some observers have suggested his support for Mills may have cost Hembree his role as chairman of the powerful Rules Committee.
Donors have given Hembree’s campaigns more than $634,000 since 1998. The breakdown by election cycle:
- 1998: $15,641
- 1999-2000: $17,330
- 2001-02: $41,725
- 2003-04: $61,195
- 2005-06: $43,655
- 2007-08: 48,476
- 2009-10: $151,221
- 2011-12: $66,484
- 2011-12: $176,025 (Senate)
- 2014: $0 (but loan)
- Reported cash on hand (April 2014): $65,585
Hembree collected more than $95,000 in campaign money from the insurance industry since 1998, as well as $167,000 more from health care interests, an analysis of campaign disclosures shows. That represents 44 percent of all his reported donations. Other significant blocks of donations have come from: real estate and construction interests ($60,447), lawyers and lobbyists ($42,650), banking & subprime lenders ($28,950) and motor vehicles ($26,701).
- $54,634 Sens. Josh McKoon, Tommie Williams and other Republican legislators
- $47,240 American Insurance Association & its members
- $17,050 Georgia Optometric Association*
- $14,700 Georgia Dental Association
- $13,175 Resurgens PC & its physicians
- $12,800 Medical Association of Georgia
- $12,150 Georgia Hospital Association
- $10,700 Georgia Association of Realtors
- $10,000 MAG Mutual Insurance Co.
- $10,000 Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic
- $9,750 Georgia Beverage Association & its major supporters, The Coca-Cola Co. and Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.
- $9,500 Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia
- $8,900 Georgia Chiropractic Association
- $8,800 Georgia Bankers Association
- $8,700 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
- $8,500 Associated General Contractors of Georgia
- $8,000 Home Builders Association of Georgia
- $7,551 Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Georgia
- $6,401 Committee of Automobile Retail Dealers of Georgia
- $6,000 Associated Builders & Contractors of Georgia
- $6,000 Georgia Pharmacy Association
- $5,900 United Health Care Services Inc., Minneapolis, MN
- $5,750 Georgia Credit Union League
- $5,750 Humana Inc.
- $5,650 Georgia Independent Automobile Dealers Association
- $5,500 Southeastrans & CEO Steve Adams
- $5,450 Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals
- $5,400 Georgia Oilmen’s Association
- $5,300 Workplace Injury Network
- $4,700 Georgia Orthopaedic Society
*Includes $250 that the association’s lobbyist reported spending on a 2012 fund-raiser that Hembree did not report receiving.
- Hembree charged $18,243 to Visa in 2010-12 on meals and political expenses costing less than $101 that he was not legally required to itemize.
- In 2010, the campaign reimbursed Hembree $2,100 for six months’ rental of a district office.
Campaign committees may give unlimited funds to other candidates and political parties, allowing prolific fund-raisers in the House and Senate leadership to spread donations to as many other legislators as they choose. Some advocacy groups believe such transfers should be limited to an aggregate of $10,000 for each election cycle. Hembree’s campaign made these political donations:
- 1999-2000: $950
- 2001-02: $0
- 2003-04: $4,000
- 2005-06: $14,500 (14K
- 2007-08: $12,750
- 2009-10: $7,000
- 2011-12: $9,700
Lobbyists reported paying for meals and other gifts for Hembree valued at more than $17,000 from 2006 to 2012. Highest-ticket items: A quail hunt and tickets to see Bon Jovi, the Falcons, Super Cross, Monster Jam, the PGA Championship and the SEC football championship. The big spenders: University System of Georgia ($5,499), Georgia World Congress Center Authority ($3,171), AGL Resources ($2,004), Georgia Power Co. ($1,890). BFF lobbyist: the University System’s Dene Sheheane ($3,597).
- 2006: $983
- 2007: $1,941
- 2008: $3,888
- 2009: $2,830
- 2010: $2,430
- 2011: $4,166
- 2012: $1,127
Committee days & travel expenses
When the Legislature is out of session, members may collect $173 per diem, plus mileage, for committee meetings or other official business. (Per diem was $127 prior to 2007.) Lawmakers living within 50 miles of the Capitol are taxed on these payments, which were originally intended to cover out-of-town members’ food and lodging. Hembree collected more than $59,000 in per diem and travel expenses from 2001 to 2012, or about $4,920 a year. The breakdown:
- 2001: $1,001 (7 days)
- 2002: $1,288 (9 days)
- 2003: $2,576 (18 days)
- 2004: $1,544 (11 days)
- 2005: $5,382 (27 days)
- 2006: $8,196 (55 days)
- 2007: $12,167 (52 days)
- 2008: $9,311 (46 days)
- 2009: $5,354 (25 days)
- 2010: $3,902 (20 days)
- 2011: $3,595 (18 days)
- 2012: $4,764 (25 days)
Posted May 8, 2014