State Lawmaker Death

In this March 22, 2016 file photo, House Ways and Means Chairman state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, looks over legislation on the House floor, in Atlanta. Powell has died Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, after suddenly collapsing at a lawmaker retreat in Georgia. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — The chairman of the powerful Georgia House Rules Committee has died after suddenly collapsing at a lawmaker retreat.

Rep. Jay Powell died after collapsing at a Republican caucus leadership event Monday night at the Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris, House Speaker David Ralston said Tuesday.

"His loss is devastating to the state of Georgia," Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement.

Powell, 67, was an attorney who served as mayor in the south Georgia city of Camilla for a decade before moving up to the state legislature in 2009. An expert on Georgia tax policy, he spearheaded legislation signed in 2018 requiring larger retailers to start charging sales tax for goods purchased online.

His district included about half of Colquitt County.

This year, he moved on from writing tax legislation as chairman of the Ways and Means committee, and assumed the chairmanship of the rules committee, where he helped decide which bills came up for a vote.

Powell also advocated for rural revitalization, including expanded access to broadband internet services, and previously co-chaired the House Rural Development Council.

He was remembered by politicians on both sides of the aisle as a passionate advocate for Georgia.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said: “Though Chairman Jay Powell and I stood on separate sides of the aisle, we worked together to advance good tax policy for Georgia and to support our local governments. He cared about community and getting good done.”

Ralston said that Powell served with “integrity and his leadership truly moved Georgia forward.”

"Today is a sad day for the state of Georgia and a very hard day for me personally," U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican who previously served in the state House, said in a statement.

"Jay always had my back even through the storms of politics, which means more than anything. He helped me as a new attorney and provided wise counsel over the years regarding our public service," Collins added.

The Towns County Sheriff's Office requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation look into the death, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said. "We should have more information available following an autopsy," Miles said.

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