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Possible Ga Senate Power Shift
Friday, 05 November 2010

Cagle could be relieved of nominal legislative powers

Carolyn Crist
ccrist@gainesvilletimes.com
November 4, 2010

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle may see some of his powers stripped when a Senate Republican Caucus meets today in Macon for what some senators are calling a "coup."

A proposal pushed by President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, Majority Leader Chip Rogers and Sens. Mitch Seabaugh, Bill Cowsert and Cecil Staton would strip Cagle of many of the nominal powers he uses to help the flow of legislation through the chamber.

The move comes just days after Cagle won re-election with a higher percentage of the vote than Gov.-elect Nathan Deal.

Under the proposal, the powers would go to a small committee of senior senators.

The Senate Republican Caucus will meet today to discuss the idea. Cagle wasn't invited to the meeting, but the lieutenant governor said Thursday night he would attend.

"In light of the economic challenges we face as a state and nation, I am focused on the things that matter most - getting our economy back on track and modernizing our state's education system," Cagle said in a statement.

"I'll leave the politics and posturing to others and am confident the Senate will make the right decision."

The state Constitution says the lieutenant governor shall be president of the Senate and the successor to the governor if the chief executive becomes disabled or dies.

The informal duties of naming chairmen to Senate committees and playing an active role in the Senate were initiated by Marvin Griffin when he was the state's second lieutenant governor from 1948 to 1955.

Lieutenant governors kept those powers until 2003 when a Republican-led Senate stripped them from Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, a Democrat, and made him a figurehead.

At that time, those powers were given to the president pro tempore of the Senate.

The Republican-led Senate restored the informal powers to Cagle when he took his first term in 2006.

Some lawmakers speculate privately that the move was brought on by a vote in the last session on the so-called "bed tax" for hospitals, but no one has yet explained the full motive publicly.

When three Republican senators voted against the tax, they faced retribution from Cagle, which included being removed as chairmen of their committees.

A Cagle spokesman said changes in the lieutenant governor's powers would make the Senate the weakest part of the legislature at a time when real progress could be made.

"At this time of transition with Gov.-elect Deal coming in, we have a situation where there is a great working relationship with Cagle and Deal and an opportunity for a real partnership," said Ben Fry, Cagle's spokesman. "It's a valid concern to be troubled. It would weaken the bargaining position of the Senate with no clear voice and could certainly put the Senate at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with the House and the speaker of the House."

Officials with the Deal transition team declined to comment Thursday night.

"We are beginning our transition and will assess all matters as we start working with the transition team Monday," said spokeswoman Stephanie Mayfield.

 
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