The General Assembly is approaching its final days for this year, and much work needs to be addressed on behalf of the citizens of Georgia.
I am honored and humbled to hold the seat of predecessors remembered for their hard work - Howard Overby, Nathan Deal, Jane Hemmer, Casey Cagle and Lee Hawkins all served with distinction. From them, I learned the traditions of the Georgia Senate and realized the actual, effective work of the Senate must result in votes cast on key issues.
I admire and applaud the wisdom of the framers of our state Constitution which wrote that the Senate and the House were to be of equal importance and influence. No bill, no speech, no whimsical thought, no grandstanding, no media sound bite or no well-intentioned resolution can become law unless the majority of the Senate and the majority of the House vote to approve and the measure is signed by the Governor.
Therein rests the biggest challenge of the closing days.
If I may recap, these are the events which created a leadership scenario that bodes ill for Georgians. Days after the general election in November, Senate Republicans met, in a traditional way, to set protocol and goals for 2011. As a result of the meeting, the majority of those present voted to remove the traditional powers of the lieutenant governor.
The state Constitution requires the lieutenant governor to be the presiding officer of the state Senate. It also states, "Each house shall determine its rules of procedure..." And, tradition held that he would also appoint committee members, appoint committee chairmen, assign legislation to committees, appoint conference committee members when Senate-House legislation needed reconciliation and much more.
I understand from senators with seniority that the traditional system worked fairly well regardless of the person or the party in place. But the drastic change in "rules of procedure" created division in our ranks - those who supported a traditional role and those who did not - and ceded authority to a group of eight senators called the Committee on Assignments, rather than vesting authority in the lieutenant governor who was elected just days prior by an overwhelming statewide majority.
In strict accordance with the state Constitution, no group of senators should have dominion over the important work of the Senate. All fifty-six Senators are elected from equally-populated districts. Each senator has only one vote. Successful passage of legislation depends upon a majority of the fifty-six, regardless of party, geography, race, seniority or volume of the debate.
In short, some in our ranks have postponed or put aside needy deliberations while skating on thin ice of power plays, personal egos and public posturing.
I write not as the lieutenant governor's senator or from the seat he once held. I write as a citizen-legislator seeking to serve the citizens of Georgia and the 49th district in strict observation and accordance with our state Constitution.
I write to bemoan the power plays in the Senate which only serve to hinder us from doing the people's business. I expect better and the citizens of Georgia and the 49th district deserve better.
We are all Georgians. Let us not let Georgians suffer at the hands of a few, but progress at the work of many.
Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, represents the 49th district in the Georgia Senate.