Scouts in a hut
MACON — Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has lost the power to appoint committee members and chairmen following a contentious meeting of the Senate Republican Caucus on Friday in Macon.
But he kept the ability to direct legislation in the Senate as part of a "power sharing" compromise reached during a seven-hour meeting on the campus of Mercer University, said Sen. Chip Rogers, the Senate's majority leader.
Rogers said Cagle, who was re-elected Tuesday to a second term, will remain the presiding officer of the Senate, as outlined in the state Constitution.
"The lieutenant governor will direct legislation from his position," he said. "A committee of legislators will share the power to assign members and chair to committees."
The exact nature of the split of duties was not announced, nor were the members of the committee that will appoint committee members.
Rogers denied the move had anything to do with Cagle's retribution against senators who didn't support the so-called "bed tax" for hospitals or the recently filed ethics complaint against Cagle, which alleged an extramarital affair.
Instead, he said, it is part of the regular two-year review of Senate rules, which includes discussion about each article the Senate must follow. Despite heated discussion among members at Friday's meeting, the caucus will be "united," he said.
"There seems to be a misconception about how the rules process works," Rogers said. "It takes time, and we debated longer than ever. This is the most exhaustive caucus that I remember. It was a deliberate and serious discussion."
Rogers declined to answer further questions, saying he would be late to announce a high school football game.
"Team effort is a good way to go," he said. "We are supporters and friends of Cagle and will be united from this point forward."
Cagle's office released a statement Friday afternoon.
"The lieutenant governor is not going to let procedure get in the way of his passion for creating jobs and making the difficult decision necessary to balance the budget and move our state forward," Cagle's spokesman Ben Fry said. "He remains committed to delivering results, which is exactly what the voters just overwhelmingly elected him to do."
Freshman Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, was present at the meeting but declined to comment as the caucus adjourned, saying senators had agreed Rogers would speak for them.
The initial proposal — first pushed by Rogers, President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and Sens. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, and Cecil Staton, R-Macon — would have stripped Cagle of many of the nominal powers he uses to help the flow of legislation through the chamber.
Those senators were proposing to take powers from Cagle and distribute them to a small committee of senior senators.
The compromise was reached after impassioned arguments from both sides.
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. It says other duties may be given to the lieutenant governor by law.
Marvin Griffin, the state's second lieutenant governor first assumed the duties of naming chairmen to Senate committees when he served from 1948-1955. Lieutenant governors kept those powers for decades. But in 2003, a Republican-led Senate stripped them from Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, making him a figurehead.
The Senate restored the powers to Cagle when he was elected to his first term in 2006.