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Legislature '08: Native son Cagle presides over Senate again
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle addresses members of the state Senate in this 2007 photo taken at the Capitol. Cagle, of Chestnut Mountain, will preside over the Senate in what could be a contentious session starting today. - photo by For The Times
For Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, today marks the beginning of his sophomore year in the state’s second highest office. In his first year as lieutenant governor, Cagle, who turned 42 on Saturday, quickly made the adjustment into the parliamentary maneuvering he must perform as the presiding officer of the Georgia State Senate.

He also ended four years of partisan bickering between the Senate’s majority of Republicans and Cagle’s predecessor, Mark Taylor, a Democrat.

Under Senate rules, Taylor’s role became ceremonial as he was stripped of his ability to assign bills to committee and to decide parliamentary challenges from the floor.

The change in status followed the four years that Taylor and Democrats controlled the Senate and left Republicans virtually powerless.

Cagle modeled his administration after former Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard, a Democrat who gave Republicans positions on major committees, including the chairmanship of a select few.

In 2006, Cagle stunned much of the Republican establishment with his sound defeat of former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor. Following that victory, Cagle coasted to a general election victory over Democrat Jim Martin.

Republicans returned much of the power that had been stripped from Taylor back to Cagle. He is very much in charge of the Senate, a role that had been enjoyed by most of the 10 men who have held the office since it was created in 1946.

But Cagle dispenses a helping of humility when he talks about his job.

"I’ve been granted a very unique opportunity to serve the state of Georgia in a very influential position and role," Cagle said in an interview with The Times. "My mind-set is very focused on making a difference and making a contribution that will make lives better for others in our state."

Cagle toured the state last week with Gov. Sonny Perdue and House Speaker Glenn Richardson. There was no public talk of disagreement; however, Richardson and Perdue are at odds on a number of fronts. Capitol watchers are expecting the House to vote to override many of Perdue’s line-item vetoes of House and Senate projects in the current budget.

The vetoes came after the General Assembly had adjourned, and today marks the first opportunity to challenge the governor.

However, there is no indication of whether the Senate will follow if the House is successful in gaining a two-thirds majority needed for the override.

Perdue and Richardson have engaged in several rounds of verbal sparring, while Cagle has been seen as a peacemaker in the process.

The lieutenant governor says Richardson, whose public persona is often all business and confrontation, has a fun sense of humor in private, and they have a pleasant relationship.

Perdue and Cagle have enjoyed a positive working relationship, including Cagle joining the governor last year on a European trade mission.

"The personalities that we do have in leadership positions are very different," Cagle said. "But that can hopefully help in perfecting the process. I’m a forward thinker, big picture guy. I’m not a micromanager. Most folks say I’m calm under pressure."

Cagle and Richardson are at odds over the re-election of State Transportation Board members.

Richardson wants the ouster of DOT Chairman Mike Evans of Cumming, who Cagle adamantly supports.

The vote, which involves House and Senate members from the congressional districts where members are appointed, should come in the early days of the session.

Cagle says the job of lieutenant governor is far bigger than he imagined.

"I never thought I’d be working at the pace I am," he said. "Many are 16- to 18-hour days, and they don’t slow down."

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