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Senate power struggle stirs questions
Cagles powers limited at meeting last week
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Power sharing

Senate: The eight-person Committee on Assignments, the new governing unit of the Senate, will have the power to name the chairmen for all committees and will determine who sits on each committee. The committee will handle gubernatorial appointments that require Senate approval and now has the "hawk" privilege that gave the lieutenant governor the power to put ex officio members on committees to push forward favored legislation.
Lieutenant governor: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle retains the power to direct legislation to individual committees and can name the conference committee members who negotiate with House counterparts about specific legislation.

In other business

In other business at the caucus meeting in Macon, the Senate Republicans decided to require members to recite the pledge of allegiance to the state flag. Both the House and Senate include a daily devotional message and a pledge to the U.S. flag at the beginning of each day. In the House, a small group of Republican lawmakers say the pledge to the state flag, and now all Senate members will add the tradition.

The wording of the pledge

"I pledge allegiance to the Georgia flag and to the principles for which it stands: Wisdom, Justice and Moderation."


As Senate members continue to iron out what powers Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will have during the upcoming legislative session, many political observers wonder how it could affect legislation.

At last week's Republican Caucus meeting in Macon, senators decided to move forward with a "power sharing" agreement that created an eight-person Committee on Assignments to take over Cagle's powers to appoint committee chairmen and determine the makeup of committees.

Cagle will still be able to direct legislation to individual committees and name the senators who negotiate with House counterparts about specific bills.

Cagle won't let the reduction of power stop his goals during the legislative session, his spokesman Ben Fry said Wednesday.

"The lieutenant governor is not going to allow procedural hurdles to get in the way of doing the job that 55 percent of Georgia voters just gave him a mandate to do," Fry said.

"There's a lot still in play about the committee. Others might be engaging in political posturing, but as he said throughout the entire situation, Lt. Gov. Cagle will leave the political fighting to others."

After a seven-hour debate Nov. 5 in Macon, Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock emerged to announce the power share but didn't give specific details. Senators later released the draft document that shows changes made to the chamber's rules.

The Committee on Assignments will consist of Rogers, President Pro Tem Tommie Williams of Lyons, Majority Whip Cecil Staton of Macon, Caucus Vice Chairman David Shafer of Duluth, Caucus Secretary Greg Goggins of Douglas, Bill Cowsert of Athens and two senators to be appointed by Cagle. Cagle is prohibited from membership on the committee. There isn't any indication
of who Cagle may appoint or when, Fry said.

In the "long and exhaustive" caucus meeting, Sen. Butch Miller, a Hall County freshman senator who attended for the first time, said Cagle spoke about his concerns, followed by former caucus chairman Sen. Dan Moody of Roswell and others who put in their opinions about the power share.

"This meeting happens every two years and is required to pass the rules that govern the body," Miller said. "Over the last few days, there has been a lot of speculation and rumor and innuendo about who said what about different issues in the meeting. That's unfortunate, but you're going to have that."

At the end of the day, the caucus remains united behind Cagle, Miller said.

"Lt. Gov. Cagle has presided over the Senate in productive and meaningful ways for many years," Miller said. "... The people of Georgia spoke, and that is the overriding thought from which all the decisions about the lieutenant governor's powers should be based."

The changes came just a few days after Cagle pulled in a re-election victory and marks the first time a Republican-led Senate removed powers from a lieutenant governor of the same party.

In 2003, the Republican senators stripped Democrat Mark Taylor of all powers but the constitutional ability to preside over daily Senate sessions.

The unprecedented move against Cagle leaves political analysts scratching their heads, said Ross Alexander, a political science professor at North Georgia College & State University.

"I find it surprising given the party cohesion," he said. "The lieutenant governor traditionally in Georgia is in a weak power position. You can't make comparisons to the vice presidency. The lieutenant governor is basically serving an internship to be governor."

However, the move may help separation of powers for state government.

"Forming the committee makes the legislature more powerful and less beholden to the executive branch," he said. "From an institutional perspective, it's good for the legislature and bad for the executive branch, but when they're all supposed to be on the same side, you know there's more to the story. Somebody got mad beyond the quasi-scandals that aren't out of the ordinary for offices like these."

The change gives more power to the committee chairmen and members, which further weakens the lieutenant governor position, Alexander said. The weakening of the office could hurt the Senate, Fry said.

"I certainly think the argument can be made that this puts the Senate in a weaker bargaining position when you have the governor and speaker of the House able to negotiate," Fry said.

On the other hand, fewer items on Cagle's plate may mean a more efficient Senate chamber, Alexander said.

"I would hope this will somehow make the passage of legislation easier, which is something we need with a 40-day session," he said. "It's hard to get all the legislative business done in such a short time when the vast majority of time is devoted to passing the budget. I'm sure the formation of the committee is completely political, but maybe it'll have a positive effect."

Gov.-elect Nathan Deal has avoided intervention or comment on the power share, instead leaving it to the chamber to decide. Fry said Wednesday he doesn't know if Cagle asked for any help from Deal.

"Until January, Deal doesn't have any real power because he's the governor in waiting," Alexander said. "He has no stick to wield, which is probably why the legislature is doing this now."


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