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State Senate power shift may aid Cagle
With former leaders replaced, Lt. Governor may get some power back
1202Ronnie Chance
Ronnie Chance

Senate leadership

Casey Cagle
Position: Lieutenant governor
Represents: State, resides in Chestnut Mountain
Served: Sworn into Senate in 1995; sworn in as lieutenant governor in 2007
Contact: 404-656-5030

Ronnie Chance
Position: Majority leader
Represents: District 16, R-Tyrone
Served: Sworn in 2005
Contact: 404-651-7738, 770-969-9155, ronnie.chance@senate.ga.gov

David Shafer
Position: President pro tempore
Represents: District 48, R-Duluth
Served: Sworn in 2002 after special election
Contact: 404-656-0048, 404-497-0048, david.shafer@senate.ga.gov

Butch Miller
Position: Majority caucus chairman
Represents: District 49, R-Gainesville
Served: Sworn in 2010 after special election
Contact: 404-651-7738, 678-989-5301, butch.miller@senate.ga.gov

A change of leadership among state Senate Republicans may mean more power for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and lead to more influence for a local senator in the upcoming 2013 session.

The Republican Senate caucus will meet Dec. 15 to decide what responsibilities Cagle will assume in addition to his official duties as president of the Senate.

Cagle had broad powers in 2006, but Senate leaders relieved him of many responsibilities in 2010. With those revolutionary leaders remaining in the Senate but out of the top positions, friends such as Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, may help the second-highest elected official in the state regain some power.

Charles S. Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, said he thinks Cagle will get some of his power back but not all of it.

“He won’t be just a figurehead,” Bullock said. “But he won’t have the power of his first term or historically.”

The Republican Senate caucus met Nov. 15 to elect leadership positions for the next term, choosing Sen. David Shafer of Duluth as president pro tem and Sen. Ronnie Chance of Tyrone, the governor’s floor leader, as majority leader. Miller was elected caucus chairman.

“I congratulate the newly elected caucus officers and have great confidence in their leadership and ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Cagle in a statement.

Former Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock and President Pro Tem Tommie Williams of Lyons lead the “coup” against the lieutenant governor when the two were elected by the caucus before the 2011 session.

“I stood against that challenge then and I stand against it today, and the reason is that the people of Georgia elected the lieutenant governor believing he had certain power and certain authority and a certain role in the state Senate,” Miller said. “And to change that role after the vote was usurping the people’s vote.”

Arguing for a greater separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, Williams and Rogers succeeded in moving responsibility for directing the flow of legislation — such as assigning members and chairs to committees and assigning bills to committees — to a committee of senior Senate members. Georgia’s Constitution defines the lieutenant governor as the president of the Senate and successor to the governor, with other duties given by law.

“The lieutenant governor has been a longtime friend of mine,” Williams said in a Times interview last January.

“We differ philosophically on the role of the lieutenant governor in the legislative chamber.”

Cagle retained the power to appoint members to conference committees to work out differences in legislation between the Senate and the House.

“(Williams and Rogers) were reluctant to go to conference committee meetings because Cagle appointed the conference members,” Bullock said.

The 2012 term was less contentious, Miller said. He was a new senator in 2010, but he’s moved up quickly through the ranks in the last two years to number four in the hierarchy. As a freshman, he chaired the State and Local Government Operations Committee, an unusual responsibility for a newcomer. In 2012, he was a floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal.

“They call your play, so to speak,” Miller said. “But if you fumble the ball, they’re not going to call your play a second time.”

Miller said he was grateful and encouraged that he was the choice of his fellow colleagues. The caucus chairman for each party helps determine what bills reach the floor and helps directs the caucus on the bills and issues they’ll take up.

“Primarily I will run the meetings and try to keep order and productivity,” he said.

Issues likely to come up next year include water issues, ethics, education, health care and the state budget, Miller said.

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