One thing that is being overlooked is the potential role the minority party could play in the new Speaker’s election. All it takes is a united Democratic front and 15 or 16 disgruntled Republicans lining up behind a David Ralston or Ed Lindsey type figure. Historically these coalitions are tough to put together (just ask the aforementioned David Ralston, Larry Walker, etc). A primary reason is that the members of the two parties are skeptical of each other and rightly so. When it comes time do dole out committee chairmanships and decide on the agenda, both sides are wary of the necessary ideological sacrifices that need to be made in order to obtain power, and vice-versa.
A smart Republican and a realistic Democratic caucus are uniquely able to put the normal differences aside to form a coalition this year where it wasn’t possible in previous years. Instead of seeking big concessions on committee chairs and agenda, the Democrats could simply ask that the pre-Richardson House rules return, with one caveat: proportional membership on committees and minority members named by the minority leader. This would make the Georgia House more similar to the US House, and would do wonders for Democratic recruiting (because a candidate with expertise in education, for example, could be promised a slot on the education committee to entice them to run). This will not necessarily be a plus for the Republicans at the moment, but is a good reform for state government. When the balance of power eventually shifts back to the Democrats, the Republicans who instituted such a rule would eventually be considered patron saints of the new minority.
The 15 or 16 Republicans that join the coalition could still get first dibs at committee chairs, with maybe one or two plum ones going to Democratic leaders. It also makes sense for the coalition to appoint a Democrat Speaker Pro Temp (an empty but symbolic gesture), as well as negotiating for some guaranteed conference committee slots down the road. These conference committee positions are more important than committee chairs in many cases anyway, but don’t come with as glamorous or permanent a title. And the Democrats, in turn for some power and the old rules back, should concede that in a Republican majority body, they won’t be able to block mainstream initiatives that have overwhelming Republican support, afterall in the interest of good government Georgia did elect a Republican majority legislature and if they have any hope in making this coalition last longer than the 2010 elections the Republicans that join it will need to be able to campaign on some ideological victories in addition to restoring dignity to the House come the July primaries.
A Democrat can dream, even in Georgia. If the above happened, it would be a dream come true.