While most fans of Georgia political Schadenfreude were looking for a vote on an obscure Senate rule change to signify the start of Republican civil war within the Senate caucus, the battle appears to have begun on another front.
When Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle “agreed” to a power sharing arrangement prior to the beginning of this session, he did manage to retain the power to appoint conferees to negotiate with the House over final versions of bills.
When the supplemental budget was passed earlier this year, the Senate chose to “agree” to the House version, rather than to appoint conferees. This highly unusual move, essentially giving up the ability to negotiate for Senate priorities over house priorities, received a little backroom chatter but not much public notice.
Today, shortly after emerging from a couple of hours of a “contentious” caucus meeting, Cagle appointed Senators Jack Hill, Ross Tolleson, and Renee Unterman to negotiate on behalf of the Senate.
Tradition has been that the Appropriations Chairman (Hill), along with the President Pro Tem and Majority Leader negotiate the budget on behalf of the Senate. The belief behind this appointment tradition is that Leadership has been involved in all conversations throughout the year covering all Senate priorities, not just those that go through the Appropriations Committee, and thus are best prepared for the “big picture” when finalizing the budget.
Cagle, instead, chose not to appoint Senators Tommie Williams nor Chip Rogers. They are, after all, the ones now exercising the majority of the powers Cagle used to have.
Whether this was Cagle’s plan since he was stripped of power, or a reaction to today’s caucus meeting, one item is very clear. On Day 37, with only 3 days left during which most significant business in the legislature will be conducted, the petty battles within the Senate Republican Caucus have consumed much time and energy of all participants. Time that should have been spent on tax reform, transportation, …. well, damn near anything other than this crap.