The Battle to Control the Georgia Senate, Round 2

It’s a nasty political fight with no-holds barred and kicking, biting, gouging and low blows galore – and no Democrats are involved. It’s the battle for control of the Georgia Senate. Following the national example, Georgia Republicans formed a circular firing squad last year and commenced firing and never slackened until the session was over.

English: This is a picture of Lt. Gov. Cagle t...
Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle - Image via Wikipedia

The past few peaceful months for the combatants have been spent re-loading and apparently preparing for further embarrassment in 2012. One indicator is that the sales of red rubber noses, big floppy shoes and frizzy orange wigs have skyrocketed. When the Georgia Senate convenes with Lt. Governor Cagle as its nominal head, the appropriate theme music will be Send in the Clowns.

The only thing protecting Cagle and various Georgia Senators is the relative lack of attention paid by Georgia citizens and the fact that most Georgians neither know nor care who these people are. If the people of this state stop long enough to study the sorry mess that calls itself a legislative body then all bets are off in the local and state elections.

While The Columbus Leger-Enquirer has an excellent interview with Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, touching on many subjects of interest, the real news is not in the headline. The real news is Cagle’s take on the continuing power struggle between himself and the majority of the Georgia Senate. From the story:

The Senate will continue to operate under a leadership structure implemented last session that forces Cagle to share power with other GOP leaders, but Cagle maintains that he is still head of the chamber.

“The leader in the Senate is the lieutenant governor,” said Cagle, who is still in charge of day-to-day operations, but no longer has the power to appoint committee chairs. “Last year illustrated that chaos occurs in the absence of leadership, and we really didn’t have leadership last year. This year is going to be very, very different. We’re going to be far more engaged and far more active because, quite candidly, the experiment last year was not successful.”

Cagle said the current leadership structure is hurting the Senate, and pointed out that no major legislation originated in the Senate last year. He said the issue is not about him, but about preserving the institution.

The amazing thing about this quote is that Cagle publicly proclaims himself to be “the leader”  and then bemoans the lack of leadership. Let me sort out the confusion here: There is a difference between holding a position that has some authority and being a leader. Cagle has the position, but I’m awaiting a sign of leadership. Frankly, I’m not sure Casey Cagle could lead a group of sailors onto the campus of an all-women’s college after six months at sea.

While voters may not pay much attention now, a continued lack of accomplishment will draw the interest of voters. If Governor Nathan Deal or even members of the other legislative body are forced to get involved, then the press cannot ignore the continued Senate stalemate. This would be good news for Georgia’s citizenry whose legislature is being held hostage by egos, childish grudges and an addiction to power.

The struggle has even spread outside the Georgia Capitol building in the form of special election battles. It appears the two sides are using candidates as proxies in their ongoing struggle for potential supporters by funneling funds and support to different campaigns. From here, it looks as though the balance of power remains just where it was at the end of last year’s legislative session.

I don’t know if Lt. Governor Cagle has figured this out or not, but in ’14 he is at a disadvantage. Incumbent state senators are much better known to their individual constituencies than is the Lt. Governor. If he attempts to interfere in their races, he would likely be unsuccessful and lose political power and influence. On the other hand, the collective endorsements by a large group of state senators would carry much more influence. When it comes to the ballot box, this is not an even fight.

Let me make a modest recommendation: If these two groups are serious about making the Georgia Senate work, then they should get together, reach an agreement and hold a press conference that outlines the agreement. I will be happy if this happens, but on the bright side, if it fails I will have a lot to write about.

Do you think Dr. Phil does legislatures?

24 comments

        • ted in bed says:

          Its pretty important. 2 years ago or so, Cagle punished several Republican Senators for not voting for a tax increase. He stripped them of their committee chairmanships. Later Cagle was rumored to working with the Dems to get his power back and was willing to assign several committee chairmanships to Dems as a payoff.

          Personally, I don’t think Georgians vote for the Lt. Gov. as the leader of the Senate. Instead, I think they vote for him as a Governor in Waiting. My preference is for my Senator to chose who leads the Senate (like how its done in Congress) and its not the Lt. Gov.

        • Ken says:

          But, is too much being made out of all this?

          Harry,

          That’s a good question. If you read the linked story, you’ll see where they mention that tax reform was supposed to have taken place last year. That’s a big deal. Adding reservoirs to ensure Georgia has enough water is also a big deal.

          These things were not addressed last year primarily, if not certainly, because the Georgia Senate was not functioning properly.

          My personal opinion is that it’s a very big deal.

          • Todd Rehm says:

            Ken,

            The tax reform effort was not sidelined by the Senate but by House leadership’s loss of confidence in the models and predictions by Georgia State.

            Tax reform is important, and I’d rather they get it right over the course of a couple years than rush through something solely to prove the rule of unintended consequences.

            If the legislative rules require a minimum two-sessions to create a new city anywhere, why should they not take at least as long for a major structural overhaul of the tax system?

            • Charlie says:

              And the reason they “lost confidence” in the models at Georgia State is that once the reform plan removed both the grocery tax and became special interest playland for every lobbyist who’s ever heard of the Gold Dome, the numbers didn’t work. And when they tried to force them to work, they requested 40 different revisions over a two week period. Not surprising if everyone requested their own individual analysis that GSU would be producing different numbers. They make a very convenient scapegoat, but the blame lies squarely in the General Assembly.

              • Todd Rehm says:

                But there’s a difference between placing blame on the General Assembly and placing it on the Senate “dysfunctionality.”

                Frankly, it may end up being a blessing if a dysfunctional Senate was responsible for killing a special interest Christmas tree masquerading as structural tax reform.

                • Charlie says:

                  The Senate’s roll in the failure is that on this and all other matters of significance, the House has no idea who to negotiate with. No one can cut a deal, no one in the Senate can vouch for votes required to pass tough measures. Thus, we rearrage deck chairs and kick cans while waiting for the Senate to learn to act like damn grownups so that Georgia can move forward.

                    • Todd Rehm says:

                      And I’m still unconvinced that Georgia would crumble around us if the General Assembly convened, passed a budget, exempted manufacturing from the sales tax on energy and adjourned.

                      Would that really be the End of the World As We Know It?

                  • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                    “Thus, we rearrage deck chairs and kick cans while waiting for the Senate to learn to act like damn grownups so that Georgia can move forward.”

                    That may quite possibly be the quote of the year.

            • Ken says:

              Todd,

              You’re correct about the tax reform effort; frankly, I had forgotten. Unless accommodations are reached; however, it won’t matter if it is ready this year or not. All is on hold while personalities rule over the greater good.

  1. Lo Mein says:

    “It’s a nasty political fight with no-holds barred and kicking, biting, gouging and low blows galore – and no Democrats are involved.

    Except that everyone you mention here are actually Democrats. They just pasted an “R” after their name.

  2. seekingtounderstand says:

    If Lt. Gov. Cagle splits large neighborhoods in south hall in half for purposes of gaining his power back he will not be very popular in South Hall County. Thats where most of the voters live.

    The best thing the Georgia Legislature could do is not much. Most of their ideas will just make people madder than Hot Lanes.

    Reward for picture of Cagle with his car and driver using the Hot Lane.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Might be kinda hard to get a picture of Cagle and his driver through what are most certainly tinted windows of what is likely a black SUV.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        And with Atlanta being the hip-hop capital of the planet and being full of rappers in black SUVs with tinted windows there’s likely no way that anyone could distinguish which black SUV with tinted windows might belong to Cagle and which black SUV with tinted windows might belong to one of the seemingly thousands of rappers who call Atlanta home.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            But that’s at the Capitol. The specific challenge was to obtain a picture of the Lt. Governor in his car with his driver in the [I-85] HOT lane.

            Might be a little harder to do that, possibly at a distance with a vehicle moving at freeway speeds, even with a specific tag. Though I wouldn’t know for sure, but I am just infering that the Cagle would in all likelihood ride in a large vehicle with tinted windows since he is a high-ranking government official and since many high-ranking government officials are known to ride in large vehicles with tinted windows.

            • Todd Rehm says:

              I see you got there eventually, but my suggestion was that it might be able to show the LG’s state vehicle using the HOT lanes, even if it has dark tinted windows.

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