By Carl Lewis
Saturday, Nov. 08, 2010
Following a heated day of closed-door meetings in downtown Macon, Georgia’s Senate Republican leaders decided Friday to strip some of newly re-elected Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s powers in the Senate.
Chamber leaders are calling it a new “power-sharing agreement.”
The Republican caucus gathered at Mercer University’s Woodruff House on Friday to discuss its rules and elect new leaders. Also at issue during the caucus meeting was a discussion of whether the lieutenant governor has too much power in the chamber.
After seven hours of deliberation, leaders reached the decision to peel back the lieutenant governor’s powers to assign committees, though the lieutenant governor will still retain some role in the committee-appointment process, said Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon.
A new seven-member committee of Republican legislators will be formed, and Cagle will have the power to choose two of the members of that committee.
Staton was one of the leaders who called Friday’s meeting, where he was elected as the caucus’ new majority whip.
Staton said the decision to take away some of Cagle’s power was not because of discontent with Cagle’s leadership. Staton maintained that the decision was a routine refinement of the caucus’ rules.
“This is not, in my view, any attempt to slight or take anything away from Lt. Gov. Cagle himself. He will still have quite a lot of power, and it has nothing to do with him personally. This is simply a routine rule change, and it’s a way to keep a good balance between the lieutenant governor and the Senate,” Staton said.
Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, also was one of the legislators who called Friday’s meeting. Rogers insisted the decision was not meant to reflect the chamber’s view of Cagle personally.
“Every single member of this body not only supports Cagle’s leadership but considers him a personal friend,” Rogers said. “This is simply a new power-sharing agreement that we’ve come to.”
But Cagle spokesman Ben Fry said Friday afternoon that he wasn’t convinced the move to trim Cagle’s power was entirely fair.
“It’s certainly disappointing that they’re wanting to do this, especially given the fact that the voters so clearly expressed support of Cagle in Tuesday’s election,” Fry said.
Fry said he didn’t know what might have motivated the caucus to reach its decision, but that Cagle remained confident in the caucus’ judgment.
“We’re not ready to speculate on what might have led the caucus to be called, and we’re not going to get involved in the politics,” Fry said. “As always, Cagle is focused on doing what the voters overwhelmingly elected him to do, which is to serve this state.”