Dear Georgia Senate: Drop the power struggle, get to work

It’s put up or shut up time in the Georgia Senate. As nothing new has been put up by the malcontents, you can see where I’m heading.

I refer to the 14-month-old dispute between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the GOP senators who stripped him of most of his powers. Ordinarily, such an intramural power play would interest only the true political junkies. But the Senate’s cold war is getting hot enough to matter to ordinary Georgians.

Some background: Days after Cagle was re-elected in 2010, Senate Republicans resolved to change the chamber’s rules to put two of their own, Tommie Williams of Lyons and Chip Rogers of Woodstock, in charge. Cagle argued, not without merit, that a majority of Georgia’s voters thought they’d just elected him to lead the Senate. But he lost that debate.

The 2011 session moved along fairly smoothly almost until the end, when an alliance of Democrats and pro-Cagle Republicans made a move to restore the old order. It failed, as has a series of GOP truces since then. The most recent cease-fire was brokered Monday night by none other than Gov. Nathan Deal, only to be rejected about 12 hours later by a majority of senators.

Now, re-read those last four words: “a majority of senators.” Those words explain why this mess has gone on long enough.

Regardless of whose side one takes — and none of the actors are angels — the basic facts on the ground haven’t changed in 14 months: 1) a majority is needed to change the rules; and 2) a majority favors the current rules.

Period, paragraph, end of story.

Cagle and his allies had upward of nine months to assemble a majority; goodness knows they tried. If they had a majority, they would have changed the rules by now. They don’t, so they haven’t. Deal with it.

I don’t say this as a partisan of the anti-Cagle faction. I have no grudge against the lieutenant governor, nor any loyalty to Williams or Rogers. All three support issues I support. This isn’t personal.

Well, it isn’t personal for me. But it quite clearly is personal for them. And that’s where the interests of ordinary Georgians come in.

Lawmakers like to say they’re performing “the people’s business.” As long as they’re feuding in this way, they aren’t. The leadership struggle colors every matter that comes before the Senate, even ones on which the two sides agree, because every matter is a potential tool for gaining or keeping leverage. Georgians deserve to have those issues considered on their own merits.

At the same time, I’m not bemoaning the perceived lack of efficiency in the Senate. In a state government controlled wholly by one political party, a little inefficiency is no bad thing. (Republicans said these kinds of things back when Democrats were that party.)

Government, on any level, is best when changes in the law are thoroughly vetted and debated. So it also behooves Georgians if the process is slowed down somewhere along the way.

I understand Speaker David Ralston’s frustration when he complains about not having a counterpart who speaks for the Senate and can deliver its members. “We can’t have 36 different leaders, or however many they have on any particular day,” he lamented last April.

But “speaks for” and “deliver” can be statehouse code for “lords over” and “bully” — not always, but often enough to give an outside observer pause. (Let’s also note that a tougher-to-please Senate arguably gains power at the expense of the more spoken-for House, which also might bug Ralston.)

Unless facts on the ground change, the two sides would do right by Georgians to put their spat aside until sine die. And primary season.

Let Cagle and his allies recruit fellow Republicans to run against the thorns in their side (though I’d like to see how successful they’d be with a pitch that amounts to, “Vote for this guy, because he’d help put us and, er, the Democrats in charge”). Let Williams and Rogers field challengers to the holdouts in their caucus.

May it be a long, nasty primary season. Then, after November, may the winners hold the reins of power.

Until then, may all of them simply get to work.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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176 comments Add your comment

arnold

January 12th, 2012
5:18 am

I think the Georgia voters made a decision. How about honoring the voters.

Beth Merkleson

January 12th, 2012
5:54 am

Oh, Kyle, bless you for speaking out against that terrible, terrible man Casey Cagle. All this should be straightened out by grassroots organizing! How I wish I could do that—-If only I wasn’t busy with my dear mother, who is still in the world’s longest recovery from surgery.

I really must check in with my hero, Sen. Staton, when I find a few spare moments. He must think I’ve dropped off the face of the earth. Has anyone seen my Blackberry?

Karl Marx

January 12th, 2012
6:37 am

So we have Tommie Williams and Chip Rogers taking power from Cagle so tell me what is really different? I see no difference except now we have someone in a leadership position who takes out million dollar loans he can’t pay and never intended to pay back and now taxpayers are stuck with his bill. All 3 should be voted out of office except for the fact Democrats can’t get a dog catcher elected. Too bad too, see what we are stuck with now. Where are the old true Southern Democrats and not this new breed of radical socialist? Are they all now extinct?

The One, The Only, The Amazing GodHatesTrash!

January 12th, 2012
6:38 am

The Georgia Legislature. I hear they are filming new Heehaw episodes there.

Road Scholar

January 12th, 2012
7:06 am

“Vote for this guy, because he’d help put us and, er, the Democrats in charge”

With a minority, the Dems would never “be in charge”. But whatever happened to bipartisenship? Now, it doesn’t even exist within the Repub party. We elected each of the Senators to office…let them ALL do their jobs!

“Where are the old true Southern Democrats …”
They became Repubs!

Finally, HeeHaw was a comedy…our legislature is a tragedy!

ByteMe

January 12th, 2012
7:24 am

Kyle, I think you just argued for both the “let the spat continue to slow things down” and “let’s let the spat die so you can get to work” sides. Romney much? :)

JDW

January 12th, 2012
7:45 am

Meanwhile back at the ranch….

Georgia unemployment will exceed the national average for the 51st consecutive month.

Atlanta has no long-term water solution

Transportation woes continue to stifle the potential of the region

Education continues to languish at the bottom of the pile

But hey, “a little inefficiency is no bad thing”. Could you please pass the wild hog I have to get going…big golf trip with some…constituents, yeah that’s it constituents.

:evil:

Beverly Fraud

January 12th, 2012
8:00 am

If this General Assembly really wants to balance the budget, they should sell sponsorship rights to the Gold Dome.

Yahoo would be a natural fit, as apparently you can’t swing a stick under the Gold Dome without hitting one, possibly several of them.

Karl Marx

January 12th, 2012
8:09 am

Road Scholar said ““Where are the old true Southern Democrats …”
They became Repubs!

That’s very true except we don’t call them Republicans, we call them RINOS. The real term we should be using besides traitor is BOZO’s. More big Government, more taxes, BOZO’s.

Mike

January 12th, 2012
8:17 am

I am with JDW. However there were some accomplishments. There is a new high occupancy lane which generates more money and more traffic in the other lanes. The high unemployment was helped by giving jobs to family members of the newly elected. Also now lottery players are paying for the kids of the more affluent to attend college. A long cry from the original HOPE intent. Tradition or not, someone needs to tell those state legislatures the negative effects of eating all that pork.

independent thinker

January 12th, 2012
8:40 am

think of the money the state could make if we put these guys in a circus tent with some animals and clown cars and charged admission!

Beverly Fraud

January 12th, 2012
8:42 am

“Education continues to languish at the bottom of the pile”

How can you say that JDW, when Georgia CONSISTENTLY ranks in the Top 50 states in educational achievement?

scrappy

January 12th, 2012
8:44 am

“1) a majority is needed to change the rules; and 2) a majority favors the current rules.”

Have to disagree here…. Isn’t this why we make “rules” or “laws” so the majority cannot bully the minority? Isn’t this why we have an election, voted on by the public, to decide who runs the senate?

Lets assume, and this is a huge assuption, that a GOP like Cagle is elected Lt. Gov (leader of Senate) and Democrats win enough to be a majority, does that mean they too can then make someone else the leader and ignore the election results?

Tom da bomb

January 12th, 2012
8:49 am

Kyle, you are misstating the facts again. A majority of senators do not support the current rules — a majority of the Republican senators do. That’s a whole different number and you are misleading your readers. If the matter ever reached the Senate floor for a vote, the 20 Democrats would team with the Cagle supporters, which really would be a majority of the ENTIRE SENATE.

Road Scholar

January 12th, 2012
8:49 am

ind thinker: I’d rather have a dunking booth; the satisfaction of hitting the target and putting them in the drink would be more entertaining…esp if the drink had aligators in it!

Lynn43

January 12th, 2012
8:53 am

I just can’t wait for the circus to begin when Chip Rogers and Tommie Williams are running for the governor’s office at the same time. I bet we will finally get the true picture of each of them. Each will reveal all the secrets and (illegal) tactics the other has done. What fun!

carlosgvv

January 12th, 2012
8:55 am

Kyle, this is a nice thought. However, if you truly believe Georgia politicians will ever stop struggling for power then I’ve got a nice oil well in Snellville I’ll be happy to sell you.

Ross Perot

January 12th, 2012
9:24 am

Did the Hatfield and McCoys move from Kentucky and take over the Golden Dome? They voters should get to view their “family tree” to make sure there is more than one branch on it…

Josie

January 12th, 2012
9:35 am

Kyle – you’re really far off on this one.

Your “majority of senators” was just the majority of Republican senators who were in the caucus room the other night. That means a dozen or so (what you call a majority) is speaking for the entire senate regarding the rules.

The current caucus has the senate in a headlock and won’t allow a motion to be made that would change it all. It would change today if Tommie Williams, Chip Rogers and Bill Cowsert weren’t blocking everything.

More evidence of that is how those three made a deal with the Governor and then reneged on it. It would have changed if they didn’t block the deal they agreed to.

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
9:36 am

Power struggle….this just proves the Democrats cannot get along with anyone!

JDW

January 12th, 2012
9:38 am

@Mike…yes indeed I forgot about the “accomplishments” Georgia’s transition to a full on, small government Republican majority has wrought. Some others on the list include:

The acceptance of prayer (see Sonny Purdue) as a viable solution to our water ills…psssst that snicker is the rest of the country.

Protection from corporations that wish to embed microchips into us…presumably those are the Democratic leaning ones ’cause the Republican ones can get by with limited regulatory impact.

The ability to tote a gun most anywhere…on the list this years schools and airports. YEHAW bartender another round for everyone!

Legislation to “keep those foreigners” out of our state…let those crops rot in the fields who needs ‘em!

We now have the third strongest dog fighting law in the US!

Whew dodged that ethics reform thingy yet again…and again…and again…and again….

I am sure there is more but I need to go thank my lucky stars for our God Fearing Republican majority!

:roll:

Bill Frankum

January 12th, 2012
9:38 am

Tommie Williams and Chip Rogers are the worst the Senate has to offer. What a joke. Cagle won statewide in a landslide – if those two jokers want to be in charge they should run for Lieutenant Governor.

Somali Republican

January 12th, 2012
9:39 am

Georgians make me feel so much at home.

Tealiban Party

January 12th, 2012
9:54 am

Kyle making excuses for a Republican do-nothing state government – big surprise. The Senate could no more effectively run a high school government, rather than the 9th largest state in the country. I am sure the 10% of Georgians without jobs right now are REALLY PLEASED with a “little inefficiency”.

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
10:09 am

Tealiban Party….the 10% of unemployed are thrilled with Obama….Bring on November!

Kyle Wingfield

January 12th, 2012
10:14 am

Josie and Tom: I have little to no doubt that, if there were enough Republicans willing to break away and join with the Democrats to change the rules, they would find a way to bring the matter to the floor.

Kyle Wingfield

January 12th, 2012
10:20 am

JDW: As down as you tend to be on the Georgia Republicans’ ideas, I am surprised to see you taking up for their ability to push through those ideas with haste. Efficiency can be another word for a railroad job. I might anticipate agreeing with more of the things of the things they might railroad/pass efficiently than you would, but I recognize it can be a bad way to run things. If it’s not right when you dislike the ideas, it’s not right when you agree with them, either.

Junior Samples

January 12th, 2012
10:22 am

Did somebody mention Hee-Haw?

And yet we continue to wonder why corporations don’t flock to Georgia when elected officials are stripped of power. They don’t know who to bribe. When there’s a constant struggle for who’s first in line at the trough, we all loose.

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
10:24 am

Junior….Corporations are moving to Georgia.

wowzer

January 12th, 2012
10:29 am

The local do-nothing Republicans only follow the national do-nothing Republicans. Apparently its the best way to continue unethical dealings and then blame Democrats for the woo’s of the economy.

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
10:32 am

Wowzer….do nothing….hmmm you mean like when Obama had NO play regarding the deficit? And the Republicans had a plan to balance the budget….is that what you mean?

Josie

January 12th, 2012
10:34 am

Kyle –

No Governor is going to allow a floor flight. It has to be a caucus position first.

That’s why Tommie Williams, Chip Rogers and Bill Cowsert won’t hear certain motions in caucus meetings. i.e. – headlock.

JDW

January 12th, 2012
10:43 am

@Kyle, I am not taking up for the idea of haste but for the idea of efficiency i.e. execution. You are right that in many cases I do not agree with the strategy proposed by the Republicans of today. For example tax cuts as a cure to all ills. However, I know that a bad strategy implemented properly is better than no strategy at all in many cases and in the very least if you fail you can try something else faster. The problem we face today in both Georgia and on a National scale is uncertainty in the extreme.

For example the following quote is from Jeff Immelt…

“Will the U.S. consumer keep spending? I think the U.S. economy is a little better than people believe… and gets a little better each day. I worry about politics being so vile that the consumer becomes afraid again. Confidence is the most important support for the economy. A slight improvement in U.S. consumer confidence would go a long way.”

I agree that’s where we are today…vile coupled with the inability to do anything…even something wrong.

For crying out loud lets get on with it…if the ideas from the Republican party today are, against all indications to the contrary, the right ones lets find out. If not we can get rid of the cancer sooner.

Inside Out

January 12th, 2012
10:50 am

UGA…Get out of Hannitys’ a*** and read befroe you speak….

“As required by the Constitution, all spending bills originated in the House of Representatives and were sent to the Senate once the House had completed its work.”

The President does not control the budget process nor does he dictate the size or scope of the deficit. Stop with the lies and misinformation…..

wowzer

January 12th, 2012
10:51 am

The economy has grown, unemployment is down, the stock market has nearly doubled since Obama grabbed the reins of mis-management from the Bush administration. What are you taling about?

The repubs plan to fund the “job-creators” from cots to seniors healthcare was just too radical; that’s per Newt remember. Newt is the Reagan rebublican as I see on fox news, rush, hannity and other similar nemroids.

So just get a grip and accept your party is devoid of meaningful thought and positive ideas.

wowzer

January 12th, 2012
10:52 am

That’s directed straight at uga 1999

Kyle Wingfield

January 12th, 2012
10:55 am

JDW: I simply disagree about a bad strategy in any case being better than no strategy –and you are making a big assumption that the people who came up with a bad strategy would have the wherewithal to make up for it on implementation…

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
10:55 am

Inside……Oh, so here we go again….it is not “Obama’s fault”. The fact is that he had no plan because he has no idea how to lead.

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
10:57 am

wowzer…..HAHAHAH unemployment is down? From what 10%. The FACT is that unemployment is still higher than it was when this clown took office. You think 8.6% unemployment is good??? Haha can you say “low expectations”?

Kyle Wingfield

January 12th, 2012
10:59 am

ByteMe: What you seem to have missed is that it is wholly consistent to want bills neither held subject to other, unrelated issues (in this case, a power struggle) nor rushed through because a handful of people wield all the power. They should be vetted and considered on their own merits.

And I know politics ain’t beanbag, and horses get traded. But I see nothing wrong with limiting the occasions on which that happens, to the extent possible.

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
11:00 am

Wowzer….For the FIRST time in America’s HISTORY, the debt has surpassed the GDP…..

Yep, keep following your leader right off of the cliff!!! Great work!

ragnar danneskjold

January 12th, 2012
11:02 am

Good morning, ambivalent thoughts about the essay. There is some merit in seeing a government body paralyzed by a power struggle – means they will do less damage to us all.

ByteMe

January 12th, 2012
11:05 am

What you seem to have missed is that it is wholly consistent to want bills neither held subject to other, unrelated issues (in this case, a power struggle) nor rushed through because a handful of people wield all the power.

No, I didn’t miss it. Bills are held up ONLY through struggle when a small group of heavy-weight politicians control the calendar, the committees, etc. If they aren’t struggling, they aren’t trying hard enough to produce good legislation… and lately they aren’t trying hard enough. Just because the power struggle is between people over turf doesn’t make it less desireable from a citizenry perspective. You think they’re going to fight over legislation that doesn’t matter to them?

So.. embrace the struggle. Don’t wish for it to go away, because you could end up getting what you didn’t wish for.

This comes back to my question yesterday about the Cold War ending being good or bad. Is one-party rule good or bad? If you don’t have someone strong enough to fight with, the results of your efforts are going to be underwhelming.

clyde

January 12th, 2012
11:07 am

I’ve always thought that a do nothing government could be a good thing.They’re not spending money as long as they’re taken up with the little distraction of their own making.Keeps their little pea brains busy,you know.

Kyle Wingfield

January 12th, 2012
11:08 am

But, ByteMe, they aren’t holding the bills up because they’re bad or letting them through because they’re good. Instead, in some (not all) cases, they are making the merits secondary to personalities. And I don’t think the citizens win in that case.

Tealiban

January 12th, 2012
11:09 am

UGA 1999
January 12th, 2012
10:09 am
Tealiban Party….the 10% of unemployed are thrilled with Obama….Bring on November!

I’m still waiting for the GOP to find a candidate to beat Obama. As of today, the goopers don’t have one.

Inside Out

January 12th, 2012
11:09 am

OK UGA..Please tell us when was the last time a REPLUBLICAN balanced the budget…… ( Let me grab a seat while we wait)…..

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
11:10 am

Tealiban….you should read more polls. Currently a “generic” republican candidate is in a virtual tie with Obama.

UGA 1999

January 12th, 2012
11:11 am

Inside out…..Gingrich did it under Clinton…>EASY!!!

Tealiban

January 12th, 2012
11:13 am

Will you be voting for generic republican in November? He seems to be the only one polling ahead of Obama. What is his platform? Please do tell…