When House Speaker Glenn Richardson had his conference call with his Republican colleagues last week, to announce both his resignation and successor, one of the things that really cheesed off the rank-and-file was the mute button.
Only three people were authorized to speak: Richardson, Speaker pro tem Mark Burkhalter of Johns Creek, who now takes the reins, and House Majority Leader Jerry Keen of St. Simons.
That wasn’t the case when Richardson announced his attempt at suicide a few weeks earlier. The mikes were open then, ready for expressions of sympathy and support.
The top-down flow of decisions was referenced in an interview on Friday with state Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), who challenged the speaker last year. Ralston told my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:
“I think there is a significant amount of serious concern amongst Republican members of the state House over what I would describe as the lack of outreach and the lack of communication over the past few days. A feeling that maybe decisions were being made and were going to be handed down as accomplished facts without any input from rank-and-file members.”
That was followed by a call on Saturday from state Rep. Michael Harden (R-Toccoa) for a House caucus election:
Because Speaker Richardson is not officially resigning until January 1, the temporary Speaker could serve through the Session without calling for an election. The House would only have a temporary leader, not a fully respected one. This situation is not acceptable to me or to a significant number of my colleagues.
The longer we wait to hold a real election, the longer this drama will continue and the more damage it will do to the House and to our state.
All of which is a long way of saying that we’re told a meeting of the House Republican Caucus is in the works for Friday, somewhere on the campus of Mercer University in Macon, for an airing out of laundry.
The Rome News-Tribune has this bit of news today that’s likely to force a sigh from metro Atlanta business types:
There’s little hope of new money to fix Georgia’s ailing transportation network, according to the district’s representative to the State Transportation Board.
David Doss of Rome said he’s even less optimistic about the upcoming Georgia General Assembly session than he was in the three previous years. Some local legislators are saying he’s not far off the mark.
“I think we have to remain hopeful, but the state’s financial situation is going to make it hard,” said state Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome. “And, if you go outside the Atlanta area the concern for it has diminished. For most of our state, (traffic congestion) is an occasional challenge rather than a daily one.”
Doss said the “window of opportunity” has likely passed to ask voters to approve a 1-cent statewide transportation sales tax, and the shortfall first announced by the board in 2007 has grown.
The Georgia Department of Transportation will get through 2010 with some more cutbacks, he said, but there is a real possibility there won’t be enough money in 2011 to provide the required 20-percent match for $1.2 billion in federal funds.
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