How a freshly elected Casey Cagle was stripped of power

Call this the story of Mark Taylor’s revenge.

But first, let us agree to a set of terms. The rebellion in Macon that stripped Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of his powers late Friday may have indeed been the “power-sharing agreement” that Republican senators claim.

In the same way that Sonny Liston “shared” the heavyweight title with Cassius Clay. The way that the Texas Rangers “shared” the World Series title with the San Fransciso Giants.

And the way you “share” your paycheck with Uncle Sam. That kind of sharing.

With a final voice vote, the Republican caucus removed Cagle’s power to appoint committee chairmen. This is the biggest hammer in any lieutenant governor’s arsenal. It is the key to his influence.

You’ll recall that two senators – Preston Smith of Rome and Judson Hill of Marietta – lost their chairmanships this year when they refused to go along with fee and tax increases in the budget bill.


Nor will Cagle be allowed to determine the make-up of Senate committees, a lesser but still important power. The lieutenant governor will be allowed to direct legislation to particular committees – but only under the supervision of the Senate membership.

That’s more than a fig leaf, but less than a Johnny Weissmuller-style loincloth.

“He was gutted,” one senator said privately last night.

The real clout in the Senate will now devolve on an eight-member committee: President pro tem Tommie Williams, five GOP caucus officers, and two Senate appointees by Cagle. Cagle was expressly prohibited from membership on the committee.

Before we get to what actually happened on Friday, a short history lesson is in order. Until Lester Maddox won in 1966 through a vote by the Legislature, appointment of committee chairmanships in both the House and the Senate were made by the governor.

Afterwards, in the Senate, the power has been at the center of a tug-of-war between elected members of the chamber, and a lieutenant governor elected statewide.

But in 2003, after Democrat Mark Taylor won re-election, but the Senate shifted to Republican control, the lieutenant governor was stripped of everything but his constitutionally protected power to preside over daily sessions of the Senate.

Power in the state Capitol is all about “the ask.” He who must be asked – for a line item in the budget, for a few words to tip this legislation or that — has the power.

This was at the center of what happened in the Woodruff House on the Mercer University campus on Friday.

Individual Republican senators enjoyed a great deal of influence during the days of Taylor. They lost it when the office of lieutenant governor was placed in Republican hands. Lobbyists line up eight or 10 deep in Cagle’s office. Not in the offices of senators.

“The ask” had slipped from their grasp.

Last spring, state Sen. Dan Moody, R-Roswell, decided he would not return to the Senate, and resigned as GOP caucus chair. Two candidates vied to replace him. One was Chip Pearson of Dawsonville, a Cagle ally.

The other was Bill Cowsert of Athens. Cowsert promised to reexamine the balance of power between the lieutenant governor and ruling senators. Cowsert won.

Over the summer, he allied with Williams and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers. Votes were quietly lined up. No one wanted to embarrass Cagle before Tuesday’s election.

A Republican caucus meeting was scheduled. But Cagle wasn’t formally told what was up until Thursday. At a noon meeting – after news of the coup had become public – Rogers and Cowsert came to present Cagle with what they had in mind. Williams attended by speakerphone.

The senators proposed that the Senate be ruled by a six-member committee, all endorsed and elected in some fashion by the caucus.

Only two days earlier, Cagle had beaten his Democratic opponent with 55 percent of the vote, Needless to say, he was miffed. Mightily miffed.

But he accepted an invitation to address the caucus. When Republican senators gathered on the Merce campus at 10 a.m., the lieutenant governor was the first speaker.

He addressed the caucus for 30 to 40 minutes, we’re told. According to someone who was in the room, one line from Cagle’s speech stood out. But no one was taking notes, so we’ll avoid any quotation marks. The Senate doesn’t need six masters, Cagle is reported to have said. It needs one master.

In closing, the lieutenant governor asked the caucus to name one thing – just one – he’d done to justify the move that the caucus was about to make. Cowsert, chairman of the meeting, politely informed Cagle that the forum wasn’t designed to become a question-and-answer session.

Cagle and his chief of staff, Bart Gobeil, were asked to leave.

Next came Dan Moody, the former caucus chair and soon-to-be former senator. Moody laid out the case for a self-ruling Senate. One description: His address was calm, impersonal and scathing. Then Moody, too, was asked to leave.

The fight last until 5 p.m. or so. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga led the pro-Cagle faction, arguing that a committee-led Senate would have its clock cleaned next session when issues boiled down to confrontations with House Speaker David Ralston and the new governor.

Proponents of stripping Cagle argued that the lieutenant governor had become remote, and that his messages to senators were often simply conveyed by his staff.

The day hinged on the dull question of whether a two-thirds vote of the caucus was needed to make what was about to happen the required position of all senators. The senators decided no. The question of Cagle’s powers would come down to majority vote.

The only change in the Senate plans was to increase membership on the Senate’s committee on assignments – the ruling committee – from six to eight. Cagle would be given two appointments.

The new masters of the Senate: Williams; Rogers; Cowsert; Majority Whip Cecil Staton of Macon; Caucus Vice Chairman David Shafer of Duluth; and Caucus Secretary Greg Goggins of Douglas.

Though the final vote was unrecorded, we’re told the margin was wide – an important point. The Senate has 56 members. Near unanimity in the caucus would put out of reach any attempt by Cagle to work around this coup by forming an alliance with Democrats – something he hasn’t indicated he’s willing to do.

The Macon Telegraph provides this coda:

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 sleight 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 decision 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.”

One thing is certain: A reduced Cagle will find it harder to raise money in any race for governor that heats up in the next four or eight years.

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97 comments Add your comment

DW

November 6th, 2010
12:36 pm

This wasn’t done as a sleight to Lt. Gov. Cagle? Riiiight…..

666

November 6th, 2010
12:43 pm

Won’t take long for the people in GA. to see that the republicans are only about power – Not Governing – even more so from their gains Nov. 2.
Teachers and State employees will feel it even more and the Middle to Poverty level citizens in GA. will follow.
In 2 years Georgians will care less about things at the Federal level – only what they have had taken away at the State level.
The Devil made the Caucus do it.

Dash Riptide

November 6th, 2010
12:51 pm

Cagle won a slate victory, just as Deal did. The leadership understands that both men are liabilities who are where they are now only because Georgia is a ruthlessly pro-business, one party state. They did what they felt needed to be done to preserve the status quo and their own future ambitions.

Jimmy Deason

November 6th, 2010
12:53 pm

Not all is lost. Now Casey will have more time to dally with the Senate interns.

Chuck Shiflett

November 6th, 2010
12:57 pm

Let’s cut thru the bull – Cagle overstepped his authority last session when he demanded the heads of committee chairs who would not follow him over the clift on the hospital tax. These senators don’t want to live in fear of being decapitated for voting their conscious or voting as they had promised their voters they would. Though Cagle won, most GOP insiders were very disappointed that Casey didn’t face a primary opponent. They see him as weak and this is the first step in taking him down. There will be a strong GOP challenger to Cagle in 2014 if he chooses to stand for reelection.

Kemp 2014

November 6th, 2010
1:03 pm

I see the silent hand of Joel McElhannon at work. Who is Bill Cowsert’s brother-in-law and McElhannon’s 2014 candidate for Governor?

Last Man Standing

November 6th, 2010
1:09 pm

I hereby endorse Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey for the Office of President, 2012.

greg best

November 6th, 2010
1:11 pm

Casey needed to be neutered, in more ways than one.

i see the future

November 6th, 2010
1:11 pm

Statewide and Federal , Tea party and Repubs, Moderate conservatives and hard line Right wingers

all of them will become CANNIBALS …DEMS sit back and watch the show but stay ready this was the best thing that could have happened locally and federally they will implode because THEY ARE A PARTY NO MORE FOR REAL in two years if we play this Right we will sweep right back in !!!

Middle

November 6th, 2010
1:13 pm

It is becoming more embarassing to be affiliated with the Democratic party on both the state and national levels. The party of compassion has become nothing more than ruthless sore losers. Thank God both Georgians and Americans are waking up!

The Ghost of Lester Maddox

November 6th, 2010
1:13 pm

Hell, I’d love to draw a paycheck for just sitting behind a podium and rapping a gavel every now and then.

dorothy stapen

November 6th, 2010
1:15 pm

Looks like Cagle can kiss his gubernatorial ambition good-bye.

gerald foskey

November 6th, 2010
1:18 pm

Karma has bitten Casey in the butt!

mark

November 6th, 2010
1:32 pm

It would seem the Good Ole’ Boys of Hall county ( yep both are) have had thier plans disrupted!!!

mark

November 6th, 2010
1:33 pm

Where are the JOBS!!!!

Mel

November 6th, 2010
1:39 pm

A lot of Senators are now hoping nothing surfaces with the new Governor…pay back is hell.

J

November 6th, 2010
1:44 pm

adds there should be term limits for the lieutenant governor’s office..

Last Man Standing

November 6th, 2010
1:44 pm

Middle:

Amen!

bart

November 6th, 2010
1:45 pm

Rogers is as crooked as Cagle and Deal.

D. E. Kalb

November 6th, 2010
1:46 pm

An office with no purpose has been stripped of power it didn’t inherently have. Abolish the office of Lt. Governor, and save us all this pointless salary.

Bob

November 6th, 2010
1:46 pm

Repugs: Want to get stripped? Cagle: Sounds good to me!

django

November 6th, 2010
2:05 pm

Republicans eating their own once again..what a weasel move..notice they ambush Cagle with this 2 days after his win…this is all about power grab..not that Im a Cagle fan…Im expecting the next session will be more of them tripping over each other to rape the states coffers..knock yourselves out republicans..lol

Greg

November 6th, 2010
2:18 pm

What are these senators going to do when Cagle becomes Governor next year? You’d better watch who you screw on the way up because you’ll meet them again on the way down. Deal will be indicted and Cagle will be your next Governor.

Real Athens

November 6th, 2010
2:19 pm

Georgia’s State House and Senate has been circling the bowl for what? 8 years? Our “leaders” serve their corporate masters, doling out subsidies and tax breaks to create jobs that never materialize. Public education funding has been eviscerated, passing school costs on to local government. Property taxes have been raised. And you know what, there hasn’t been a Democrat in charge of squat since Roy Barnes lost to Sonny.

Middleman and Last Man Teabaggin’ whose fault is it?

Last Man Standing

November 6th, 2010
2:23 pm

Greg:

You ought to be writing for the AJC! You obviously have some inside contacts feeding you information not available to the public. Would you tell us what the indictment(s) charge? When will the indicting authority release this information to the public?

jw

November 6th, 2010
2:37 pm

seems there is more to that affair than is being printed – good move on the Senate’s part, wouldn’t want the new Nathan Jr. to have so much power!

Son of Mitch

November 6th, 2010
2:39 pm

Casey will be forced to resign soon! Stay tuned!

Last Man Standing

November 6th, 2010
2:41 pm

Fake Athens:

“Public education funding has been eviscerated, passing school costs on to local government. Property taxes have been raised”

Your property taxes have been increased because your local government decided to fund school systems at or near the same level while state funds diminished. We must continue to pay those “specialists” who order textbooks and do other things of a non-teaching nature. The loss of the homestead exemption is due to declining revenues brought on by this recession. I don’t understand why teachers feel they should be exempt from economic hardships that everyone else faces. You would think that school teachers are the only public servants affected while the truth is that every state agency and state employee has experienced “furlough” time and lay-offs. There are many, many unemployed people who are probably tired of the complaining. They are just seeking employment and trying to get on with their lives.

This recession is not restricted to Georgia. The last I heard, it is a national event with many states in worse shape than Georgia.

Cecil the Scam Artist

November 6th, 2010
2:50 pm

Ole Cecil wanted to protect his “exclusive” arrangement for the Georgia Southern games. This little spat is a mere power play for Senators to keep their moolah. Ole Chip, who ain’t got a job, can probably go buy another roach motel and scam off of a bank. What a pack of thieves.

wumpy p. fish

November 6th, 2010
2:51 pm

Think of as job creation, six times the hookers, bag men, junkets, eg; to influence policy, well done gentleman.

[...] As this Galloway AJC post points out, Georgia politics (well, all politics, really) is all about the “ask”. The person who gets asked for favors is the person with the power. For the past 8 years, that person has been Casey Cagle. The Senators apparently got sick of no longer wielding any substantial power, and have decided to take the power back. [...]

Real Athens

November 6th, 2010
3:04 pm

Last Bagger:

Yet Georgia ranks nearly the bottom in testing, graduation rates, ad infinitum. Times are tough across the country, yet ‘at least’ 45 other states do a better job than Georgia — which is run by the Georgia GOP.

News flash, dude:

Perdue repealed the Georgia Property Tax Grant Relief Program last year:

According the Georgia Department of Revenue website (under GOP control):
“The Homeowner Tax Relief Credit provides homeowners with property tax relief on their county, school, state, and city property taxes. This credit will give eligible homeowners property tax relief that is equivalent to an additional $8,000 homestead exemption.”
“The Homeowner Tax Relief Credit is a credit given to the taxpayer directly from the State. The credit is deducted from your property tax bill and reimbursed to the county by the State.”

I’ll write slowly so you can understand:

The HTRG provided a $2,000 tax credit to the assessed value of any primary residence, resulting in a reduction of the homeowners’ total tax liability. The tax amounts that would have otherwise been allocated to counties and school districts were reimbursed by the state revenue surpluses (which the State HAD when the GOP came to power in 2000). The HTRG was not intended to be a permanent means of tax reduction but a tax relief effort sustained as long as state surpluses existed.

Georgia homeowners lived with the HTRG for nine tax years, and a great deal of concern was expressed in response to its elimination in 2009. Tax amounts due increased by several hundred dollars for many homeowners over amounts of the previous nine years. Although the elimination of the HTRG did not affect original homestead exemption calculations, many Georgians viewed the abrupt change as a tax increase.

Again who has been in charge of Georgia since 2000?

Mel

November 6th, 2010
3:06 pm

The “committee” action on this could backfire mightily if Nathan Deal’s past comes back to haunt him. If he were forced to resign over legal issues, Cagle would assume the office with a Senate blacklist burned into his behind.

Forlorn Republican

November 6th, 2010
3:25 pm

Couldn’t have happened to a better man!

3Dawgz

November 6th, 2010
3:25 pm

What does it take to be elected to office in Georgia? A pulse and R beside your name…

No ethics..Not leadership abilities…No vision and certainly no character is required.

Repub voting Demo

November 6th, 2010
3:26 pm

What are you “christian” hypocrits (ain’t gonna support a crook) going to do when The Real Deal ( one of 15 most corrupt pols in congress), is impeached or sent to the big house??? Perhaps you can call on the “Real Christian”, Karen, to come bail you out,lol.

South Georgia Dawg

November 6th, 2010
3:30 pm

Tommie Williams and Greg Goggans are excellent representatives – glad to know they are on the board, they are both trustworthy and solid leaders and yes I know both of them personally
Cagle is a POS (piece of crap) – arrogant, cheater, and wants to treat teachers like hourly wage earners
I wish we could have elected the democrat for Lt. Gov.

Caseys Cadre

November 6th, 2010
3:33 pm

Is it true that the Macon PD Swat team head Coleman Hill (Woodruff House location) encircled to keep Caseys cadre of loyalists from attacking the hill?

Caseys Cadre

November 6th, 2010
3:35 pm

Is it true that Ole Casey took payoffs from the dirty developers a few years back to vote for extending /nuking the earth to within 50′ of a stream thus spoiling our drinking and swimming waters?

Caseys Cadre

November 6th, 2010
3:37 pm

*had (above)

soon to be ...

November 6th, 2010
3:42 pm

I guess Republicans are hard at work stabbing each other in the back… was any one surprised this would happen??

Charles

November 6th, 2010
3:45 pm

This has nothing to do w/power sharing but everything to do w/Cagle’s personal problems involving a staffer which the which the whole Capitol knows about. Another “family values” Republican caught w/his pants down.

Keisha Waites

November 6th, 2010
3:49 pm

Seeing more of the same

November 6th, 2010
3:53 pm

Is it possible to recall the lieutenant Gov? Why have someone with no power in office. Good job of scamming the people of Georgia GOPers. Not like it wasn’t expected.

d

November 6th, 2010
4:06 pm

With Deal having a possible indictment hanging over him, I think Cagle will be governor sooner than we all think, then this won’t really matter, will it?

paulette burkhalter

November 6th, 2010
4:07 pm

ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF GOP RUTHLESS POWER STRUGGLE. THIS TIME THEY HAVE TURNED ON THEIR OWN. WHY WON’T GEORGIANS REALIZE THAT THE GOP IS NOT INTERSTED IN THE STATE BUT THEMSELVES ONLY!!!

bNformedNvolved

November 6th, 2010
4:16 pm

@ Middle and (co-signing) Last Man Standing:

I give you Repubs credit for your ability to project your own shortcomings and failures on to others. You have mastered this tecnique. It is you who have been the “ruthless sore losers” ever since Obama took office and the Democrats took over the majority.

America has truly become Bizarro World where up is down, right is left, and wrong is right.

Paddy O

November 6th, 2010
4:19 pm

the question becomes: Why not abolish the position of LT Governor? Just to have someone to step in if the Governor gets axed? Seems like a waste of taxpayer $$$.

Smarter than U

November 6th, 2010
4:25 pm

This political knife stab in Cagle’s back by Bill Cowsert of Athens and his cohorts reminds me of the murder of Julius Casar by certain Roman Senators…

TheTruthHurts

November 6th, 2010
4:26 pm

Excellent move…I as a voter approve of the great stat of GA approve of this decision….case closed….Obama, Reid and Pelosi have shown that DEMOCRATS do not have a clue how to govern and will only rape and pillage the tax payer for their own use and must all be removed from any power position like the gutless wimps they are lol lol lol lol lol