The balance of power within the state Senate shifted slightly toward Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Wednesday night.
There were no fireworks, no public displays. Nearly every member of the Senate was aware of the seismic development, but it barely made a ripple in the Crossover-Day tide of bills.
The cause of the quake was SB 223, a tiny little bill carried by Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, an attorney and freshman member of the body.
The measure would establish a “Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee” that would pass a magnifying glass over state bureaucracies – in theory, looking for outdated activities that might be eliminated.
As originally worded in the measure, House Speaker David Ralston would appoint one co-chairman of the Committee. Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, would appoint the other.
An outsider might think that this was an attempt to keep an appointment out of the hands of Cagle, who was stripped of much of his power over the chamber by Senate Republicans last November.
One argument made in chambers is that Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams wanted to give individual Senate members – chairmen in particular – more responsibility, and thus more clout. Williams chairs the eight-member Committee on Assignments, which now rules the chamber.
Yet the asymmetrical arrangement – the House speaker on one side, a mere member of the Senate on the other – apparently made some Republicans uncomfortable.
Leaders of the November revolt had already taken separate beatings this week – floor votes that could reasonably be interpreted as signs of dissatisfaction within the Republican caucus.
Williams lost control of his own Medicaid fraud prevention bill. Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock – who provided the second signature on SB 223 – was forced to table his prized school voucher bill for the session. On Monday, an amendment by Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, to permit wine-tastings in liquor stores, was crushed.
On Wednesday evening, we’re told that Sens. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and Jim Butterworth, R-Cornelia, both Cagle loyalists, began passing around an amendment to give the appointive power contained in SB 223 to the lieutenant governor.
Nineteen Republican senators added their signatures to the piece of paper – a majority of the caucus.
No confrontation was necessary. When SB 223 came up for debate, at roughly 9 p.m., its author announced that he wanted to amend his own bill, giving Cagle the power to name the co-chairman of the sunset committee.
The bill was passed on to the House. Left behind was that piece of paper with the signatures of 19 Republican senators who were willing to see the lieutenant governor grow a little more powerful. No doubt it will be stowed away for later use.
Read more here, but the Associated Press has this report that might make a few Democrats feel better about themselves:
African-Americans in the South are shunning city life for the suburbs at the highest levels in decades, rapidly integrating large metropolitan areas that were historically divided between inner-city blacks and suburban whites.
Census figures also show that Hispanic population growth for the first time outpaced that of blacks and whites in most of the South, adding to the region’s racial and ethnic mix.
“All of this will shake up the politics,” said Lance deHaven-Smith, a political science professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Because the South is a critical region for Republicans in presidential elections, “all the Democrats have to do is pick up a couple Southern states, and Republicans are in trouble.”
The share of blacks in large metropolitan areas who opted to live in the suburbs climbed to 58 percent in the South, compared to 41 percent for the rest of the U.S., according to census estimates. That’s up from 52 percent in 2000 and represents the highest share of suburban blacks in the South since the Civil Rights Act passed in the 1960s.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider