Until a few moments ago, the Senate chamber in the state Capitol was empty, except for a few Democrats waiting for Republicans to show themselves.
“They’ve run off to South Carolina,” said Jason Carter, D-Decatur, implying that we would have to send the State Patrol in pursuit. Orange-shirted hunters, waiting outside the chamber for a debate over deer-baiting, offered to set out some corn seed.
Neither was necessary. At 3 p.m., Senate Republicans returned from a long, mirthless meeting over leadership of the chamber. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was invited in, stayed for 20 minutes or so, and left without a word.
(The House Republican caucus met at about the same time. Speaker David Ralston’s bodyguard stayed outside the door, where he helped keep reporters from putting an ear to the glass. Cagle’s accompanied him inside.)
We have already posted the preliminaries. Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, introduced a resolution to change the Senate rules to allow personal points of privilege to be moved to the front of the calendar.
But any change in Senate rules could lead to a change in any Senate rule, including the ones that stripped Cagle of his power.
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, sought to engross SR 526 – to keep any amendments from being added. Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, urged passage of the motion.
The balloting quickly became a vote of confidence. And it was defeated 23-19. Most importantly, 14 senators – all but one a Republican – declined to vote.
Shortly afterwards, the Senate went into recess. In addition to the caucus meeting, we understand at least one private meeting with Cagle, Rogers and Williams has occurred. But we don’t know what was discussed.
Today’s turmoil in the Senate had a precursor. On Monday, we understand that several freshmen Republican senators met with Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss his lack of support for a restoration of the state sales tax on groceries, and a cigarette tax increase.
They apparently didn’t believe their Senate Republican leaders, who had told them that Deal had promised to veto either of those tax increases. (We’ll ascribe the best of motives to the freshmen, and suppose that they wanted to see tax cuts in other areas.)
Deal assured the new senators that he had indeed promised such a veto. Things still did not go well. One of the freshmen declared to Deal that they would go ahead and pass the sales taxes. If the governor chose to veto them, they would override him next year.
The session was seen by many in the Capitol as evidence that communication within the Senate had reached a low-point.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider