In the waning minutes of the winter session of the Legislature, Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, sat down in his office and quietly explained why Senate Republicans couldn’t accept Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s proposal to resume command of the chamber.
Williams produced his copy of Cagle’s letter – you can read it here – and went through it point by point. Williams specifically pointed to this section:
There will be a daily meeting of the Lieutenant Governor, the President Pro Tempore, and the Majority Leader to consult on the flow of legislation, bill assignments, procedure, conferees and day-to-day operations of the Senate during the legislative session….
Consulting isn’t power-sharing, Williams noted. The lawmaker from Lyons drew three silos on the back of Cagle’s letter: One was Cagle’s power to name conferees, another was the lieutenant governor’s power to assign legislation. The third silo was the Committee of Assignments – which Cagle would like to chair, voting only in case of a tie.
When Cagle presented his plan to the caucus on Wednesday, “I said, Governor, what you’re doing is asking for all the power,” Williams said. The president pro tem said the caucus couldn’t accept that.
Williams said he offered his own counter-proposal, which, in addition to a Committee on Assignments, included an executive committee of three — the lieutenant governor, the president pro tem and the majority leader. The trio would share command of the day-to-day operations of the Senate.
I asked Williams if all three members had a vote. He said they did.
“My hope is that we can still find a way to share power. But [Cagle’s] plan is just a taking of power,” Williams said. He did not say when Senate Republicans might gather again to hash things out.
Williams acknowledged that the struggle for leadership of the Senate has eaten up a great deal of time this session. But overall, he said the chamber has adapted well to a membership-led system.
“I think we’ve done fantastic if you look at what we’ve passed – the budget, the HOPE legislation, an illegal immigration bill.”
Peach Pundit has reported talk that Cagle delayed debate over HB 87, the immigration legislation, in an attempt to force the GOP caucus to take up the leadership question. We were unable to find a senator willing to go on the record with that accusation.
And Ben Fry, a spokesman for Cagle, scoffed at the idea. “It moved and passed. Obviously, you’ve got your answer,” Fry said.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider