Updated at 8:30 p.m.: Just in time for the state GOP convention in Macon, Senate Republican leaders on Thursday announced they had reached a power-sharing accord with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for control of that chamber.
But the declaration of peace and serenity may have been premature.
“We have reached a consensus between the majority caucus and the lieutenant governor,” said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, in a press release issued just before the close of business.
Cagle’s office declined comment, but also – though pressed – refused to dispute an account of the agreement as outlined by Rogers and state Sen. Bill Cowsert of Athens, chairman of the Senate Republican caucus.
Yet, about an hour ago, a Cagle ally called to say that – while a framework may have been established — details of an agreement had yet to be worked out. A contact on the other side confirmed that a meeting amongst Cagle, Rogers and Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams of Lyons had been planned for this week – but failed to happen.
As outlined by Rogers and Cowsert, the chaotic, six-month fight would be ended with a 50-50 split of authority over the chamber.
The Senate would be ruled by a four-member Committee on Assignments that will handle assignment of legislation, the naming of committee chairmen, committee membership, and the appointment of conference committees.
The Committee on Assignments would be chaired by Cagle, who would be allowed one other appointee. Other members would be President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock. Two on one side, two on the other.
No consensus, no decision.
Williams was unavailable for comment. Rogers issued a written statement, which included this:
“The Caucus met and addressed a number of issues. We have reached a consensus between the Majority Caucus and the Lt. Governor. The issues were dealt with thoughtfully and respectfully by all of the Caucus members. It is now time to put this behind us and move forward with the issues most important to Georgians.”
From state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, chairman of the GOP caucus:
”The Republican caucus remains unified in its belief that inclusion and consensus is the best model for governing. Collectively, we believe this new model appropriately reflects the balance of governance between the majority caucus and the lieutenant governor.”
Again, details are scarce. There was no immediate indication of who, for example, would control the Senate purse-strings – a power now vested with the lieutenant governor.
The Senate Republican caucus seized control of the chamber from Cagle in November, stripping him of most of his powers. Control of the chamber was handed to an eight-member Committee on Assignments chaired by Williams. The lieutenant governor was allowed two appointees, but was not allowed membership himself.
Throughout the winter session, the Senate found itself bogged down in internecine warfare – and lost many tussles with the House as a result.
In the midst of collapsing efforts at tax reform, the struggles in the Senate prompted House Speaker David Ralston to call for an end to the “little experiment.”
Any changes in governance would be adopted during this summer’s special session to address redistricting. Some Democratic involvement will be required – a two-thirds vote of the chamber is required to address rule changes in the middle of a term.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider