Update: The deal brokered by Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday, intended to end a 15-month leadership feud in the state Senate, collapsed on Tuesday when it was rejected in a closed-door vote of the Republican caucus.
The plan was intended to reassert at least some of the authority stripped from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in late 2010.
A spokesman for the governor said Deal was under the impression that an agreement had been reached last night, after a three-hour session that brought most of the parties together. But a spokesman said the governor was privy to the reasons for the collapse.
“Senate leaders asked the governor to host a meeting in his office and that’s what he did. He was there, and he was hopeful, but in the end, the Senate’s business is the Senate’s business,” said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson. “We want a body operating efficiently and well.”
This is the second time that the governor has stepped into the fray between Cagle and Senate Republicans led by President pro tem Tommie Williams and Majority Leader Chip Rogers.
The first time was last August, when Deal’s initiative to shift the sales tax transportation vote from this July to November had bogged down. The governor shook hands with Senate leaders on an agreement – but GOP caucus members rejected the agreement.
There are many ways to increase one’s clout and reputation in the state Capitol. Wasting a governor’s time isn’t one of them.
Original file: Gov. Nathan Deal called Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and leading members of the Senate Republican caucus on Monday in a three-hour effort to bring peace to a leadership feud in that chamber – which threatens to derail the governor’s newly announced agenda.
Details are still scant, but so far this is what we’ve got:
We’re told that a quiet effort to supplant Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, as president pro tem of the Senate with Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, had achieved significant traction. A vote of no confidence, the necessary prelude to Williams’ removal, was to be held in the state Capitol this morning – just as Deal was unveiling his blueprint for the session. Democrats would have been able to provide the swing votes that determined the outcome.
Williams and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers went to Deal to ask him to intervene. What resulted was come-to-Jesus meeting that stretched into the late evening and included Cagle; Williams; Rogers; Sen. Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, chairman of the economic development committee; and Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, chairman of the rules committee.
The agreement that was hashed out: Cagle would chair a reconfigured five-member committee on assignments. The lieutenant governor would also have two appointments to that committee. Williams and Rogers would hold seats as well.
However, an agreement was reached that the committee would make no changes in the current chairmanship roster. Caucus elections this fall, after the November general election, would settle the matter.
Also, William and Rogers were guaranteed seats on this session’s budget conference committees.
The agreement must still pass muster with the Senate Republican caucus as a whole – so it’s not clear whether this is indeed an end to the 15-month power struggle that began when the caucus stripped Cagle of his authority over the chamber in late 2010.
But the entrance of Deal into the fray means that the governor is seriously worried about the impact the feud might have on his efforts at tax reform and economic development.
Monday’s developments also cast the Senate’s opening day in a different light. The chamber immediately took up a pair of education bills. The meatiest of the two was S.B. 184, which would bar local school boards from considering only a hiring date when deciding to lay off a teacher – or risk a loss of state funding.
The bill had failed to gain final passage last year – in large part because the lieutenant governor had placed the bill at the bottom of the final day’s calendar.
So publicly, Senate Republicans were sending a message that they were ready to do business. Privately, passage of S.B. 184 was a rebuke to Cagle, and a sign that last year’s trench warfare would continue.
Significantly, the Senate agreed to all House changes in the legislation – in order to avoid granting the lieutenant governor the privilege of appointing a conference committee.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider