Legislature opens with a Senate fight over power, ethics

By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Monday’s opening of the 2013 legislative session sparked the first hot debate moments after the ceremonial swearing-in as the Senate adopted a set of rules that empowers the lieutenant governor and bans gifts above $100.
Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, offered an amendment to strip Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s ability to appoint senators to committees and decide which committees consider bills. Crane was blocked when the Senate voted to prohibit any changes to the proposed rules, which eventually passed 42-12.
“This may be the end of my political aspirations, but I will never stop fighting for liberty,” thundered Crane, who speculated afterward that Cagle would assign him to insignificant committees and stifle consideration of his bills as punishment.
Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, warned that giving the power to Cagle was unconstitutional since the lieutenant governor is a member of the executive branch.
“Don’t give one person absolute power, even if you think he’s a good person,” said Williams, who had led a group of senators two years ago in taking the power away from Cagle and giving it to a committee of eight senators.
Cagle, meeting with reporters afterward, would say only that he’s looking forward to a successful session and stressing the significance of the prohibition on gifts from lobbyists.
“I think it sends a strong message to the citizens of Georgia that the Senate is serious about its ethics and the accountability that comes with it,” he said.
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, dismissed the Senate gift rule as a publicity stunt.
“If they want to call that real reform, I’ve got some oceanfront property in a place called Blue Ridge I’ll be glad to take them this afternoon to sell them,” he said.
The speaker renewed his commitment to introduce a House bill that outlaws all gifts on all legislators. He also said he still believes such a ban is unnecessary as long as the gifts are disclosed in government reports but that he’s supporting the bill because the voters demonstrated in the July straw poll that they want it.
Ralston and House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, were re-elected without Democratic opposition while the Senate Republicans were fighting among themselves.

More Local

Man found guilty of child molestation, enticement

A man with two previous arrests for rape was convicted Tuesday of molesting a child. It took a jury only a few hours to convict Randy Hunter ... Read More

Piedmont Newnan thwarts talk of urgent care plans

Despite information presented by Piedmont Newnan Hospital executives to Coweta business and industry officials last summer, hospital represe ... Read More

First Coweta recipients of REACH scholarship recognized

Two Coweta eighth graders were recognized by Georgia first lady Sandra Deal, as they became the first recipients in the Coweta County School ... Read More

Emissions scandal affects VW stocks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Division has had the technology to identify citizens falsifying emissions tests for the past 10 years, but ... Read More

Transcripts more than a year late

Delinquent court reporter released from jail

A court reporter who was jailed for contempt of Coweta Superior Court was more than a year behind on providing transcripts of cases. Accordi ... Read More

GSP: Speed, conditions to blame for fatality

A single-vehicle fatality earlier this week was due to bad weather and driving too fast for conditions, according to the Georgia State Patro ... Read More