Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Georgia House of Representatives' parties elect leaders

By Walter C. Jones

Morris News Service

ATLANTA – The Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives met separately Monday with their newly elected colleagues, and the Republicans kept their team in place while the Democrats replaced their caucus chairman.

When the General Assembly convenes in January, Republicans will hold more seats than at any time since the Civil War and are just one shy of commanding a two-thirds majority that would allow them to pass constitutional amendments and override vetoes without a single Democratic vote. 

Observers were watching as the meeting began to see if they would pick up that last vote with the House's sole independent, Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville, who has said he's considering joining the party after Democrats tried to get him defeated last week. But he didn't appear, and he's still making up his mind.

The GOP voted to keep its leaders, although Rep. Delvis Dutton, of Glennville, tried to unseat Caucus Chairwoman Donna Shelton of Dacula. He said he wanted more vigorous policy debates during the closed-door caucus meetings the party holds during the session.

"People are concerned with what we're going to face in January," he said.

Shelton said she believes debate is healthy out of the public eye "in the right location. That is amongst family."

Democrats met at the same time in the smaller Senate chamber. They did replace their caucus chairman, Rep. Brian Thomas of Lilburn with Rep. Virgil Fludd of Tyrone.

Fludd said there was no philosophical disagreement only that he felt his business experience would better equip him to improve the functioning of the party organization. Thomas is a geologist.

"This caucus is headed in the right direction. We just need to tinker to get there faster," Fludd said.

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