Senate Switches Over
- Within hours after his historic election as Georgia’s first Republican governor in more than a century, Gov.-elect Sonny Perdue orchestrated a GOP takeover of the Georgia Senate. Perdue persuaded three old-line Democrats — Sen. Rooney Bowen of Cordele, Sen. Don Cheeks of Augusta and Sen. Dan Lee of LaGrange — to dump the donkeys and join up with the GOP. For the first time since Reconstruction, the Republican Party had a majority of a Georgia legislative chamber. The switch may signal bad news for Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor. Though he won re-election by a comfortable margin, Taylor faced the prospect of having most of his powers stripped away by the new majority. And in the House, Democrats nominated Rep. Terry Coleman of Eastman to be the new speaker, in the wake of the election defeat of long-time Democratic Speaker Tom Murphy.
- A federal plan to “pool” electrical power in regional grids will undoubtedly boost prices for most Georgia consumers, says Public Service Commissioner Bobby Baker. “Georgia consumers were sold a bill of goods on natural gas deregulation,” says Baker, “and now the federal regulators want to say something similar about how the grids will cut electrical prices. In low-cost regions for electricity, such as Georgia, the prices will go up.” Critics say the plan is similar to the disastrous electricity deregulation in California. “The power plants in Georgia were built to serve local customers,” says Baker, “and Georgia ratepayers are getting the benefit of lower costs as the power plant costs get paid down.” The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hoped to begin putting the plan into effect in November.
- The Augusta National Golf Club has invited Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, one of the world’s wealthiest men, to join the exclusive club. Gates, whose worth is estimated at $51.5 billion, reportedly has been trying to gain membership for several years. The Augusta club has made headlines recently as the target of a drive by a women’s organization to force it to accept female members.
- About 60 demonstrators espousing a variety of causes showed up at the Governor’s Mansion as Gov. Roy Barnes hosted a dinner for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Among those claiming representation in the band of demonstrators: members of the Concerned Black Clergy, Black Panthers, neo-Confederate flaggers, a couple of schoolteachers and an American Indian protesting the Atlanta Braves’ chop.
- Lawyers for Mac Barber asked the Georgia Supreme Court to hold off transmitting its final judgment barring Barber from the ballot in the Democratic primary for a Public Service Commission seat back to the trial court, while Barber appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court has granted that motion, pending the appeal until the “final disposition” of the case. A trial court ruling by Fulton Superior Court Judge Jack Langford held that the way Georgia’s secretary of state applied the PSC residency law to keep Barber’s name off the ballot violated his equal protection Constitutional rights under both state and federal constitutions. The Georgia Supreme Court overruled. None of this affected the November balloting, but if the U.S. Supreme Court decides the trial judge was right, there might be a special election for the PSC seat next year.
- The Georgia Economic Developers Association gave its highest award, the Zell Miller Public Policy Leadership Award, to Lindsay Thomas, senior vice president of governmental affairs for AGL Resources, during its annual convention in Savannah recently. Named for Georgia’s soon-be senior senator, the award recognizes Thomas’ enduring commitment and leadership in advocating and implementing public policies that are essential for sustained quality economic development in Georgia. Prior to joining AGLR, Thomas served for six years as president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
- Invoking the words of Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare and songwriter Joe South, Sen. Zell Miller urged the Senate to give the president the flexibility he needs to run the proposed new Department of Homeland Security. “So how does the U.S. Senate meet one of the greatest challenges of our time? I’ll tell you how. We talk and talk and talk. Then we pause to go out on the steps of the Capitol to sing ‘God Bless America’ with our best profile to the camera. And then we come back inside and show our worst profile to the country,” Miller said in a speech on the Senate floor, thus making himself more popular than ever with his colleagues.