Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Democrats Try Quiet Tack; They Work on Their Issues and Legislation While GOP Leaders Clash

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Democrats Try Quiet Tack; They Work on Their Issues and Legislation While GOP Leaders Clash

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA -- As noisy and volatile as the recently concluded session of the General Assembly was, Democrats weren't the ones stirring things up.

With legislators heading back into special session next month, the Democrats say they'll follow the pattern of letting the leaders of the majority party fight among themselves. Democrats wound up being the wallflowers at the dance.

It was a departure from their prior years in the minority, when they did all they could to be seen and heard. House and Senate Democrats used to hold weekly news conferences and issue frequent news releases during the past two sessions.

This year, the Democrats behaved differently -- because of how the Republicans behaved.

In the House, the GOP leadership spent so much energy clashing with the governor and Senate that Democrats saw little reason to launch many attacks. Across the Capitol in the Senate, the Republican leadership, specifically Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, took a conciliatory approach that quelled the Democrats.

"One of my priorities was to create a new tone in the Senate where every senator is respected and his or her voice is heard," Cagle said. "I think you are seeing the results of that atmosphere."

Indeed, Sen. Tim Golden, D-Valdosta, said Cagle began setting that tone before the session by asking to meet with the Senate Democratic Caucus, which Golden chairs.

"We just got off to a good bipartisan start," Golden said.

Cagle had regained the authority to appoint senators to committees, a power the Republicans stripped from Democrat Mark Taylor as soon as they became a majority in 2002. Cagle put members of the Democrats' leadership on key committees and made three of them committee chairmen -- even if the committees were relatively minor.

Some Democrats sheepishly admitted they were given better assignments by Cagle than by Taylor when he had the power. …

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