Politics & Government

Party lines divide Macon-Bibb delegation

ATLANTA — Macon and Bibb County's legislative delegation, which would typically meet as one, instead held two separate meetings this morning: Republicans in one building and Democrats in another.

In the end, both named state Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, chairman of the organization. Sort of.

The Democrats simply agreed to go back to the way the title was awarded several years ago, before Republicans took over state government: Seniority. That made Lucas, the longest-serving legislator representing Macon or Bibb County, chairman.

The Republicans named Lucas chairman as well, and voted state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, vice-chairman. The idea is that they would switch next year, with Peake becoming chairman. That was the compromise suggested by the outgoing chairman, state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon.

With four Republicans and four Democrats on the delegation this year — as opposed to the one-person advantage last year for Republicans — it appears the two sides have come to a standoff.

It's not entirely clear how this might affect any local legislation that might come before the delegation this year, including legislation to add another penny to the city and county's hotel-motel tax.

Each representative and senator has a vote on items that affect both the city and the county. And because the Senate includes one Democrat, state Sen. Robert Brown, and one Republican in Staton, there's a 50-50 split there anyway.

But the separate meetings point to the division between the two parties, some of which goes back to four years ago when Republicans won the majority and ousted Lucas as chairman, naming Staton instead. Lucas said he wasn't even invited to that meeting.

"I didn't create this mess. ..." Lucas said this morning. "It was created four years ago."

Staton said that, when he first joined the delegation, there wasn't even discussion or a vote to name a chairman.

"David Lucas was just in charge," he said.

The chairman's job largely consists of calling delegation meetings, making it a largely administrative title.

But there is some question of what the delegation's rules will be now. Those are relevant when local legislation makes it to the floor of the House of Representatives or the Senate, because they state whether unanimous consent is required for new local laws to pass.

Under last year's rules, it was not in the House. But because of the tie in the Senate, unanimity is already required there if the legislation affects the whole county.

Said Staton: "Fortunately, at the end of the day, this (disagreement) is not particularly significant."Asked to describe the relationship between Macon-Bibb Democrats and Republican, Lucas said they "get along" but "differ on issues."