By Maria Saporta
Georgia’s unusual politics this year is forcing the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to be more flexible than in previous years.
Traditionally, the Georgia Chamber holds its annual meeting on the Monday that marks the convening of the General Assembly. The annual meeting is tonight at the Georgia World Congress Center.
But where it gets tricky is that early the next morning, the Georgia Chamber hosts the annual “Eggs & Issues” breakfast when the state’s business leaders get to hear from the state’s top elected officials.
So on Tuesday morning, the Georgia Chamber will have Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on stage. But the Georgia Chamber won’t know who will be the House Speaker on Tuesday morning.
Last year, Glenn Richardson was sitting on stage. But he stepped down as speaker late last year after his ex-wife revealed that he had had an intimate relationship with a lobbyist.
Mark Burkhalter was then named House Speaker. But only a few days later, Burkhalter announced he would not be seeking the position permanently.
The Republican caucus then picked David Ralston to serve as its next House Speaker. But that won’t become official until the legislature votes. Presumably, that could happen later today. And that means Ralston would be on stage for the Eggs & Issues breakfast.
But if that vote doesn’t happen today, then Burkhalter will be on stage.
In all my years of covering the Georgia Chamber (I’ve lost count), I can’t ever remember such a fluid situation.
So the Georgia Chamber is switching up the format at Tuesday morning’s Eggs & Issues breakfast.
Perdue will give a presentation like he has in previous years. But instead of being followed by the Lt. Governor and the House Speaker giving their own presentations, the Georgia Chamber decided that it will hold a conversation with both of them at the same time.
Charles Haydon Stanley, who is chairing the chamber’s government affairs committee, will pose questions of the leadership duo of the two different legislative bodies.
That is particularly significant because last year’s legislative session was a virtual stalemate because of the animosity between Cagle and Richardson. The question is whether Cagle and Ralston (or Burkhalter) will be able to work together on legislation.
Georgia Chamber spokeswoman Joselyn Baker gracefully reminded me this morning that the organization had decided to change the format of the Eggs & Issues program months ago (see her comment below). She said the chamber had talked to the various folks involved to see if they would be open to a panel format rather than formal presentations, and everyone was willing.
“We’re excited about our new format, and (we’re) always honored to have the participation of our state leaders,” Baker wrote me in an early morning email.
Another interesting aspect of Tuesday’s Eggs & Issues breakfast will be the role of newly-elected Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Reed, a former state senator and representative, will welcome his former colleagues to Atlanta.
Again, the question will be whether the city of Atlanta and the state’s top leaders also will be able to forge a mutually-beneficial working relationship.
No matter what, change is in the air.
And then in 2011, more change will be coming as the state elects a new governor and a host of other new elected officials.