The major players in this year’s legislative session

Gov. Sonny Perdue:

Though a lame duck (in his second term, which ends in 2011), he will decide how much money is spent, the most important issue before lawmakers this recession-plagued year. He’s a careful decision-maker who files his budget proposals and bills but generally does not get heavily involved in the legislative process until the end of the session, if then. Last year he was on a trade mission in China during the session’s climax.

Lawmakers

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle: The president of the Senate and the first Republican to run the chamber. A conservative who tends to think things through before speaking or acting. Has a good relationship with the media and plans to run for governor in 2010. In contrast to House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s sometimes fiery personality and big ideas, Cagle generally keeps his cool and doesn’t go too far out on a limb legislatively. His relationship with Richardson reached a low point on the final day of the 2008 session when the House leader publicly called on Cagle to “be a man” and let the Senate vote on a tax proposal.

Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons): A savvy politician who chaired the Senate Transportation Committee before becoming majority leader in 2006. Is replacing Eric Johnson as pro tem because Johnson stepped down to run for lieutenant governor. This South Georgia pine straw millionaire speaks Hebrew, Italian and Spanish, has served as a missionary in China, Israel and Belize, and is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Vidalia. Digs into issues he’s interested in, and his interests are varied.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock): Well-spoken telegenic riser among conservatives. Whether it’s immigration, guns or tax policy, he’s often at the front of the debate. A strong spokesman for the Republican cause, he’s widely seen as a potential candidate for governor or the U.S. Congress down the road.

Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth): A former state Republican Party head who ran GOP political campaigns in the 1990s, Shafer rose in power after the election of Cagle in 2006. Shafer is running for lieutenant governor in 2010. Prefers to work behind the scenes and generally avoids the spotlight. The committee he leads handles a wide range of issues, from telecommunications policy to Sunday beer sales. Because of that, it is a gold-mine for campaign contributions.

Sens. David Adelman (D-Decatur) and Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta): Adelman represents a liberal district in a conservative Legislature. He is a lawyerly legislator who picks and chooses his battles. He was an early supporter of Barack Obama in Georgia and his wife was the spokeswoman for Obama’s campaign here. That makes him one of the go-to guys in Georgia for the new administration in Washington. Reed also helped organize the Obama campaign here and is considered a top candidate for Atlanta mayor.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram): Runs the House with an iron fist the way Democratic Speaker Tom Murphy once did. Has shown a passion for big issues, from tax reform to transportation. Led a revolt against Perdue during the 2007 session that led to the House overriding the governor’s veto of a $142 million tax cut. Since the 2008 session, he’s beaten back a challenge for his leadership, in part by working extremely hard to elect and re-elect Republican House members, earning their loyalty. He also has been much more circumspect, deciding he doesn’t have to say everything that’s on his mind.

House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek): Second-in-command in the House, Burkhalter is a champion of metro Atlanta companies and pushed legislation to help ailing Delta Air Lines. Has seldom, if ever, seen a tax cut he doesn’t like. He does a good job conveying the party’s position to the media and is considered a strong possible candidate for U.S. Congress or higher office in the state in the future.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) and House Minority Caucus Chairman Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus): Porter is an attorney and newspaper editor who came into the Legislature challenging the old-guard Democrats. Over time, he became part of the House leadership. An articulate spokesman for the party, he is probably running for governor in 2010. Smyre knows how the General Assembly works and understands political strategy as well as anyone at the Capitol. Is probably the most connected state lawmaker to the national Democratic leadership. He is president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

Lobbyists

Robert Highsmith: Former lawyer to Gov. Sonny Perdue, Highsmith of Holland & Knight not only represents big-name clients before lawmakers, he defends Republican politicians before the State Ethics Commission and in court when they get into trouble.

Pete Robinson, Robb Willis and team from the Troutman Sanders Public Affairs Group: Long among lobby leaders, this group is led by Robinson, a one-time member of the Senate Democratic leadership who is a master of behind-the-scenes operations. Their client list includes AT&T, AFLAC, Cigna Health Care, GE, General Motors, the Home Builders Association, Merck pharmaceuticals, Microsoft, Synovus, Coca-Cola and Verizon Wireless.

Clint Austin, Tony Simon, Sam Choate: A Republican team with serious connections, they have moved quickly up the ladder of lobbyists, mixing political consulting during election seasons with influence-peddling at the Capitol. Simon and Choate are former advisors/counsels to Richardson, while Austin is a former aide to Christian Coalition bigwig Ralph Reed.

Skin Edge, Trip Martin and GeorgiaLink Public Affairs Group: This group has one of the longest client lists at the Capitol and hustles for a diverse group of interests. Edge has been a regular in the halls since he served as Senate Republican leader in the 1990s. Martin’s been around even longer. Clients include AGL Resources, American Express, Cash America International, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the city of Atlanta, Comcast, DeKalb County, Georgia Pawnbrokers Association, Georgia Pest Control, Georgia Propane Gas Association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Scientific Games, Siemens, T-Mobile, Turner Broadcasting and UPS.

Brad Alexander, Jud Turner and Georgia 360: Not a huge roster yet, but strong Republican pedigree all but guarantees they are up-and-comers. Alexander was Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s chief of staff, Turner was Gov. Sonny Perdue’s executive counsel. Throw in Heath Garrett, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s long-time top aide who is part of Georgia 360 but not officially registered to lobby and this team has connections galore. So far they’re representing AETNA, Get Georgia Moving, a powerful coalition backing more transportation funding, Honeywell, and Oaky Woods Properties, a development that happens to border Perdue’s property in Houston County.

Bruce Bowers & Lewis Massey: Massey is a former Democratic secretary of state; Bowers is the son of former long-time Republican Attorney General Michael Bowers and served on Sonny Perdue’s transition team. The team represents major interests, including Choicepoint, Comcast Cable, Cousins Properties, Dell, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Nortel, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. They also represent companies with state contracts, or ones interested in getting state contracts.

Eric Tanenblatt and the team at McKenna Long & Aldridge: Tanenblatt is Gov. Sonny Perdue’s former chief of staff. McKenna Long & Aldridge is filled with top-shelf lobbyists and former state officials with big-time connections both in Atlanta and Washington.

Others: Chuck McMullen, Dan Lee and Piedmont Public Affairs team, Raymon White, Tom Boller, Rusty Sewell, Mark Middleton and Capitol Partners, Jay Morgan, Mo Thrash, John Thomas, Karen Pope