House and Senate negotiators met for the first time shortly after 10 a.m. on the impasse on transportation legislation.
The meeting, announced by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s office, didn’t produce any immediate decisions — except an agreement for another meeting, probably on Monday or Tuesday.
Both sides were talking positive about reaching an agreement, hopefully before Day 40 of the 40-day legislative session.
The meeting lasted less than an hour, and the bulk of it involved Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) going line by line over the changes that the House made to the governor’s original bill.
As background, the transportation funding bill (HB 1218) proposed by Gov. Sonny Perdue earlier this year would have divided the state into 12 regions. Each region would have a referendum in 2012 to vote on a 1 percent sales tax for a list of transportation projects within the region.
State leaders agreed generally, but the devil was in the details. By the time the bill passed the House Transportation Committee, so many amendments had so altered it that Perdue no longer supported it, and on March 26, the deadline for legislation to move from one chamber to the other, it was technically dead. However, its ideas still will be considered under different bill numbers.
The same questions that doomed HB 1218 still remain. For one, can lawmakers and Perdue agree on the all-important details, like who defines what areas must stick together in what regions?
But, lawmakers still have on the table transportation legislation that passed both chambers, but in different form, last year. They can use that bill as a vehicle to continue discussions and get around the March 26 crossover deadline.
“The goal of this committee is to find consensus,” said Rep. Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons), the House majority leader and one of three House members serving on the conference committee.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, (R-Chickamauga) said: “We know the bill has been vetted [by House members}. We were waiting to see what y’all passed before we got into it.”
He told a reporter later that he expects Senate negotiators to push for “some adjustments.”