The Georgia Legislature is back in town (Updated)

Keep an eye on your life, liberty and property: Georgia’s Legislature is back in action starting today.

My news-side colleague Kristina Torres has an overview of the top five issues to watch during the next few months. I agree with the five and would add to them the continued murmurs about expanding gambling in Georgia to increase funding for the HOPE scholarship, as well as the difficulty of waiting while Congress debates its own spending levels for the years to come, which could affect Georgia’s funding for Medicaid, education, transportation and more. See, too, if Democratic legislators are able to cause trouble for the overwhelming GOP majorities on issues such as illegal immigration — for instance, when legislators try to tweak the 2011 illegal immigration law to fix unintended consequences for Georgians trying to renew their drivers licenses.

On the ethics front, look for the Senate to take some sort of action today on a $100 cap on lobbyist gifts — passing a bill for the House to consider and/or enacting a rule establishing a $100 cap for its own members in the meantime.

UPDATE:

The Senate today included a $100 cap on lobbyist gifts in its rules, which will govern the two-year term that began today. The cap is not without its flaws. Among them: There’s no limit to the number of $99 gifts any given lobbyist can bestow on any particular legislator; travel expenses are not subject to the cap and are only somewhat more restricted than in the past; and lobbyists are not subject to the cap if they buy, for example, dinner for all legislators on a particular committee or subcommittee. But as William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said today, it is “a large step in the right direction.”

New Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer made a strong session-opening call for senators to be mindful of how they deal with the people “out there” — meaning the lobbyists outside the chamber’s doors. He called the Gold Dome “a great temple of flattery” but cautioned that “most of the praise is exaggerated at best.”

“We need to each be careful not to play to the flattery and the praise and the attention,” the Duluth Republican said. “We make a mistake when we do anything in here to curry favor out there.”

Fwiw, Senate Democrats conveyed some cautious optimism about how the new regime would treat and work with them, although none of them are under any illusions about the limitations on a party with less than one-third of the chamber’s votes.

Also of note, the new Senate rules direct the Rules Committee to create an Audit Subcommittee to review legislators’ travel expenses on a regular basis. This is the procedure that was supposed to have been followed in the past but was not, leading to the ethics complaint and subsequent fine against former Rules Chairman Don Balfour. (I say “former” in anticipation of a new chairman for the Senate Rules Committee; those assignments are due out any moment now.) About ethics complaints: The new rules maintain the status quo about who can file an ethics complaint. When the violation in question is a Senate rule, as opposed to a state law, only a senator or Senate staffer or intern may file the complaint — which is virtually the same in the past (previously, a Senate “volunteer,” essentially an unpaid staffer, also could file a complaint). Citizens may still file ethics complaints not related to Senate rules.

Thirty-nine more days to go. There are rumors of a two- or even three-week recess in the middle of the session as legislators wait for Congress to decide whether it will live with its sequestration cuts, substitute other cuts or take some other route. A significant chunk of Georgia’s budget comes from the federal government, in largest part to comply with federal mandates for federal programs. We shall see what happens.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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121 comments Add your comment

saywhat?

January 14th, 2013
9:22 am

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 14th, 2013
9:26 am

They should legislate a $100 dunce cap for all the democrats.

saywhat?

January 14th, 2013
9:26 am

I am fairly certain the medicaid hole won’t be filled, to the detriment of the states health care providers who will end up giving away free care to the poor.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 14th, 2013
9:27 am

Well, I guess by the time the dunce cap got through committee, procurement and the liberal pork festival it would become a $1,000,000 dunce cap, but still, if the cap fits….

td

January 14th, 2013
9:30 am

The increased cost in Medicaid each and every year is killing the states budget and making it so that we are having to take away money from Education, public safety and every other agency because people are to sorry to buy their own healthcare insurance.

saywhat?

January 14th, 2013
9:31 am

They should also “tweak” the stupid xenophobic bill requiring proof of citizenship with every renewal of professional licenses. It has caused a major backlog in the SOS office, holding up the relicensing of every professional in Georgia, eg. doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, plumbers, engineers, surveyors, landscape architects, etc.

saywhat?

January 14th, 2013
9:32 am

td

January 14th, 2013
9:30 am
The increased cost in Medicaid each and every year is killing the states budget and making it so that we are having to take away money from Education, public safety and every other agency because people are to sorry to buy their own healthcare insurance.
——————————–
RIGHT! There should be a law…………

southpaw

January 14th, 2013
9:33 am

Grab your wallets/purses and hold on tight until the General Assembly adjourns.

td

January 14th, 2013
9:42 am

saywhat?

January 14th, 2013
9:32 am

Medicaid is now 30% of the states budget and is only going to increase over the next few years. Every dollars we put into Medicaid is a dollar out of education. What is more important Educating our children or providing healthcare to people that will not buy their own?

Jefferson

January 14th, 2013
9:45 am

The GOP want everything and they don’t want to pay for it.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

January 14th, 2013
9:47 am

Let the gifting begin.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

January 14th, 2013
9:48 am

Let’s fix this typo:

What is more important Educating our children who will not buy/provide their own or providing healthcare to people that will not buy their own?

td

January 14th, 2013
9:53 am

Finn McCool (The System isn’t Broken; It’s Fixed)

January 14th, 2013
9:48 am

OK, I will pay for my children’s education to cut out all my taxes and not to pay for others healthcare.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 14th, 2013
9:57 am

TOTAL: STATE FUNDS SOURCES $18,295,831,853
State Appropriations $18,299,477,557
Veto Surplus (3,645,704)
TOTAL: STATE FUNDS USES $18,295,831,853

Well, look at that^^. A balanced budget in a Repug controlled state.

And they said it couldn’t be done.

Aynie Sue

January 14th, 2013
10:01 am

Poor Kyle! Covering the antics of the good ol’ boys in the Georgia Legislature is surely a disgusting task, but somebody has to do it. There’s no stupidity they will neglect to legislate, and nothing useful they will do. Georgia state government is sure to retain the #1 ranking as the most corrupt of the 50 states.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 14th, 2013
10:04 am

Current FY13 Gap Projected

Kalifornia $15.0 billion

District of Columbia $172 million

Illinois $1.8 billion

Maryland $1.1 billion

Massachusetts $1.3 billion

New York $2.0 billion

Get the idea?

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

January 14th, 2013
10:05 am

OK, I will pay for my children’s education to cut out all my taxes and not to pay for others healthcare.

But how do we know you aren’t too cheap and skimp out on educating your children so that they are positive members of society? Or that you will purchase healthcare so they aren’t walking around spreading tuberculosis and flu 24/7?

“Oh, who is that coughing all over us? Must be td’s kids…figures”

Riddle me this

January 14th, 2013
10:06 am

We are too busy giving Medicaid to every refugee/immigrant that comes into Georgia to worry about Education or other matters. Why don’t they buy their own? Oh, I am sorry, they are! We are paying for it!

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

January 14th, 2013
10:06 am

Well, look at that^^. A balanced budget in a Repug controlled state.

And they said it couldn’t be done.

In an extremely poor state where a lot of things are subsidized by federal dollars.

Makes it kind of easy.

Bruno

January 14th, 2013
10:09 am

They should also “tweak” the stupid xenophobic bill requiring proof of citizenship with every renewal of professional licenses. It has caused a major backlog in the SOS office

I’m still waiting for the paper copy of my license which I renewed about 6 weeks ago.

I’m not necessarily opposed to providing ID for new license applicants, but it seems unnecessary for those who are renewing.

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

January 14th, 2013
10:09 am

A state as poor as Georgia would probably still not have electricity if not for the Federal Government.

Most of the things right with this state were done at the federal level.

Kyle Wingfield

January 14th, 2013
10:15 am

A colleague reminds me that, as this is the first year of a two-year legislature, no ethics bills have gone through committee yet. so, expect a Senate rule today on the $100 cap, not a bill. That will have to wait.

Kyle Wingfield

January 14th, 2013
10:17 am

Cheesy: Yes, Georgia gets a lot of its funding from the federal government. But then, a lot of that money is supplied because of federal mandates to fund federal programs.

bluecoat

January 14th, 2013
10:21 am

someone explain to the -d-o- the difference of can not/will not..

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

January 14th, 2013
10:21 am

Just knew the Falcons were going to blow it in epic style yesterday.

Off subject I know, my Dad kept texting that it reminded him of 1980.

Numbers-R-US

January 14th, 2013
10:23 am

If it were not for those federal mandates, Georgia would have a lot more folks off Medicaid.

An Observer

January 14th, 2013
10:24 am

Hopefully, they won’t be busy picking our pockets! Do they really have to pass more laws to mess with the public? Maybe they can keep busy undoing a bunch of laws.

Hillbilly D

January 14th, 2013
10:28 am

I’m not necessarily opposed to providing ID for new license applicants, but it seems unnecessary for those who are renewing.

Feel the same way about the Driver’s License thing. I showed them my Georgia birth certificate, over 40 years ago, and they have a continuous paper trail ever since, complete with pictures all along the way. For somebody who is new to the state, etc. it makes sense but not for those of us who’ve been in the system for decades.

As for the Legislature, thankfully they only meet 40 days a year. Think what damage they could do if they were full time.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

January 14th, 2013
10:37 am

Feel the same way about the Driver’s License thing. I showed them my Georgia birth certificate, over 40 years ago,

Sounds like a side effect of the Republican push to disenfranchise voters. Some times the people they like (old white people) get hit by them too.

d

January 14th, 2013
10:39 am

Medicaid isn’t for people who “won’t” buy their own – it is for those who can’t….. That being said, I am a teacher, and when I was looking at the literature for open enrollment for the last two years, it recommended enrolling our children in Peachcare. That shows the state of this economy…. Well that and premiums are up yet again for less coverage (and this trend predates the passing of the Affordable Healthcare Act).

curious

January 14th, 2013
10:39 am

The Georgia Constitution requires a balanced budget, so it will be one way or the other.

Thought Obamacare mandated everyone have insurance or be fined.
What’s cheaper; Medicaid or indigent care or no pay for ER?

curious

January 14th, 2013
10:45 am

I believe the SOS announced they would not be providing paper copies of licenses. An individual must print their own off the SOS website.

indigo

January 14th, 2013
10:45 am

The Georgia Legislature’s members always have the same agenda.

1. They will do or seem to do just enough for their constituents to ensure re-election.

2. They will use political powers to enrich their personal estates as much as possible.

Road Scholar

January 14th, 2013
10:48 am

Just remember,,,,that hand you feel in your pocket….may not be your own!

Let’s have a lottery….how many hours/days before an abortion and/or gun bill will be introduced? Tick, tick…

I thought of the same lottery with a stupid and non germane comment is made by Aesop and others, but they beat me to it. Besides they are so numerous…

Logical Dude

January 14th, 2013
10:59 am

Will there be any sort of realistic funding for Transit in the Atlanta area? Nope.
Will there be any sort of legislation aimed at making a blastocyst the equivalent of a person? most likely.

I already know that the stadium is a done deal. It’s easier for the legislature to pass that deal than to actually adjust the tourist taxes to pay for anything else.

(from the link) Medicaid hole? “Blame Obama” ; Ethics? “BWAHAHAHAHA!!!” ; Stadium? “Green-light”; Senate leaders behaving? “Needs improvement, but still progress” ; Tea Party? “Thanks for voting us in, now where did we put that screwdriver?”

Let’s see how they actually do now! :)
I actually HOPE Ethics is improved, and leaders behave. Of course, transit funding as well, but Deal would have to actually end the 400 toll for us to trust the State on anything.

Just Saying..

January 14th, 2013
11:03 am

Kyle, Fables may have edged out Barry for that “Differing Views” need you recently wrote about…

td

January 14th, 2013
11:09 am

Logical Dude

January 14th, 2013
10:59 am

“Medicaid hole? “Blame Obama”

And please explain to us how this is not the fault of Obamacare? While you are at it what happened to Obama’s promise of my insurance would not go up if we had Obamacare? Talk about a freaking joke.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

January 14th, 2013
11:14 am

Obama’s promise of my insurance would not go up if we had Obamacare?

Link, please.

td

January 14th, 2013
11:20 am

Finn McCool (The System isn’t Broken; It’s Fixed)

January 14th, 2013
11:14 am

Obama’s promise of my insurance would not go up if we had Obamacare?

Link, please.

You do this all the time and when people supply you actual quotes and facts you still will have the blind eye to anything negative about Obama. Below is the link, so let us see if you can be honest for once and say Obama lied to the American people?

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/promise/521/cut-cost-typical-familys-health-insurance-premium-/

Rafe Hollister preparing for an Obamanist America

January 14th, 2013
11:31 am

Funny, that we have to bring all these personal documents to get a renewal on a drivers license we have possessed for years, but the Dems don’t think we need to check ID’s on those who vote.

Rafe Hollister preparing for an Obamanist America

January 14th, 2013
11:34 am

Why is there an assumption, that you can’t buy one of these bozo’s for less than $100?

I’d say never underestimate the ethics of a politician.

Logical Dude

January 14th, 2013
11:40 am

td: And please explain to us how this is not the fault of Obamacare?

Well, Bush II reduced Federal payments to Medicaid during his administration, causing the states to come up with the shortfall. Obamacare of course requires even more people on Medicaid, but if Georgia isn’t even accepting Obamacare, then they can’t BLAME Obamacare.

Of course, they will anyway. (Which Is why I said “Medicaid hole? Blame Obama”)

Either way, there is still healthcare needs for the poor and needy in this state, and it’s either jack up rates for everyone (as has been happening) to care for the uninsured, or have the uninsured covered by at least SOME form of coverage (whether expanding Medicaid, or require insurance). Either way, SOMEONE IS STILL PAYING.

JamVet

January 14th, 2013
11:48 am

This slimy Georgia legislature is so ethically challenged and incompetent only they could make the big boys in Washington look good in comparison…

Dusty

January 14th, 2013
11:56 am

Hey, who’s worried about the Georgia Legislature? Not me. They have two years to concoct or remove all kinds of obstacles. We have a decent governor (which Dems refuse to admit) who is steadily building a stronger state. We have a mixed and fairly sensible group of all kinds at the Capitol. But here’s to worry…..

The Federal Government is strangling the country with debt and more debt. They have indulged the country with useless financial gifts and promises of unlimited health care for all with no favorable results. They have risen the deficit/debt to unprecedented highs and want to raise it even more. Budgets are forgotten literature and so is cooperation. They have tried to picture prosperous citizens as thieves robbing the poor and wish to wipe out any riches with taxes. They tell our enemies our military plans and act like defending our country is less important than controlling the temperature of the planet which is not possible.,

And you want me to worry about the Georgia legislature who are normal human beings, not supernatural bodies with heroic power? Bah! Humbug!!

Dusty

January 14th, 2013
11:59 am

JAMVET,

“Slimy” is in the eye of the beholder. Roll those eyeballs of yours, fellow.

Jefferson

January 14th, 2013
12:01 pm

Ignorance is bliss.

Hillbilly D

January 14th, 2013
12:05 pm

…….. the Georgia legislature who are normal human beings,

Not any of the ones that I’ve ever known personally. ;-)

getalife

January 14th, 2013
12:13 pm

“Keep an eye on your life, liberty and property: Georgia’s Legislature is back in action starting today.”

Funny :)

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

January 14th, 2013
12:21 pm

What’s cheaper; Medicaid or indigent care or no pay for ER?
———

What’s cheaper is for folks to pay their own way rather than having the goverent steal others property to subsidize their laziness.

Dusty

January 14th, 2013
12:25 pm

Hillbilly D,

Awww come on. You are just remembering those guys who drank too;much from the still made with auto radiators. Them weren’t legislators, just their grandpas.