Majority Leader Chip Rogers this morning said the Senate will stick by the changes it made to a $216 million hospital bed tax needed to resolve next year’s state budget.
That will send the measure into conference. At the same time, Rogers said he expects the House to pass the budget by Wednesday, with or without a resolution on the hospital tax measure.
And possibly, without a Senate vote on HB 1055, the measure to raise $90 million in state fees.
“They’re going to have to, just because we’re running out of time. I don’t envy their position. I certainly don’t envy our position,” Rogers said.
The hospital tax bill, HB 307, provoked a large fight within the Senate Republican caucus when the Legislature last met on April 1.
To make the tax palatable to a necessary handful of GOP senators, the Senate tacked on an amendment lifting – and some future date – the sales tax on health insurance policies.
Asked if HB 1055 might also split GOP lawmakers, Rogers declined to make a prediction. “I have a greater level of comfort with [HB 1055], but doesn’t mean we’re going to have a serious debate on the issue,” the majority leader said.
Rogers said he has not made any overtures to Democrats in the Senate, to compensate for GOP leakage.
Speaker David Ralston staked out the House position on Friday, as a Masters weekend broke out. Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) posted an interview with Ralston, addressing the rejection he’ll give this afternoon to the Senate version of the hospital bed tax.
The substance of Ralston’s tone wasn’t new, but the language was blunt. The speaker also very gently accused Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of not keeping his part of a bargain:
“I was disappointed in the action of the Senate. I think the insurance premium tax issue that they took up, I think, is an empty shell. I think it really gives no benefit to Georgians. And I think that’s clearly not what was contemplated when we jointly worked out this agreement between the House and the Senate and the hospital community.
“So when that bill comes back, then I’m going to rule that partiulcar amendment as being non-germane to the bill. And I’m hoping the Senate will see fit to revisit that issue, and will pass a measure that is in keeping with what we had agreed upon….”
As far as the legislative calendar is concerned, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said the General Assembly will meet Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, then take Thursday and Friday off to allow the Senate to grapple with the budget.
The final, 40th day of the Legislature could come next week – but Rogers held out the possibility that it could come in the middle of the final week of the month. During the April 26-30 qualifying period.
The Southeastern chapter of the Anti-Defamation League is stepping out against SB 67, a measure to require drivers license exams to be administered in English only.
ADL director Bill Nigut asked Speaker Ralston to keep the bill off the House floor:
“While the bill is seen as some advocates as a public safety issue, aimed at curbing the activities of undocumented workers, we believe that its unintended consequence will be to send an anti-business message to foreign investors and companies, and to legal immigrants in Georgia, that they are not welcome here.
The 7th District congressional race has picked up its first Democratic candidate. Doug Heckman, a Green Beret and Army colonel who ran against U.S. Rep. John Linder in 2008, returned from a second deployment to Iraq a few months ago.
Heckman received 38 percent of the 2008 vote.
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