Archive for March, 2011

David Ralston calls on Senate to end ‘little experiment’

House Speaker David Ralston just called on the state Senate to resolve a fight over leadership that has paralyzed the chamber and jeopardized agreements over several major issues facing the Legislature in its final three business days.

Twice Ralston called on the Senate to end its “experiment” of sidelining Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is formally the presiding officer of the chamber.

Ralston spoke after the Legislature adjourned a day early for the week, to try and reach an agreement over a tax overhaul bill.

This afternoon, the Senate was adjourned for three hours while Republicans tried to sort out an attempt to restore Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s authority over the Senate – removed by the GOP caucus in a coup last November.

Here’s what Ralston told reporters:

”I have tried this session to avoid meddling in the business of the Senate. But we have come perilously close to their little experiment over there harming the people of Georgia.

“I’m at a point where I think I have to say …

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Behind the unrest in the state Senate

Until a few moments ago, the Senate chamber in the state Capitol was empty, except for a few Democrats waiting for Republicans to show themselves.

“They’ve run off to South Carolina,” said Jason Carter, D-Decatur, implying that we would have to send the State Patrol in pursuit. Orange-shirted hunters, waiting outside the chamber for a debate over deer-baiting, offered to set out some corn seed.

Neither was necessary. At 3 p.m., Senate Republicans returned from a long, mirthless meeting over leadership of the chamber. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was invited in, stayed for 20 minutes or so, and left without a word.

(The House Republican caucus met at about the same time. Speaker David Ralston’s bodyguard stayed outside the door, where he helped keep reporters from putting an ear to the glass. Cagle’s accompanied him inside.)

We have already posted the preliminaries. Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, introduced a resolution to change the Senate rules to allow personal points of privilege …

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House Republican caucus meets on tax overhaul

House Speaker David Ralston just walked out of an hour-long, closed-door meeting with his Republican caucus – presumably on the tax overhaul impasse that has roiled the last few days of the Legislature.

He offered no details of what was said inside, but observers could see that House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal addressed caucus members first. Ralston spent the last 30 minutes of the session answering questions.

Upon exiting, Ralston gave no sign of any progress toward a tax measure that would garner – without any changes — majority votes in both the House and Senate.

Asked if the House would see a bill today, the speaker said, “I don’t know. I don’t speculate in terms of time. We’re still talking.”

But Ralston hinted that more time would be needed. And the betting is that the Legislature won’t meet Friday, in order to give negotiations more time. Asked about a Saturday session, which he had suggested, Ralston played down the possibility.

“The Senate feels different about …

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A counter-revolution brews in the state Senate

A counter-revolution may have just started in the state Senate.

George Hooks, D-Americus, this morning introduced SR 526, a resolution to change the Senate rules so that points of personal privilege – those five-minute speeches allotted to senators on any topic they choose – are moved back to the beginning of each day’s session.

PPPs are often an occasion for Democrats to vent.

In the November revolt that stripped Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of his powers, the Senate Republican caucus had decided to place the PPPs at the end of daily business – when far fewer people are paying attention.

Upon this morning’s introduction of Hooks’ bill to reverse that decision, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, immediately jumped up and made a motion to engross the measure – so that other amendments to the measure, perhaps restoring Cagle’s authority, could not be attached.

In the ensuing debate, Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams, who assumed leadership of the chamber after Cagle …

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Your morning jolt: Metro Atlanta voters support school takeovers

A majority of voters in metro Atlanta would approve of giving mayors or county commissions the power to take control of dysfunctional school systems, according to poll results posted at Blogging While Blue, the new Democratic blog started by former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin.

Fifty-four percent of voters in the 10-county area would support the measure, while 30 percent would oppose it.

In Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta and a school system that has been placed on probation by its accrediting agency, the margin for approval of school system takeovers rises to 60 percent.

While just posted, the survey is nearly two months old – conducted Feb. 2-4 by 20/20 Insight. That’s before Mayor Kasim Reed publicly raised the topic of a City Hall takeover, should the school system lose its accreditation this summer – and before legislation began moving that would extend such power to the governor.

But it was conducted after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools …

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The split GOP take on public broadcasting: What happens in D.C., stays there

It is peculiar how certain red-meat issues among Republicans travel poorly between Washington and Georgia.

Last year’s health care overhaul obviously incited GOP angst in both D.C. and the state Capitol. Abortion continues to prompt near-universal condemnation from Republicans. Gay marriage, too — though that may be slowly changing.

But it is the Republican attack on public broadcasting that has landed with something of a dull thud in Georgia.

Two weeks ago, the GOP-controlled U.S. House voted 228-192 to block federal funding of National Public Radio. Among many tea partyers, public broadcasting — including Big Bird — has become one of the most glaring symbols of government excess.

“In an age when there are almost limitless outlets from which Americans can get the news, even bordering on information overload, there is no reason for taxpayers to be subsidizing NPR,” declared U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell.

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, the Republican from Ranger, made the defunding of …

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Senate committee passes out House immigration bill

We weren’t there, but we’re told that the Senate Judiciary Committee today passed out HB 87, the immigration bill sponsored by state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City.

The vote was 5-4, and included state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who was brought as an ex officio member to assure passage.

A very, very quick look indicates they kept many of the bill’s features, but pulled the penalties on businesses that fail to use the E-Verify database to screen out hires who aren’t legal residents.

Check out the changes for yourself here. Please feel free to add any observations below.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Georgia Baptist Convention urges ‘no’ vote on tax overhaul

House and Senate Republicans are working furiously this afternoon to massage the proposed tax overhaul into a form that will fly with wary members of both GOP caucuses.

One reason for the sudden footwork is this e-mail from the top lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, sent to its massive network of churches:

The new Georgia Tax Policy that is being debated in the GA House of Representatives today will not allow tax deductions for charity or church giving. It is important that you contact your House of Representatives member today and tell them you are opposed to that change in the GA Tax Policy.

…It is urgent that you do this today and send this information to your contacts as well so they can do the same.

H. Ray Newman

State Missionary

Ethics and Public Affairs

Georgia Baptist Convention

6405 Sugarloaf Parkway

Duluth, GA 30097

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Move afoot to let Nathan Deal to replace Atlanta school board

The Legislature may be on the verge of giving Gov. Nathan Deal the power to remove members of the Atlanta Board of Education should the school system lose its accreditation this summer.

Not exactly what Mayor Kasim Reed was looking for – but something like it.

A bipartisan amendment, sponsored by Majority Whip Ed Lindsey and Democrat Kathy Ashe, both of Atlanta, was attached Tuesday to SB 79 by the House Education Committee.

Early this year, when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the Atlanta school system on probation because of a CRCT cheating scandal and board infighting, Deal discovered that current board members – in the Atlanta system and elsewhere – had been grandfathered in by 2010 legislation allowing the governor to take over local school systems.

This month, Reed said he had approached members of the Legislature about giving the mayor of Atlanta the power to replace school board members – but Republicans balked, saying such a move would require …

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Your morning jolt: Grover Norquist, tea party split on tax overhaul

Oh, the dilemma.

House Republicans this morning will be presented with a letter from Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, informing the lawmakers that he won’t give them any trouble if they vote to pass HB 387, the tax overhaul bill.

But Georgia Tea Party Patriots this morning is urging lawmakers to vote against it:

”One can not just look at the tax rate cut, one has to look at the deductions/exemptions that are slashed and, in many cases, removed in this bill. Taxes will be raised for some and will be cut for others. In other words, this bill re-distributes wealth.”

Grover Norquist, president of Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform

Grover Norquist, president of Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform

Norquist had opposed the first version of the bill, because of its suggested restoration of a state sales tax on groceries, and an increase in the tobacco tax. He declared that the bill violated the no-new-taxes pledge signed by many GOP lawmakers in Georgia.

Norquist’s statement will soothe Republicans worried that voting …

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