The Legislature breezed through one of its major hurdles on Monday, giving final approval to a mid-year adjustment to the state’s $18 billion budget that will provide schools with an extra $83 million for additional students.
The chambers agreed on a spending plan that runs through June 30 after adding $13 million to help fund the Morehouse School of Medicine, which made a last-minute plea to lawmakers for extra money. In total, Morehouse and the Mercer School of Medicine, another private medical school, will both get about $21 million in state funding this year.
But the details of the final negotiations are murky. For the first time in anyone’s memory, there was no House-Senate conference committee to hammer out – in public – the final disagreements. The matter was settled privately, out of view of people who like to take note of the bargains struck.
Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams and a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle both said this was because there was so little disagreement between House and Senate versions that appointment of a conference committee wasn’t worth the bother. A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston said something similar.
But one suspects that there is more here than peace and harmony raising their rarely seen heads in the Capitol.
It is also significant that Cagle did not exercise one of the sole remaining powers left to him by Senate Republicans – appointment of a three-person conference committee. One wonders who would have been on it. And who wouldn’t have.
Suspicion is that all were eager to avoid that fight until the very last days of the session.
Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday confessed to the Des Moines Register that, yes, he and his team bungled last week’s announcement that he planned to begin raising money to explore a 2012 candidacy for president:
“I wish we had been a little more structured last week. But I don’t take it as a very serious problem. We do many, many things, and most of them reasonably well…
“We live in an age of 24-7 constant surveillance of really smart people, and every once in a while something ragged will happen to every single campaign,” Gingrich said. “And I think the real trick is to relax, live it out and keep moving.”
Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, on Monday launched their campaign to convince the public that the mere trims now under discussion in Congress will do little to address the $14 trillion national debt.
Democrats would have to accept large holes in the social net. Republicans would have to swallow – well, let’s call them revenue enhancements. From the Washington Post:
“None of us have ever voted for a tax increase, and I don’t intend to,” Chambliss said Monday. But the tax system is “way out of kilter,” producing $1.1 trillion in revenue in 2009 while giving away $1.6 trillion in deductions and other breaks, he added. “We can do it in a fair and reasonable way and . . . actually lower rates and at the same time raise revenues.”
…At the same time, the effort is also attracting strong supporters. This week, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the leaders of Obama’s fiscal commission, are launching their own campaign to promote the Gang of Six talks. And despite reluctance at the White House to engage publicly on the issue, Bowles said in an interview that the president has named Vice President Biden as his “point guy” on the talks.
Democratic activist Amy Morton of Macon, formerly the voice of Georgia Women Vote, has launched a new blog that will address Southern Democrats as a whole: Cotton Patch Politics.
Her operating slogan comes from Matthew 28:11, as interpreted by the late Clarence Jordan: “Come to me, all of you who are frustrated and have had a bellyful, and I will give you zest.”
Last week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed paid a visit to Chicago, and in an interview with WBEZ radio, was asked if he had any advice for Chicago’s mayor-elect, Rahm Emanuel. Said Reed:
”Overcommunicate. I’ve given 180 speeches since I’ve been mayor. So, you have to constantly explain what you’re doing in every format and it helps get you through.
“It’s not enough that you’re in the office reviewing data that makes sense. You’ve gotta be willing to go into living rooms, barbershops, [and] neighborhood meetings to the point that you sound like a broken record and explain to people wherever they want to be explained to.
“You gotta keep explaining it in real time and you have to put yourself in a forum where the person says ‘Hey, I saw that guy. I saw them stand up somewhere for 30 or 40 minutes and be questioned directly.’ That’s the world we’re in. People like access to information, they like to see, touch and feel people, and personal contact is how you win the day.
“If you go out and do a bunch of hard things and don’t overcommunicate, you’re going to feel a backlash that comes from a lack of understanding. If you’re doing the right thing, sit there in the living room for two or three hours and explain it.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider