With a deal struck among Republicans on congressional maps, attention is quickly turning to the remaining issue facing the Legislature during its special session – passage of a measure shifting next year’s regional T-SPLOST votes from the July primary to the November general election.
Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal met in private session with House Republican members to argue for passage. But he may need to do the same with GOP senators.
We’re told that – right now – the bill wouldn’t win a majority of the Senate Republican caucus vote. That’s especially important when Democrats in the chamber – specifically members of the Legislative Black Caucus – are still in a pique over the Senate Republican effort to take control of local legislation affecting Fulton and other counties.
No gubernatorial counseling session has yet been scheduled – but keep an eye out for it.
Regardless of when the regional transportation tax vote is held, proponents have their work cut out for them – especially given the dearth of Republicans willing to attach themselves to the referendum.
On Monday, in a reporters scrum after unveiling the state’s new license plate, Gov. Nathan Deal went out of his way to reiterate his support for the legislation.
“The more we have participation in the process of making a choice, the better off we are and more representative the vote will be,” Deal said. “I know some people expressed an interest in having all SPLOSTS moved to the general election time. I have no problem with that. In fact that’s probably a good idea.”
But the governor implied that a mandate to require November general election votes for all SPLOST referendums won’t be part of the special session legislation. “That is something members of the General Assembly are working on for purposes of introducing that in the regular session early next year,” Deal said.
But at a Cobb delegation meeting the same day, five legislators criticized what their county — a bastion of Republican votes — would get out of the sales tax levy. From the Marietta Daily Journal:
During a meeting in the Coverdale Legislative Building in Atlanta between the Cobb Legislative Delegation and Cobb Board of Commissioners, state Sens. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and state Reps. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) and Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) expressed doubts about the $856.48 million, 12.8-mile rail line project, which would only have about one mile of track inside Cobb….
“In speaking for the people of west Cobb, in commuting to Atlanta the biggest problem we have is getting to the Galleria,” Tippins said. “Once you get to the Galleria on I-75 you get downtown. The biggest problem is getting there.”
Also Monday, Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, reported that they would have a table at Saturday’s annual GOP fish fry in Perry, where tea partyists will collect to form a campaign against the transportation sales tax. They’re also talking about setting up a political action committee – raising the interesting question of who will pour money into the effort to block the transit vote.
Friends of U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat whose residence in Savannah just became temporary, are keeping a stiff upper lip.
“Republicans have clearly tried to gerrymander Rep. Barrow out of his district, but he has a proven track record of fighting for Georgia families and regardless of what the final lines look like, he will win,” said Adam Hodge of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Academics are mixed on Barrow’s future. From Larry Peterson and the Savannah Morning News:
Black voting-age population there — a rough indicator of Democratic voting strength — would drop from 42.5 percent to 33.8 percent.
“Taking it down that far really hurts a Democrat,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint.
But University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said the new 12th, while difficult for Barrow, remains “very competitive.”
One Republican in the state Capitol has drawn our attention to a minor but not accidental jog in the new 14th District in northwest Georgia district occupied by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves.
The new district would sweep around Bartow County, home to that bank that sued him and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, for failure to repay a $2.2 million loan. The lawsuit was recently settled, with neither side disclosing the terms.
Senate Republicans today are expected to pass the map of new House districts, apparently without addressing objections by Gov. Nathan Deal over the slicing up of his home Hall County.
Food stamp recipients in Georgia have increased by 42 percent in the last two years, to 1.8 million recipients, reports Fox5 Atlanta.
Georgia’s port chief told a senior U.S. trade official Monday he supports the Obama administration’s push to expand free trade, but he insisted the Port of Savannah needs a $600 million deepening of its shipping channel to fully reap the benefits.
From Russ Bynum and the Associated Press:
U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis visited Savannah, home of the nation’s fourth busiest container port, to promote passage of new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that President Barack Obama says will create jobs by boosting U.S. exports.
The Georgia Ports Authority’s top officials used that meeting as another chance to push Washington to fund the deepening of the Savannah River so that dredging might start next year. Like other East Coast ports, Savannah wants to deepen its harbor to accommodate supersized cargo ships that are expected to begin using an expanded Panama Canal in 2014.
Getting money has been tough amid Washington’s budget-slashing mindset.
“We’re the shallowest major port in the world today,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of Georgia’s ports. “Unless we can provide a safer and better passage on our river, shippers are going to go elsewhere.”
Foltz said Savannah’s trade with South Korea is a prime example of the need for deeper water.
The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at Senate Majority Leader Chip Roger’s contention that that the U.S. is near the bottom of developed nations in education.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider