State Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, was one of a dozen or so African-American state lawmakers who gathered at the White House on Tuesday for a briefing on the “fiscal cliff” from President Barack Obama and senior aides.
The 90-minute meeting, including 15 minutes with Obama in the Oval Office, focused on the costs to states if Obama and Congress are unable to come to an agreement on a debt-reduction package – and a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts kick in.
From Smyre’s description, the meeting with the leadership of the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures was intended to encourage core Obama supporters to spread the word and tamp down any Democratic talk that jumping off the cliff isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
A few liberals have agreed with Newt Gingrich that the deadline is simply a mirage. Smyre is not among them. Like U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, he believes a deal is necessary before the start of 2013.
“I think it’s a big deal, because the states—we have a limited capacity to absorb the economic pressures of what they do in Washington,” said Smyre, a 38-year veteran of the state Capitol.
Smyre said he specifically sought out information – it will be sent to him – on the impact that automatic tax hikes might have on Georgia’s government.
“Our tax system is linked in so many ways to the federal tax laws. As a result, scheduled tax increase could affect state tax revenue. I’m trying to find out what the magnitude of that direct impact will be,” the former chairman of the Georgia Democratic party said. “I consider it an unknown. We don’t know what the potential increase or decrease in revenue will do.”
Tuesday’s stunner in west Georgia could fuel some doubts about the need for runoffs. From Winston Jones and the Times-Georgian in Carroll County:
Mike Dugan won the Carroll County vote by a 3-1 margin and coasted to an easy victory in Tuesday’s District 30 Senate runoff over fellow Republican and former state Rep. Bill Hembree of Winston.
It was a huge comeback for the first-time candidate who trailed Hembree by 24 percentage points in November’s general election.
With all precincts reporting Tuesday night in the three-county district, unofficial returns showed Dugan with 3,606 votes, or 55.79 percent, to Hembree’s 2,857 votes, or 44.21 percent. The voter turnout was only 6.9 percent in the district.
Hembree, the former House Rules Committee chairman, was considered the clear favorite in the special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton, now a Superior Court judge.
We already know that Secretary of State Brian Kemp will present to the state Legislature some changes in how Georgia elections are conducted – federal watchers have expressed concern that runoff elections are held too closely to the original contest for overseas military personnel to participate.
One option is to eliminate runoffs altogether, and this race could become part of that argument.
On Nov. 6, with 56,995 voters participating, Hembree won 48 percent of the vote. In the Tuesday runoff, with 6,385 voters casting ballots, Hembree lost by 709 votes.
If you are an incumbent lawmaker, you might be worried that tea partiers or Libertarians might run several candidates against you, lure you into a runoff – where a highly organized turnout could finish you off.
Look for Brandon Beach, the North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce executive, to announce his candidacy today for the state Senate seat vacated by Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, who – only a few weeks after giving up his bid to keep his position as majority leader – has found a job with Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Beach lost to Rogers in a hard-fought July primary. Other names to look for belong to state Reps. Sean Jerguson and Charlice Byrd, both Republicans from Woodstock. Byrd was beaten by Michael Caldwell in the July primary.
State lawmakers will gather in Athens this weekend for a biennial conference designed to introduced newly elected rookies to the process. But while there, business will be done. The Senate Republican caucus, for instance, is expected to ratify a power-sharing agreement with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Also, John Crosby, R-Tifton, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, has called a 1 p.m. Sunday meeting (Room A, 2nd floor of the Georgia Center) to solicit ideas for ethics reform legislation.
Every now and then, we’re reminded that, three decades ago, Republicans in Georgia were a radical, over-the-top bunch. A former GOP staffer cleaning out his files recently sent us a campaign flyer authorized by state senator and then-GOP chairman Paul Coverdell of Atlanta, who went on to become a U.S. senator.
The 1985 propaganda, in fact, was designed to be turned into an envelope addressed to House Speaker Tom Murphy demanding that Democrats who ruled the Capitol take a $350 million surplus and – instead of putting it toward capital improvements – fully meet the state’s obligation to fund public schools in Georgia.
On Tuesday, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss were among the Republican senators who discounted a personal appearance by 89-year-old former Senate majority leader Bob Dole and voted to kill a United Nations disabilities treaty. From Roll Call:
Several conservative groups, Glenn Beck and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., opposed the treaty because they said it would allow the U.N. to overreach and impose on the rights of member countries.
The text of the treaty, however, does not seem to support this assertion. Some of the Republicans who voted “aye” on the bill said as much.
“It would take a step toward making it easier for disabled Americans to live and work overseas, without impinging on U.S. sovereignty or Congress’ authority to determine our disability laws,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a rising star in the conservative ranks, said in a statement. “Veterans service groups are especially supportive of the treaty, which would help level the playing field for disabled veterans who are abroad.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider