By tradition, Coca-Cola has served as the corporate sponsor of a luncheon honoring the president pro tem of the state Senate at the opening of each year’s session.
Also by tradition, the menu has included Bloody Marys and cigars. But no more. We’re told that both alcohol and stogies have been removed from this afternoon’s festivities honoring David Shafer, R-Duluth, the Senate’s newly elected leader.
The reason? The flourishes were thought to clash with the Capitol’s embrace of ethics reform, including a $100 per lawmaker cap on gifts from lobbyists passed by the Senate on Monday.
Or perhaps it was fallout from Coke’s new anti-obesity campaign. Either one.
Speaking of ethics, here’s the exchange that just took place between House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle at this morning’s Eggs & Issues breakfast, sponsored by the Georgia Chamber. My AJC colleague Greg Bluestein said Cagle had just finished bragging about the Senate’s approval of a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers:
Ralston: “I tease my friend that it was more of a sun visor than a cap that they adopted yesterday. (Chuckling)
Cagle: “Where are those boxing gloves? (More chuckling)
Ralston: “We can disagree about the way we do this. At the end of the day I anticipate the lieutenant governor and the Senate and the House will come to an agreement about what constitutes a real change. We can debate a ban or a cap all day long but let me make a couple of points that get lost in this discussion.
“What the specifics are kind of cloud why we’re having this discussion. What it boils down to is who is going to influence public policy in this debate …Is it going to be influenced by the political class or media elites who make … a clearly erroneous perception of the kind of people in the Georgia House and the Georgia Senate?
“As I told one of my friends in the media two days ago, I’m glad I’m not (Falcons kicker) Matt Bryant. Every time we kind of get ready to do something, they move the goal post.”
Also at this morning Eggs & Issues breakfast, sponsored by the Georgia Chamber, every state officer present was asked to stand and be recognized. All but one, that is. School Superintendent John Barge was left out.
The slight was unintentional. Barge was belatedly introduced after a speech by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. But for a few minutes, everyone wondered whether it was another sign of the high-profile split between Barge and the rest of the state GOP leadership over charter schools. More than a few lawmakers have hinted that the school superintendent will see some punishment in his budget.
Despite his criticism of President Barack Obama over federal finances, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said he’s hoping to see some good news in the White House budget proposal due out next month. “We are hoping and have our fingers crossed when the president’s budget comes out in the next 18 days, it will have an earmark for the Savannah harbor [dredging] project,” he said. “We’re this close. We’re not there yet, but we’re rounding third base and getting ready to slide into home.”
Much of the morning conversation was about Senate Bill 24, the governor’s proposal to solve the “bed tax” dilemma by giving the state Department of Community Health the power to raise Medicaid assessment fees on hospitals.
As Todd Rehm at Georgia Pundit points out, one measure of the greased rails under this bill is the fact that the bill’s appearance before the Senate regulated industries committee on Tuesday was scheduled before Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, was named committee chairman.
My AJC colleague Kristina Torres has the complete details here, but Bill Barrow of the Associated Press captured this exchange:
Besides the political implication, [Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker] and Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, noted that tax and fee bills must originate in the House of Representatives. Henson and Lucas voted against [Sen. Charlie] Bethel’s measure.
Bethel answered Lucas: “It’s an authority bill” that merely empowers the state health board to decide the issue. “They may decide a fee is not appropriate,” he added.
Yet earlier in his pitch, Bethel said, “This is a $689 million proposition,” the estimated total of the hospital tax and the resulting federal bounty.
The U.S. House passed $50 billion worth of new disaster spending for Hurricane Sandy last night – nearly matching the Senate’s bill and paving the way for quick aid to the Northeast, as well as a bunch of other spending most House Republicans did not want. But House Speaker John Boehner again allowed a vote to be carried by Democrats: the final tally had 192 Democrats and just 49 Republicans.
According to my AJC colleague Daniel Malloy, Georgia’s five Democrats all backed the bill while the state’s nine Republicans did not. (Jack Kingston, who missed all of Tuesday’s votes, is stuck in Savannah with something fluish. Doctors would give him clearance to fly to D.C.).
The state’s Republicans also mostly backed a failed conservative effort to offset the new spending with a 1.63 percent cut of all programs – including the military. Austin Scott of Tifton was the only Georgia Republican objector.
And an amendment put forth by Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Athens to reduce National Weather Service funding by $13 million brought the state’s GOP delegation in line but failed overall, 206-214. That would have been wonderfully ironic – using a measure to help hurricane victims to cut funding for the people deputized to keep an eye on hurricanes.
The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey’s contention that U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri was “partly right” when he said that a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so that a pregnancy doesn’t occur in cases of violent rape.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider