In the minutes surrounding the passage of Senate Bill 24, Gov. Nathan Deal’s solution to the “bed tax” dilemma, the sharp-eyed could – through the door leading to President pro tem David Shafer’s office – spot a giddy state Sen. Jeff Mullis dancing through the anteroom, arms in the air.
That’s how happy the new leaders of the state Senate were on Thursday, following passage of the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act. The bill, which now will receive the same railed treatment in the House, solves the sticky problem of legislative approval for a continued levy on hospitals by shoving the issue behind the executive curtain of the state Department of Community Health.
In fact, the contrast with Senate passage of the original “bed tax” in 2010 couldn’t be starker. Three years ago, GOP senators tortured themselves over the issue for three months. The caucus split, and two Republicans lost chairmanships when they refused to go along – despite furious arm-twisting.
On Thursday, the official spin was that the no-muss, no-fuss, 49-6 passage of the hospital tax/fee bill was a sign of a chamber under new management – by Shafer, Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
“SB 24’s large-vote victory was because of a New Senate Leadership Team that leads!” texted Mullis, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, texted last night. The roll-call vote isn’t yet available on the Senate’s website, but among the “yes” votes were state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who voted against the measure in committee, and state Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta. Hill was one of those who had his chairmanship stripped from him when he opposed the measure three years ago.
Bringing the issue to a swift end in the Senate required a two-thirds waiving of Senate rules – and thus Democratic votes. Democrats said Cagle threatened that, if they didn’t help bring the bill to the floor, he would make sure the Senate was in session today. He knew that many Senate Democrats had booked Friday flights to Washington for the inauguration.
A Cagle aide didn’t dispute the tale. In fact, he underlined it as something that could be done only under strong leadership.
Aside from the return of a lieutenant governor to power and the debut of the Cagle-Shafer-Chance alliance, the passage of SB 24 also may be remembered as the moment when Senate Republicans rejected the “fiscal cliff” model of governance as practiced by their GOP colleagues in Washington.
Grover Norquist may be angry at Senate Republicans today. But he’ll have to be angry at all of them – or nearly all of them.
Perhaps it will take a few days to sink in, but so far we haven’t heard many people talking about what may be the most eye-popping passage in Gov. Nathan Deal’s state-of-the-state speech on Thursday:
”Georgia has had too many school boards placed under the sanctions of potential loss of accreditation. While this is a very serious matter, it is somewhat ironic that the loss of accreditation can only be based on governance issues and not on substandard academic progress of the school system. Unless this is addressed by state legislation, we will continue to have thousands of Georgia’s children trapped in underperforming schools through no fault of their own.
Intervention for poor performance would be a significant extension of state authority over local boards of education. A big fight may be brewing here – perhaps larger than the one over charter schools.
After he’d completed his pitch for a resolution in which the state Legislature would formally express remorse for slavery, I asked state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, one of the most conservative members in the General Assembly, whether he had any interest in a 2014 run for the U.S. Senate.
“I have never considered that. It’s hard for me to predict what’s going to happen, but that is not in any goal that I have,” he said Thursday.
Loudermilk acknowledged that there is a Facebook page out there, pushing him as an alternative to incumbent Saxby Chambliss. “I’m honored that people would think that highly of me, but in reality, there are only about 70 people on that page,” he noted.
Attorney General Sam Olens sends word that he’ll be one of the speakers at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday, marking Martin Luther King Day.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has aggravated many of his fellow Republicans again with his condemnation of a National Rifle Association ad that points to President Barack Obama’s two daughters.
“Reprehensible” is the key word here:
“To talk about the president’s children or any public officer’s children who have — not by their own choice, but by requirement — to have protection and to use that somehow to try to make a political point I think is reprehensible,” Christie, a potential 2016 White House contender, said at a Thursday news conference. “My children had no choice that I wanted to run for governor. I pretended that they did. I asked them what they thought. But in the end, they had absolutely no choice in whether I ran for governor or not. And they knew that, by the way, when I was asking them, which is why they didn’t spend a whole lot of time answering.”
The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at statistics cited by a group of college presidents, stating that “in 2010, 2,694 young people were killed by gunfire.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider