Friction Starting To Show Between House, Senate As Final Days Approach

The schedule for the remainder of this week shows the General Assembly in session tomorrow and Thursday, then breaking for Easter. Thursday is day 33, so there will be 7 days of G.A. fun remaining to solve all the state’s problems before these folks return home to face the voters.

Tomorrow, however, there are no scheduled votes in the Senate, as most Senators will leave the capitol and attend the funeral for former Senator Nancy Schaefer and her late husband Bruce.

This leaves one day of Senate business before the Easter break, and House members are watching the lack of movement of two bills with increasing anxiety.

HB 307 is the bill which raises taxes from hospitals. HB 1055 raises fees in many state areas. Both bills are a significant portion of the gap needed to balance the state budget.

The House is also responsible for submitting the budget to the Senate. And the apparent agreement when leadership of both houses and the Governor agreed to these tax & fee increases was that all were on board. To prepare and pass the budget, the House needs to know what revenue is expected.

Some fear that the Senate may be having difficulty swallowing these tax & fee increases, and are even speculating that Lt. Gov Cagle is backing off of the deal. One other also believes that last year’s version of the JOBS act will be attached to HB 307 when passed, as cover to Senator Lee Hawkins voted for last years bill, who has called the bill that passed the House 154-8 a sham.

Attaching a different version of the JOBS bill to HB 307 carries significant risk. Governor Perdue has reportedly laid down strict guidance that if HB 307 doesn’t come to his desk clean/as-is, he will veto it.

Which brings us back to the anxiety that is building in the House. They’ve already taken the vote to raise taxes. The Senate has essentially one day to resolve the issues above. If they do not, the House can’t use the Easter break to finalize their budget and pass it quickly upon return. House members are starting to fear that the session may drag beyond April’s qualifying. They are also starting to openly wonder if the Senate is about to stab them in the back.

It’s been much quieter this year without the public fights between the Speaker, Lt. Governor, and Governor. But that doesn’t mean the institutional friction isn’t there. We’ll know a lot more by Thursday evening if that quiet may hold.

Update: Travis Fain has his take on these issues here.

10 comments

  1. chefdavid says:

    Do not forget about the tanning bed fee. HB 853. It was horrible we heard to add it onto the health care bill as it would hurt poor America, but our House has managed to add to it on the State level.

    • Joshua Morris says:

      I’m not sure that sick people are the target. So called non-profit hospitals are apparently holding billions of dollars in offshore banks. Anyone who has been to the new Northeast Georgia Medical Center addition in Gainesville knows there is a lot of cash flowing over there.

      Also, take a look at this:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q-oLyuhPl0
      I don’t know if I agree with the guy’s complete message, but I think his information in this clip is telling.

      I know that all taxes eventually flow to customers in the form of higher prices, but I believe our legislators are looking for a way to penalize hospitals for hoarding cash while poor-mouthing.

      • Harry says:

        My understanding is, the hospitals will be able to pass the tax (billing) directly through to the patients as a hospital tax. Then, the hospitals get the money coming back from the state as Medicaid reimbursements. For the hospitals it’s a no-lose on the expense side and a win on the revenue side.

        • Joshua Morris says:

          I can’t disagree. Rep. James Mills has tried to craft legislation in the past to require GA’s non-profit hospitals to put their money in GA banks, but federal law wouldn’t allow it. Imagine how that money could help local lending practices and allow more of the public to see what kind of money hospitals are really making.

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