Been trading emails and texts with capitol gnomes most of the afternoon, while I’m in DC for an official meeting of the military industrial complex. Given that I still have a column to write for tomorrow, I’ll try to keep this one brief. Or not.
A bit of background: Because this bill was the product of a joint House-Senate committee/special commission, it is not bound by the “crossover day” rule. Thus, it can appear as a standalone bill this late in the session, and still pass both houses. Yet, there are just two extra days margin of error if it is not passed by the House tomorrow in order for the Senate to take action (barring the bill being substituted for or amended to other legislation).
But time may be working against this bill more than just according to the calendar.
The bill is just now beginning to be understood. The original focus was on revenue neutrality versus a tax hike, but unelected arbitor of fact Grover Norquist has reissued testicles to Republicans who signed his pledge and allowed them to vote for the bill if they so choose.
Democrats have now begun their normal battle plan of class warfare, despite all evidence to the contrary that the Georgia electorate tends to not only ignore these arguments, but marshall agaisnt them.
The fly in the Republican ointment, however, is social conservatives.
The Christian Coalition has taken it up the shorts on Sunday Sales. Georgia Right to Life has not recovered from Barry Loudermilk’s bait and switch of his fetal pain bill for one to close all abortion clinics, and Speaker Ralston, an attorney, seems to be non-plussed by pro-trial lawyer SB 210 which would allow for wrongful death lawsuits in some abortion cases. Remember that SB-210 went through the Senate Rules Committee as the Committee of jurisdiction, with no attorney on the committee present for the bill’s hearing.
And so, with no apparent victory for Social Conservatives at hand, this tax reform bill may have stumbled in as an answered prayer. Late evening whip counts have it too close to call, especially in the Senate, with legislators still not sure if it’s good tax policy. But it may not matter if emails like those I’ve been getting today take hold.
The key point that could sway nervous lawmakers is the limitation on deductions. Specifically, charitable (read: church) deductions would no longer be deductable under the revised proposal. If lawmakers were scared off the original proposal by calls from girl scouts, just wait until a the Southern Baptist Convention starts distributing their email addresses and phone numbers. Worse for lawmakers, the bill will reduce the standard deduction for dependants from $3,000 per child to $2,000. The “pro-family” party has just opened up themselves to charges of being anti-child.
As I discussed earlier this week, changing the status quo is never easy. Because this bill has been negotiated behind closed doors and is now being rushed through in final days of the session, I still will not offer an opinion if it is good or bad policy. I frankly don’t know.
But I will offer the opinion that a bill that was already 50-50 on passage that eliminates deductions for church tithes and children will be viewed bad politics by many Republicans. With Democrats solidly against this bill, I do not expect it will pass.