After more than 5 hours of caucus meetings yesterday, and almost two hours this morning (which delayed the start of the Senate’s Sine Die session), there is still no agreement on future control of the Senate Chamber.
One of my capitol gnomes (who speaks with a male voice and has never introduced himself as “Beth Merkelson”) tells me that Lieutenant Governor Cagle briefly attempted to use the vote on HB 87 – immigration reform – as leverage to gain support for his position. The claim is that Cagle threatened to not call HB 87 for a vote unless Senators agreed with his proposal to regain control of the Senate. Gnomes close to Cagle respond that any delay was attributed to allow time for Senators Hamrick and Bulloch to negotiate with Representatives Ramsey and Golick. They further claim that there were 22 votes for Cagle’s proposal in this morning’s meeting, but the motion made to accept was ruled out of order and that leadership organized a walkout, with no caucus meeting scheduled since.
Today is the fortieth day of the 2011 Georgia General Assembly’s regular session, the maximum number of days allowed under the Georgia Constitution for the legislature to meet. Much of the work that will be done has been. HOPE scholarships have been revised, a six year battle to allow local referendums on Sunday sales of alcohol has culminated with a bill now on the Governor’s desk, and budgets have been passed. Normally, that could signal a fairly light day today with adjournment sine die before midnight. But day 40 has its own cadence, and there’s always at least one or two lingering issues that may keep legislators working late.
Most of the focus today will be whether the House and Senate can come to terms on competing versions of an immigration reform bill. Much of the disagreement is over requirements of which employers, if any, should be required to use the federal E-Verify system to prove employees and applicants have legal status to work in the United States. The House continues to favor a much stronger version than the Senate, with the Senate preferring to align with business and farming interests which frankly, continue to rely on “undocumented” labor for a significant portion of Georgia’s labor supply.
There is no easy solution in sight, and the Senate Republican caucus met in a marathon session yesterday afternoon and evening, with about half of the discussion said to be focused on forming a consensus position on the issue. As of last evening, it did not appear Senators had reached a position that both they and the House would be comfortable with. Negotiations and discussions will continue throughout the day until an agreement is reached, one side or the other gives up, and/or time runs out. Read more
The fine folks over at Creative Loafing dole out “Golden Sleaze” awards to [some] members of the Georgia Legislature each year, and as the 2011 session of Georgia’s General Assembly whimpers to an end, their godless lib’rul, hippie-progressive, ITP (TM) mindset is worth a read.
Bobby Franklin, who set a new embarrassment record by proposing legislation to criminalize miscarriages and create a hoohah investigation unit in Georgia.
Too often overlooked among all that hipster snark are Creative Loafing’s “Arnies” -the awards given, in honor of former Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall, to those legislators who “rose above the muck and tried to make Georgia a better place.” You’ll be surprised at a that a couple of actual conservatives were included on that list, as well as a certain legislator who made both.
As you may already know, the Senate GOP caucus met yesterday afternoon to discuss the anti-immigration HB 87 and, most importantly, their own leadership issues. They were still meeting as we were doing our road show at Gordon Biersch. Word is they will meet again this morning to vote on proposals put forward to put this issue, which has many questioning the stability of the Senate, to rest.
The proposal pushed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle would alter the make-up of the Committee on Assignments from the current structure, which has eight members to six. Leadership would get three appointees; the President Pro-Tem (Tommie Williams), Majority Leader (Chip Rogers) and Caucus Chairman (Bill Cowsert). Cagle would get three appointees, and chair the committee; voting only in case of a tie.
A proposal put forward by Pro-Tem Williams would give the committee a similar make-up as what has been proposed by Cagle. Leadership would have three appointees (Pro-Tem, Majority Leader and Caucus Chairman) and Cagle three appointees. The seventh member would be elected by the Committee on Assignments. However, Williams wants another layer of bureaucracy; an Executive Committee that would essentially control the Senate (assigning legislation to committee, appointing conferees and running day-to-day operations of the chamber). This committee would be made-up of Cagle, Williams and Rogers. But according to what I’ve been told, only Cagle and Williams would have voting power; making Rogers irrelevant.
In a blatant power grab, it would appear as if Williams is almost making himself co-Lt. Governor or the “Speaker of the Senate.” The real story here is that Republican Majority Leader of the Senate was made aware of Williams’ proposal only minutes before the caucus meeting, Hours after Williams met privately with the Lt. Governor and then pushed the idea to Cagle loyalists in the Senate. The Senate as a whole elects the Pro Tem. to fill in for the Lt. Gov. who is elected statewide. Yet Williams is proposing having equal power with the Lt. Gov. without running statewide and at the same time taking all the power away from the Majority Leader, thus depriving the GOP caucus of the representative they elected.
Word is Cagle has at least a two-vote majority to pass his proposal. Whether that’ll last is anybody’s guess. Of course, there is always the possibility that they could go in a different direction. But no matter what happens today, it’s odd that this is all taking place on the 40th day of the session. At least they’ll have it figured out for the special session, I guess.