Holidays Are Approaching; Legislators Still Working

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

There will be a few meetings this week for Georgia politics.  After all, there’s still that whole “fiscal cliff” that Washington has to decide how to deal with.  Georgia’s Congressional delegation will spend most of this week, again, in anticipation of some movement from those who are negotiating the “grand bargain” that will allow tax rates to be set, and spending to flow.

Georgia has a few items on the agenda depending on how the matters are resolved in Washington.  How the deal ultimately is constructed will have a large bearing on how the next two years play out for Senator Saxby Chambliss.  He will, of course, be on the ballot again in 2014.

Inability to reach a compromise on the fiscal cliff issues may also translate into an inability to pass a full farm bill.  The result would likely be a 6 month to one year extension of the current farm bill.  While this doesn’t sound like a major change, it should be noted that farmers and those who depend on agribusiness are on a relatively fixed planting cycle.  A farm bill that starts in June doesn’t exactly help the 2013 harvest.  Thus, Washington’s inability to do even its most basic work is now extending uncertainty into yet another facet of the American economy.

Closer to home, members of the Georgia General Assembly have gathered in Athens for their Biennial meeting, held every two years before each the newly elected legislators are sworn in for the first time.  As the sessions began Sunday, legislators already had one eye on Washington.  A budget briefing given to detail challenges to expect in the upcoming session was described as “sobering”.

Saxby Chambliss, in Athens Sunday before returning to budget talks in Washington reminded legislators that every federal program will be impacted by sequestration.  Many of these programs, of course, involve funding to the states.  Thus, those looking at revenue numbers falling short of projections are now equally nervous that the federal government may be looking to states for help balancing the books.

Legislators will be feeling each other out in Athens over where the votes are for the hospital bed tax.  Renewal of this tax – though some, as is custom, prefer to call it a fee – is crucial for Georgia not having an even bigger budget gap than is currently predicted. None want to give up the revenue, but no want wants to be part of a “tax increase” either.  Same song, different verse.

Of course, as old legislators gather with the new in Athens, there is also time for reminiscing.  Like promises to enact tough ethics reform that were made in the wake of Summer’s primary ballot questions on the topic coupled with the embarrassing T-SPLOST losses.

In case legislators have forgotten, they’ll have some folks in town to remind them.  The Athens GOP is promoting a town hall meeting with the Georgia Ethics alliance for Monday evening, so that those attending the biennial may attend.  Or, they may just choose to skip it and go dinner with their favorite lobbyist instead.

While much of the biennial activities will be of the informal and/or informational variety, there will be at least one act of significance.  Senate Republicans are expected to approve new rules for the Chamber, restoring a more direct role for Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle as President of the Senate.  While it is not expected that Cagle will re-assume the full committee appointment powers he once enjoyed, it is anticipated that he will have a direct seat at the table when those appointments are made.

Once approved, announcements of committee appointments and chairmen will likely follow, providing a bit more news as we move closer to the year’s end.  With the recent leadership changes, retirements, and the ongoing ethics issues of the Rules Chairman, expect Santa to be bringing quite a few changes before the Senate convenes in January.


  1. xdog says:

    Could you help me out, Charlie?

    Back in the day, Cagle and Richardson named a few of their most trusted followers to what I’ll call a committee of committees since I can’t remember the actual term used. Anyway, those guys had the power to swoop down on any hearing or committee meeting, elbow their way to the table and start helping themselves. Of course they were in fact shock troops from leadership enjoined to keep the troops at full attention.

    Does such an extra-committee group still exist in either body? Do you remember what they were called?

  2. Three Jack says:

    Georgia legislators have been great at restricting/regulating activities over the past few years, how about something that removes some antiquated laws. For example, follow CO and WA lead by passing a constitutional amendment to decriminalize small amount of marijuana (CO – legal to possess under an ounce, have up to 6 plants). Not only would this make sense from a personal liberty standpoint, it would also give the legislators a big new batch of revenue to spend (maybe even be enough to end the bed tax).

    I realize this request falls on deaf ears under the Gold Dome, but it is worth another try. There are so many sound reasons to decriminalize pot versus continuing the long lost war against it. It would be interesting to hear from a few of the legislators as to why it should not be decriminalized.

  3. saltycracker says:

    First fly all the national legislators to Denver for a demo and to settle the fiscal cliff, the next press release will be:
    “Dudes, we fixed it and for we got some good sh#t in this deal !”

    AJC – DENVER —

    Using marijuana for recreational use is now effectively legal in Colorado.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper declared a voter-approved marijuana legalization amendment as part of the state constitution on Monday. It was the last procedural step needed for the amendment to take effect.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      I hear that residents of both the great states of Colorado and Washington have invited their fellow countrymen to join them in a “21-Blunt Salute” of this momentous occasion to be celebrated nationwide at 4:20 p.m. on Saturday.

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