This was, by all indications, supposed to be a quick General Assembly. In fact, there was talk they may not even use all 40 days.
Instead, Gov. Sonny Perdue will try to find the time this week to call the lawmakers back for unfinished business.
One of the legislators’ last acts was to approve the fiscal year 2008 budget, which is always the thorniest issue. Yet finding the money to spend for next year has proven easier than figuring how to spend money for the rest of the current fiscal year.
At issue is the $700 amended budget, which included a $142 million break for property owners. But Gov. Sonny Perdue balked, citing a need for pandemic flu preparations, stronger protections against online child predators and more forces needed against meth labs.
The House almost unanimously, in a rare show of bipartisan solidarity, overrode the governor’s veto. But the lower chamber couldn’t get the Senate to go along.
Things were supposed to run more smoothly under the Gold Dome this time, with a Republican governor, a Republican lieutenant governor presiding over the Senate and a Republican House speaker for the first time since Gen. Oglethorpe shook Chief Tomochichi’s hand.
But the lieutenant governor and the speaker are said to have designs on the governor’s office, and the governor, re-elected in a landslide, is in his last term.
The PeachCare grenade dropped in lawmakers’ laps led to a two-week break. But this one is more of their own doing, and special sessions are estimated to cost in excess of $40,000 a day.
Could such a costly reconvening been avoided? Perhaps. It hasn’t been a particularly redeeming session for Speaker Glenn Richardson, who earlier banned reporters from the House floor, even citing the Senate’s long-standing rule. Richardson said the public doesn’t have such access, so why should the press, neglecting the press’ role as the eyes and ears of the public, nearly all of whom can’t attend anyway.
He also defended his plan for restrictions on PeachCare, saying people had gotten all along just fine without it until it was launched. He came across as cold, cruel and calculating.
There was little unity at the top of the House and Senate last year and little has changed this year. Perhaps some of the GOP’s cooler heads, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for instance, can intercede and get the fiscal conservatism so espoused back on track and make the special session as quick and economical as possible.