A fumbled Sunday show interview in which Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who this week approved a controversial religious freedom measure that mirrors proposed legislation here in Georgia, repeatedly refused to say wether the legislation would give broad license to discriminate against gays and lesbians has caught Gold Dome Republicans flat footed.
Georgia’s own religious freedom legislation was tabled this week after a Republican, state Rep. Mike Jacobs, introduced a nondiscrimination amendment during committee that the legislation’s supporters considered a poison pill.
Supporters had hoped to revive the proposal during a special Monday conference of the House Judiciary Committee. Now that meeting has been cancelled, according to a lobbyist for LGBT advocacy group Georgia Equality, dimming already poor prospects the legislation will move from committee to the floor for a full vote before the session expires later next week.
The decision to scrap the Monday meeting came only hours after an appearance by Pence on ABC’s “This Week” in which the Republican repeatedly dodged host George Stephanopoulos’ question whether the law would become a vehicle for discrimination.
A key Democrat involved in the process emailed Tipsheet that the interview, which national gay rights lobby Human Rights Campaign already cut into a digital advertisement, “has them in a spin,” but cautioned that the legislation is not dead.
Legislation repealing a flawed reimbursement formula for doctors and other medical providers who treat Medicare patients sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday with overwhelming bipartisan support, falling just 37 votes shy of the complete chamber’s support.
Thirty-four of the dissenters were Republicans, and two of the no bloc represent conservative districts here in Georgia: Reps. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville and Tom Graves of Ranger.
The proposal, which is expected to be taken up by the Senate sometime next week, trashes a 1997 federal repayment formula known as the “standard growth rate” (SGR) that tied Medicare payments to increases in the economy.
As health care costs began outpacing economic growth, Congress was forced each year to temporarily override the SGR payment scheme. That dynamic, physicians groups said, left the medical community in limbo and risked an exodus from the Medicare program by health providers.
House Speaker John Boehner said the new Medicare blueprint, which would retire the harried annual “doc fix” tradition, would cost less than the current scheme, but outside conservative groups criticized the proposal as insolvement and said it would increase the national debt by $500 billion over the next two decades.
UPDATE, 4:45pm: Rep. Loudermilk, through his spokeswoman, said Friday afternoon that he appreciated the intent of the SGR repeal—“working to move away from the kick the can down the road style approach”—but could not support the new funding mechanism without more robust offsets. Read his statement in full below the jump:
Consideration of a controversial religious freedom bill was tabled in committee late Thursday in the state House after a non-discrimination amendment was adopted, leaving little hope the measure would see the floor for a full vote before the legislative session expires next week.
The legislative freeze came after Rep. Mike Jacobs introduced an amendment Thursday afternoon during a tense hours-long conference of the House Judiciary Committee that would have barred the bill from overriding local non-discrimination ordinances.
Supporters of the measure said the amendment, which passed on a vote of 9-8 in committee, would have neutered the bill.
The bill’s opponents, as it were, agreed with that assessment: the committee, led by RFRA supporters, voted to table the legislation after adoption of the Jacobs amendment, effectively shelving the bill as the session’s April 2 sunset approaches.
UPDATE, 2:45 pm: The chief executive of Dragon Con, the massive science fiction convention that draws some 50,000 attendees to Atlanta annually, said in a statement on behalf of the conference Thursday that it considers the religious freedom legislation “discriminatory.”
Dragon Con President Pat Henry* said his team, which has called the capital city home for nearly three decades, had begun lobbying the general assembly, in concert with the convention trade association’s efforts, to freeze the bill.
“Legislation that hurts one of us, hurts all of us,” Henry said in a statement provided to Tipsheet. “Should this bill become law, we will seek written assurances from all of our business partners that they will not participate in any discriminatory behavior on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other point of identification.
“We have no intention now or in the future of supporting a business partner that discriminates.”
Original post follows.
Georgia’s convention bureau clearinghouse warned Republican lawmakers in a letter this week that the state could lose in excess of $15 million in convention revenue if a controversial religious freedom bill clears the legislature.
In a letter to the members of the House Judiciary Committee, the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus warned that the perception of the legislation as anti-gay will poison the convention well and in turn chase millions in revenue from the state.
“We know that the current version closely models the federal law … ,” the letter reads. “However, no matter what the language, perception is reality for our customers and we don’t want them to go elsewhere. …
“As of today we know of at least $15 million in convention business that has stated that they will cancel their conventions should this bill pass.”
It’s not just Georgia grappling with the threat of convention displacement as a consequence of new religious freedom legislation.
In Indiana, where Republican Gov. Mike Pence is expected to sign a similar bill today over the objections of the some in business community, organizers of the state’s largest annual convention, gamer confab Gen Con, are threatening to pull up stakes in future years. According to a letter its chief executive sent this week to Pence, the convention has an annual economic impact of $50 million for the state.
Here in Georgia, the convention bureaus estimate the long-term negative economic impact will amount to “hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.”
Read the GACVB letter below the fold.
Rob Woodall was among 17 House Republican defectors who voted down Wednesday a leadership-backed budget resolution authored by fellow Georgian Tom Price.
To settle a dispute between fiscal and defense hawks over military funding, House GOP leadership brought a half-dozen competing budgets, including a pair by House GOP budget chief Price that varied only in the extent to which the Pentagon’s war fund was expanded, to the floor for votes last night.
Price’s amended blueprint, which would goose the war fund by $96 million instead of the $94 million with $20 million in offsets he originally proposed, came out on top with 228-109 vote split.
Woodall voted down that plan and instead backed the more austere blueprint drafted by the conservative Republican Study Committee, of which the Lawrenceville GOPer was most recently chair.
But the Woodall-backed conservative alternative, which zeroed out the deficit four years faster than Price’s spending model, failed with nearly as many Republicans voting against it (112) as for it (132).
A Woodall spokesman did not immediately respond Thursday when asked why the congressman did not vote for both the RSC and Price blueprints.
The other noes, which represent a mix of centrists and hardliners, after the jump:
The Georgia House of Representatives on Wednesday legalized a non-euphoric form of medical marijuana for the treatment of a handful of acute medical conditions.
The legislation, which the state Senate green lighted on Tuesday, now heads to the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal for final approval.
If signed into law, the new program would allow for the use of cannabis oil for only those Georgians suffering from severe seizure disorders, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and terminal cancer or those whose treatments induce vomiting.
Deal’s office rebuffed a reporter on Tuesday when asked whether the governor would sign the bill even as the governor’s top spokesman was celebrating the legislation’s passage in the upper chamber.
“Cannot wait to put this bill signing event together,” Deal communications director Brian Robinson wrote on Facebook after the bill cleared the Senate. “Great accomplishment for children in need of help.”
The comment, first flagged by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was made on the profile of state Rep. Allen Peake, the primary House sponsor of the legislation.
Ex-Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina has hired a well-regarded former aide to Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and the state Republican party to serve as spokeswoman for her likely presidential campaign, a senior advisor told Tipsheet Wednesday.
Leslie Shedd, a former communications director for Westmoreland and the state GOP’s rapid response vehicle in the last U.S. senate contest, has been named press secretary for Carly for America, a newly-formed super PAC that will lay the foundation for a White House bid.
“Leslie has worked hard to promote conservative values across the country,” senior advisor Stephen DeMaura said in an email. “Her ability to articulate the issues that affect all Americans will serve Carly for America well. We are excited to have her on the team.”
Shedd is the second Georgia operative that’s recently been drawn into Fiorina’s orbit.
Last month Fiorina’s Unlocking Potential PAC, the primary vehicle through which she has been road testing a White House bid, scooped up Brandon Howell as a communications aide to manage the political action committee’s social media and blogger outreach efforts.
Howell, who was on hand for Fiorina’s recent stop in Atlanta, held leadership roles in the state college GOP conference and served as campaign manager for former Athens state Rep. Doug McKillip.
Republican Rob Woodall was positively giddy Tuesday as the U.S. House moved forward with an unusual maneuver that would allow for a series of competing floor votes on alternate budgets.
The move stems from an argument between fiscal and defense hawks over how much to boost the Pentagon’s war defense fund.
In the first spending proposal offered by Georgia Tom Price, the chair of the House Budget Committee, the fund would see an increase of $94 billion next year while requiring $20 billion in offsets. Price later introduced a mirrored budget, dubbed Price 2, that would goose the war fund by $96 billion with zero offsets. Instead of the relevant committees anointing one bill over the other, both will move to the floor for a vote.
“I was looking around to see if folks were getting goose bumps as the reading clerk was reading the rule,” Woodall told The Hill. “I was, and I think if folks were honest with themselves, they’d be getting goose bumps too.”
Price’s bills are just two of the six that lawmakers will consider Wednesday. The other blueprints include those drafted by the conservative Republican Study Committee, House Democrats, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The measure with the most affirmative votes will be adopted as the final plan.
Woodall said he was unclear on which proposal would ultimately come out on top, but praised the strategy as inclusive of “every voice.”
“I don’t know where the votes are going to shake out, and I’m excited to find out,” the Lawrenceville GOPer said. “I don’t know which budget’s going to pass at the end of the day. But I know this: I know America will be the better for us having a process that includes absolutely every voice in this chamber.”
Woodall’s crystal ball may be cloudy, but House leadership is confident Price 2—in which the war fund will see a rise of $96 billion with no offsets—will adequately bridge the gap between the conference’s fiscal and defense hawks and earn the most affirmative votes.