Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 34- March 20, 2008

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Tonight on Lawmakers, the Senate passes a controversial indigent defense bill to remove senior judges from death penalty trials, the House passes a Transportation sales tax, agreement is reached on the Amended Budget and municipalities will now be required to be permitted by the State to have traffic light cameras.

Legislation to overhaul the State's indigent defense system passed the Senate today. House Bill 1245 responds to the controversial defense spending in the Brian Nichols' courthouse shooting case, which has cost the state nearly $2 million. The bill mandates that only elected judges oversee death penalty cases and sets up a cost sharing system between the state and counties for indigent defense. Lawmakers Bridget Snapp reports.

DeKalb County’s Dunwoody area is one step closer to being allowed to incorporate as a city. The Senate today agreed to House changes to Senate Bill 82, but not without debate. The legislation heads to the Governor.

Municipalities would be required to submit studies and evidence to the State to justify the installation of traffic light cameras under legislation passed by the Senate today. Those local governments with existing cameras would have until 2010 to have their cameras properly permitted. Debate over the issue has questioned if the cameras are truly placed for public safety or for revenue generation. Lawmakers Sandra Parrish has that story.

The Senate and House today adopted the Conference Committee report to the FY 2008 Amended Budget. The $300 million spending plan includes $40 million for reservoirs, $58.5 million for trauma care, $20 million in equalization funds for education and $2.7 million for Georgia’s Public Defenders. Slowing State revenues caused Governor Sonny Perdue to ask legislators to make reductions to his original budget request which totaled $332,601,591.

The House also took up the FY 09 General Budget. House Appropriations Chair Ben Harbin presented plan, which is also expected to be reduced from the Governor’s original $21.5 billion request.

It’s the end of another legislative week in the 2008 session of the Georgia General Assembly. David Zelski checks in with Tom Crawford, National Editor of to discuss the highlights.

Georgia voters may find that voting electronically may be a quick and easy thing to do, but one group says that there is a problem with Georgia's e–voting system. In November, millions of Georgians will be headed to the polls to cast their vote, but members of Voters Organized for Trusted Election Results in Georgia, say that Georgia's system is illegal and unconstitutional because of the controversial Diebold Accuvote machines being used. Lawmakers Dana Abercrombie has more.

Today the Sierra Club made a call for clean energy by protesting plans to build a coal–fired power plant in rural Georgia. Dynegy, Inc., a Houston, Texas based company, is making preparations for the plant, to be located in Early County. Lawmakers Andi Dixon has that story.

Longtime journalist and dean of the Capitol press corps Dick Pettys was recognized by the Senate today. Pettys has covered the goings on under the gold dome since 1971, first for the Associated Press and currently for Insider Advantage.

All that and more, tonight on Lawmakers.