Friday, March 21, 2008

Lawmakers Returns Thursday, March 27

Lawmakers will not be seen tonight because the legislature is not in session. Join us at 7 PM on Thursday, March 27 when the Georgia General Assembly convenes for the 35th legislative day.

In case you're wondering how to find out when a new episode of Lawmakers will be produced, we wanted to explain our schedule. Lawmakers is broadcast every night at 7 PM on Georgia Public Broadcasting when the Georgia General Assembly is in session. The Georgia General Assembly meets for no more than 40 legislative days each spring. The session commences on the second Monday after the first Tuesday in January. The legislature does not necessarily meet on consecutive days and the session often extends through March and well into April. The House and Senate set their schedule by Resolution, so, we at Lawmakers are often unaware of what the schedule will be until the Resolution is brought to the floor in one of the chambers for a vote.

On Tuesday, March 11, Senate Resolution 1145 was adopted in both chambers, setting the following legislative schedule:

Friday, March 21 through Wednesday, March 26. . . in adjournment
Thursday, March 27. . . . . . . in session for legislative day 35

Lawmakers is broadcast on GPB television and streamed at at 7PM every day that the Georgia General Assembly is in session.

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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 33- March 19, 2008

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Tonight on Lawmakers, the House passes legislation allowing judges to override juries in some cases in the imposition of the death penalty, the House and Senate battle over who has the better tax relief plan and an agreement is reached on the FY 2008 Amended Budget.

Capital punishment became an issue during House debate today. Senate Bill 145 would make it possible for prosecutors to pursue a sentence of “Life Without Parole” independently of a death penalty prosecution. Representative Barry Fleming amended the provisions of his legislation, House Bill 185, onto the bill. That measure would allow a judge to impose the death penalty in cases with a jury split on the imposition of lethal injection. The judge could override the jury in cases where there are one or two dissenting jurors. Current Georgia law requires that the imposition of the death penalty must be from a unanimous jury. House Bill 185 passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate. Due to the changes, Senate Bill 145 goes back to the Senate.

It’s the battle of the tax plans as the House and Senate face off over the best way to relieve some of the burden on Georgia’s taxpayers. The House proposal would eliminate personal vehicle taxes over the next 2 years. The Senate proposal would reduce state income taxes by 10% over the next 5 years. Governor Sonny Perdue weighs in and Lawmakers’ Bridget Snapp reports.

The battle may rage over tax relief, but the House and Senate have apparently reached an agreement on the FY 08 Amended Budget. The Conference Committee report for House Bill 989 is expected on the floor in both chambers tomorrow morning. Lawmakers’ David Zelski talks with conferee Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson about the outcome of negotiations.

Former State Representative Ron Sailor, Jr. plead guilty yesterday to federal money laundering charges and resigned from the Georgia House of Representatives. Lawmakers has learned that the investigation into Sailor came about as part of a broader corruption probe by federal authorities. Sandra Parrish has that story.

The House today also passed legislation that would allow for the incorporation of the City of Dunwoody. Senate Bill 82 passed by a vote of 106 to 60 and was immediately transmitted back to the Senate.

Georgia’s senior U.S. Senator announced his campaign for re-election today. Senator Saxby Chambliss was joined by Governor Sonny Perdue and Republican leaders from around the State at a Capitol ceremony this afternoon. Chambliss is seeking his second term, he was first elected in November 2002.

Governor Sonny Perdue today attended a special Promotion Ceremony for the Department of Public Safety today. Lt. Colonel Fred Snellings was named Deputy Commissioner and Major Mark McDonough was promoted to Commanding Officer. Lawmakers Minoo Hosseini reports.

All that and more, tonight on Lawmakers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 32- March 18, 2008

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Tonight on Lawmakers, Senate leaders propose a 10% state income tax cut, Governor Perdue asks for emergency federal assistance to help in Georgia’s recovery from the weekend’s severe weather and Representative Ron Sailor pleads guilty to federal money laundering charges.

Senate leaders, including Lt. Governor Casey Cagle propose major changes to the tax plan that passed the House last week. Changes to House Resolution 1246 are expected Thursday. The expected changes include elimination of the house's proposal to wipe out personal vehicle taxes over the next 2 years. Instead, it implements a 10% reduction in state income taxes, delivered over the next 5 years. Senate changes would also set limits on government spending. Lawmakers Bridget Snapp reports.

The Senate today passed the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank Act. House Bill 1019 is an initiative from the Joint House-Senate Transportation Study Committee which met over the summer. The legislation creates another avenue for funding for local transportation projects.

Many lawmakers returned to the State Capitol in Atlanta for the first time since Friday's tornado hit the downtown area. Governor Perdue has already as President George W. Bush for an expedited federal disaster declaration in light of the weekend tornados. Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine estimates the damage at more than 250 million dollars. Lawmakers’ Sandra Parrish has more about cleanup and recovery efforts.

State Representative Ron Sailor, Jr. plead guilty today to federal money laundering charges. As part of the plea agreement, Sailor will resign from the Georgia House of Representatives. The 33 year old preacher from Decatur, who was elected to the house in 2001, could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Federal officials say because of financial problems he tried to launder money for a drug dealer who was really an undercover agent. Today, fellow House members and Gov. Perdue reacted to the news.

Have a craving for ostrich or emu meat? Then you might be interested to know that the House today voted to reclassify a number of large, flightless birds as “poultry” rather than “livestock”. Senate Bill 364 passed without opposition, but not without some joking.

House Rules Chair Earl Ehrhart had harsh words this morning for the Senate, which he said is holding up the progress of the overrides of the Governor's vetoes passed by the House on the first day of the session. The House Rules committee put three Senate Bills on tomorrow's calendar, including SB 82, which would allow for the incorporation of Dunwoody.

All that and more, tonight on Lawmakers.