Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 36- March 28, 2008

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Tonight on Lawmakers, a Senate Plan to cut State income taxes by 10% passes overwhelmingly, the House adopts legislation the help grandparents raising grandchildren and the Senate passes their version of the FY 2009 Budget. All that and more!

The Senate passes their version of tax reform today. They first passed House Resolution 1244 which would reduce State income tax by 10% over 5 years. The second measure, House Resolution 1246, which eliminates the state portion of property taxes and freezes property assessments, brought a heated exchange between Sen. Chip Rogers and Sen. Nan Orrock. Both pieces of legislation go back the House. With just four days left, it remains to be seen if House and Senate negotiators can reach a compromise. Lawmakers’ Sandra Parrish reports.

Also today in the Senate, Appropriations Chair Jack Hill leads the passage of the Senate version of House Bill 990, the FY 2009 Budget. The House quickly rejected Senate changes and insisted on their version of the budget, setting the stage for the Conference Committee to be appointed. House Majority Leader Jerry Keen accused Senate leaders of bad faith in failing to move towards fully funding education by citing differences including $10 million for equalization grants, a Senate cut of $35 million for the restoration of austerity cuts to local systems, $60 million in added bonds and the deletion of pay raises for prison guards. House representatives to the Conference Committee are Majority Leader Keen, Appropriations Chair Ben Harbin and Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter. For the Senate, Majority Leader Tommie Williams, Appropriations Chair Jack Hill and President Pro Tem Eric Johnson will serve on the Conference Committee. That committee is expected to meet for the first time on Sunday evening.

The House today passed legislation designed to help grandparents raising their grandchildren. Senate Bill 88, the Care of a Grandchild Act, would give grandparents through a power of attorney certain statutory rights of parents for the day to day care of the child. Changes made in House committee send the bill back the Senate. Lawmakers’ Bridget Snapp has more.

The Senate today adopted two insurance related pieces of legislation. House Bill 673 protects leinholders from an action called theft by conversion. House Bill 1121 would change how insurance liabilities are structured for condominium owners. Both bills passed without any Senate changes, they go the Governor.

A bill making dogfighting a felony is headed to the Governor's desk after the Senate gave final passage today to House Bill 301. Senator Chip Rogers, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, has been trying to pass the measure for four years.

Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson held a press conference today to address concerns about a misunderstanding with Senate Bill 458. That legislation would require school systems that lose accreditation, or are deemed "needs improvement schools" for seven years, offer their students vouchers. The vouchers can be used at public or private schools. The misunderstanding stemmed from an amendment proposed by Senator Valencia Seay that would have required surrounding counties to absorb students from failing systems. The amendment is not a part of the final bill. SB 458 is currently in House Rules and is expected to be on the House floor next week.

Washington Street was blocked by vehicles of every shape and size today for the Governor's Office of Highway Safety's annual "Share the Road" event. Lawmakers Andi Dixon reports.

All that and more, tonight on Lawmakers.

Legislative Schedule Update

The Georgia General Assembly has adopted what could be their final resolution relative to adjounrment. The House and Senate adopted Senate Resolution 1246 setting the remainder of the 2008 session as follows:

Friday, March 28. . . . . in session for legislative day 36
Saturday, March 29. . . in adjournment
Sunday, March 30. . . . in adjournment
Monday, March 31. . . . in session for legislative day 37
Tuesday, April 1 . . . . . in session for legislative day 38
Wednesday, April 2. . . in session for legislative day 39
Thursday, April 3.. . . . in adjournment
Friday, April 4 . . . . . . . in session for legislative day 40

For all the latest from under the gold dome, join Lawmakers on GPB Television at 7pm every day that the Georgia General Assembly is in session.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 35- March 27, 2008

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Tonight on Lawmakers, the House agrees to let voters decide whether to fund transportation with a special local option sales tax, the Senate Appropriations Committee passes its version of the 2009 budget, restoring a pay raise for teachers and state employees and legislation establishing transition care centers for medically fragile children passes the Senate.

After a lengthy debate, the House passes a Constitutional Amendment to allow voters to tax themselves for local transportation projects. Senate Resolution 845 allows voters to go to the polls in November to decide if they want 12 Regional Development Centers (RDCs) to come up with local projects that voters could in turn choose to pay a penny sales tax to fund. Individual counties could opt out. Rather than RDC’s, the Senate's version calls for counties to come together or for an individual county to propose a sales tax referendum. The Metro and State Chambers of Commerce say they'll work with both sides to help resolve the differences. Lawmakers’ Sandra Parrish reports.

After a week of cramming numbers, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their version of the FY 2009 budget. Appropriations Chair Jack Hill outlined a few of the major changes to House Bill 990, including restoring $6 million in education austerity cuts and reversing $20 million in House cuts to the Department of Human Resources and Department of Corrections. Senator Hill says the Senate version of the budget restores the 2 ½ % pay raises for teachers and state employees and eliminates the $17 million in spending added by the House above the Governor’s recommendation. HB 990 received a do-pass recommendation from the Committee and could be on the floor as early as tomorrow. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle weighed in on the Senate changes to the budget, saying that the House and Senate versions aren’t really that far apart and a compromise can be expected.

A measure establishing "transition care centers" for medically fragile children passed the Senate today. House Bill 984 creates temporary facilities for sick children who are ready to leave the hospital but are dependent on life–sustaining medications and equipment. Such facilities would assist the children and their families with the transition from the hospital to their home or other appropriate setting. Changes in committee send the bill back to the House. Lawmakers Bridget Snapp has more.

The Senate Finance Committee today gave a do–pass recommendation to a bill that would introduce a $10 dollar vehicle tag fee to fund trauma care in Georgia. House Bill 1158 passed the house earlier this month. The money raised from the tag fee will go to maintaining and expanding the current trauma care network. Supporters say the fee could raise as much as $74 to $80 million a year for trauma care. Lawmakers’ Andi Dixon reports.

The Senate today passed a bill that would require most Georgia high schools to have Automatic External Difibrilators or AEDs available on campus. House Bill 1031 passed 47 to 0 and now goes to Governor Perdue for his consideration.

The House today passed several pieces of legislation. Among them, Senate Bill 385 which allows limosine carriers to sell alcohol. House Rules Chair Earl Erhart explained that this measure does not extend to Sunday Sales statewide.

The House also agreed to a Senate substitute to House Bill 301, an anti-dogfighting measure. The law would prohibit owning or training a dog to fight; causing dogs to fight; betting on a dog fight; knowingly permitting or aiding in a dog fight. A violation would be punished as a felony with a first offense punished by one to five years imprisonment and/or a $5000.00 fine and a second offense punished by one to ten years imprisonment and/or a $15,000.00. Attending a dogfight would be punished as a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature for a first offense, punished as a felony carrying a term of imprisonment of 1-5 years and a fine of $5000 or both for a second offense, and a third offense would carry a term of imprisonment of 1-10 years with a fine of $15,000 or both. Dogs subject to fighting would be impounded.

A Bill that clarifies licensing provisions for Adult Day Care Centers also passed the Senate today. House Bill 1044 passed by Senate Committee substitute, so it heads back to the House.

After serving 21 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Willie “Pete” Williams moves one step closer to receiving $1.2 million from the State for wrongful conviction. House Resolution 1078, sponsored by Representative Steve Tumlin, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today. The case is part of the Innocence Project where DNA evidence proves the innocence of people serving sentences for crimes they did not commit. The measure now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.

Two bills establishing new educational scholarships passed out of committee yesterday. Senate Bill 458 requires school systems that lose accreditation, or are deemed "needs improvement schools" for seven years, offer their students vouchers. The vouchers can be used at public or private schools. The bill passed the House Science and Technology Committee and heads to House Rules. The second bill, House Bill 1133, creates non–profit student scholarship organizations that provide vouchers for public school students to use at private schools. It passed the Senate Finance Committee and now heads to Senate Rules.

It has been revealed that former Representative Ron Sailor, who last week pled guilty to money laundering, also accepted money from a lobbyist. The State Ethics Committee will continue its investigation of the loan. Sailor will be sentenced on federal money laundering charges in May.

The House Judiciary Civil Committee today tabled Senate Bill 449. The bill would limit liabilty for certain landowners who would permit their property to be used for recreation or agri–tourism purposes such as hunting or fishing from visitors who may be harmed on their property. Supporters of the bill include the Agri–Business Council, Georgia Farm Bureau, and the Georgia Heritage and Wildlife Council. Speaking against the bill was the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association which believes it is a "legalized unreasonable behavior", especially because the property usage is for profit. Again the House Judiciary Committee tabled SB 449. There was no word when the bill might be heard again.

A collaboration of clean air organizers revved up their campaign for a new filter that can reduce diesel pollution. Dr. Bruce Hill and other environmental advocates say that the filter can reduce pollution by up to 90%. They met with legislators at the Capitol to urge funding to place this filter on schools buses in the state of Georgia. A representative from the Georgia Clean Diesel Campaign said that getting funding for the filter is the biggest and final hurdle. Lawmakers' Minoo Hosseini has that story.

Beautiful melodies filled the north wing of the Capitol today, as the Americus Sumter High School Singers paid a visit. Lawmakers' Kyle Hood tunes us in.

All that and more, tonight on Lawmakers.