Friday, January 9, 2009

Lawmakers Returns Monday, January 12 at 7PM

Since 1971, Georgia Public Broadcasting Television has produced a special newscast every day the Georgia General Assembly is in session. Lawmakers” begins its 39th season this Monday, January 12 at 7 PM on GPB. Lawmakers will repeat on GPB Radio at 8 PM and on television the following morning at 5:30 AM on GPB and 7 AM on GPB Knowledge.

This Monday, Aside from highlights of the day’s House and Senate action, the editorial staff is already working on stories about the Four T’s: Taxes, Transportation, Trauma and Teachers. We expect all of those issues to be very important this session.

We’ll have information about several measures that failed to gain passage last year: elimination of the ad valorem tax on cars, reducing State income taxes and freezing property tax assessments, and we’ll include new proposals like HB 39, a bill that has been prefiled by Representative Ron Stephens to assess a $1 per pack tax on cigarettes.

We’ll also be taking a look back at last year’s action in the Transportation arena in regard to the T-SPLOST, that’s the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax, which was aimed at providing funding solutions for local traffic woes. We’ll also talk about recently released opinion polls that say the majority of Georgians want immediate action to solve transportation problems. I’m sure that conversations about light rail and expanding mass transit will also come into play.

With the third T, Trauma, we’ll be taking a look at Georgia’s lack of a Statewide Trauma Care network. Currently, there are no trauma centers south of Macon to almost the Florida State line. There are several issues that pose problems here: funding, staffing and emergency transport to name a few.

The final T is Teachers but really that is education in general. We’ll talk about Governor Sonny Perdue’s request for a 2% reduction in State funding for public schools, charter schools, school vouchers and class sizes. The State Board of Education voted yesterday to allow school systems to raise the maximum class size by 2 students in core subjects for elementary and middle schools as a cost saving measure. That means the maximum size for kindergarten would increase to 20 students; grades 1-3 would increase to 23; and grades 4-8 would increase to 30. Core classes cover English, math, science, social studies and foreign languages. We’ll have

Monday evening we will also broadcast an exclusive interview with Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle. Lawmakers’ David Zelski had the opportunity to talk with the Lt. Governor about his expectations for the session.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that in this economy that the budget will be a major issue. The fiscal year 2009 State budget came in at $21.2 billion. I would expect a reduction in that amount for FY 2010. The Governor is expected to outline some of his legislative and spending priorities on Wednesday of next week in his State of the State address. Lawmakers will be broadcasting the Governor’s address live at 10 AM on GPB Knowledge. We will also play the address in it’s entirety on a special one-hour edition of Lawmakers on Wednesday evening at 7 PM.

There have been a great many changes internally with the Lawmakers program in the past year but none that will adversely affect our coverage or what the viewers see. The most exciting change for Lawmakers this year is our collaboration with the GPB Radio news team. Valarie Edwards will be joining Lawmakers on a daily basis and you can expect to see Susanna Capelouto and John Sepulvado throughout the session and we expect to tap our Radio bureaus around the state for interviews as well. The biggest expansion of our collaborative coverage will definitely be on the website. Everyone should check out for all the latest legislative news, audio from radio, video from television and a new “Daily Poll”. launches on Monday when the Georgia General Assembly is gaveled into session.