Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 20- February 18, 2009

Tonight on Lawmakers, following the recent salmonella scare, the Senate passes a bill that would give the State Department of Agriculture more power; Georgia could be one step closer to a statewide sales tax to fund transportation projects; Representative Tom Graves introduces two corporate tax bills designed to create jobs for Georgians; And our leadership series of interviews continues with Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.

The Senate passed a bill today which aims to create more oversight of food processing facilities by the Department of Agriculture. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair John Bulloch sponsors Senate Bill 80, which was created in direct reaction to the samonella outbreak originating at a peanut processing plant in Blakley, Georgia.

The Georgia 20/20 Statewide Transportation Act, House Bill 277, and the accompanying Constitutional Amendment, House Resolution 206, unanimously passed the House Special Subcommittee on Transportation Funding by a 9-0 vote on Monday. That legislation is a broad-ranging plan for transportation and infrastructure projects funded by a 1% statewide sales tax. Voters would have to approve the sales tax. Transportation Chair and Bill Sponsor Vance Smith brought the Act before the full House Transportation Committee this afternoon. Lawmakers Valarie Edwards reports.

It’s Day 20 for the Georgia General Assembly and while many legislators are used to the fast paced environment, others were left feeling overwhelmed by the commotion. Lawmakers’ Minoo Hosseini talks with some freshmen legislators about their experiences under the gold dome at the session’s half way point.

The House today approved three measures. House Bill 301 changes the name of "The State Board of Technical and Adult Education" to "The State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia." That bill passed without opposition and moves to the Senate. Representative Wendell Willard spearheaded passage of House Bill 185, delineating the judicial chain of command in case of a public health emergency. Also passed was House Bill 237, which provides income for families adopting children who have been hard to place, including children with special needs.

The Senate today also approved Senate Bill 55, which would require county tax assessors to consider foreclosure or bank-owned sales of comparable property in determining fair market value. That could mean a decrease in property taxes for some homeowners eventually, but that change could take years.

Senator Gloria Butler took a point of personal privilege this morning to express her opinion that federal stimulus monies coming to Georgia should go towards under funded government services and programs.

Our leadership series of interviews continues with Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers. Lawmakers David Zelski had an opportunity to sit down with Senator Brown this afternoon to discuss the use of federal stimulus funds, tax relief for Georgia homeowners and Senator Rogers’ new role as Majority Leader.

It started with Representative Charlice Byrd's speech on the House floor and a rebuttal from Representative Karla Drenner, but questions about specific courses being taught in Georgia's public universities has gained national attention. Featured on CNN this morning, the courses in question include "queer theory", "oral sex" and "male prostitution". Sociology professors from Georgia State University were asked to testify before the Senate Higher Education Committee late this afternoon. Although the General Assembly has no control over specific courses offered at the state's universities, they do control the overall budget of the University System.

Legislation that would legalize Sunday alcohol sales got a hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee late this afternoon. Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Senator Seth Harp, would allow counties or municipalities to decide whether to allow retailers to sell alcohol on Sundays. This is the third year that senator harp has introduced such legislation, but it has failed to pass out of committee. Attempts to amend the measure to other legislation have also failed. The measure has bi–partisan support, both within the legislature and from political parties. Those in opposition include the Christian Coalition, who believes that sales of alcohol on Sunday are in conflict with the idea that Sundays are sacred.

All that and more tonight on Lawmakers at 7 PM.

Lawmakers repeats on GPB Radio at 8 PM tonight and tomorrow morning on GPB television at 5:30 AM. You can also watch a repeat of Lawmakers tomorrow morning on GPB Knowledge at 7 AM. GPB Knowledge is available to those with digital television receivers at .3 of your local GPB transmitter, for example 20.3 in Augusta, or 8.3 in Atlanta.