Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 21- February 19, 2009

Tonight on Lawmakers, after considerable debate, the Senate passes legislation to overhaul the State’s financially troubled indigent defense system; the Governor, Lt. Governor and House Speaker join forces to change the structure of Georgia’s infrastructure agencies; Governor Sonny Perdue’s school board governance legislation passes out of committee; a move to close a veterans hospital in Milledgeville spurs impassioned speeches in the Senate; and we’ll talk with Tom Crawford of for his thoughts on this week of the session.

The Senate today voted to extensively revise the Public Defender Standards Council. This independent agency within the executive branch of the state government provides constitutionally guaranteed legal representation to those who cannot afford it. The Council administers the indigent defense system. Senate Bill 42, sponsored by Senator Preston Smith, would restructure the financially troubled agency. Senate Democrats were vocal in their opposition to the measure. We’ll have the highlights of that debate.

Governor Sonny Perdue, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson joined forces today to announce a new structure to Georgia’s infrastructure agencies. Funding from the state’s motor fuel tax will be redirected to a new State Transportation Authority. Although the measure, which is being introduced in both the House and Senate, does not do away with The Georgia Department of Transportation, the power of the agency will be diminished. Lawmakers’ Valarie Edwards reports.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee gave a do pass recommendation this morning to legislation backed by Governor Sonny Perdue that would change school board governance in Georgia. Senate Bill 84 does contain one measure that has caused some controversy. That provision would allow the Governor or another school board member to remove a school board member from office.

The Senate Economic Development Committee today heard testimony on another piece of Governor Perdue’s legislation. Senate Bill 101 would bar any citizen from bringing a products liability claim against any pharmaceutical corporation with 200 or more employees in the state or who are headquartered in Georgia. Bill sponsor Senator Bill Cowsert, the Governor’s Floor Leader says the goal of the legislation is to entice more bio-companies to relocate to Georgia. However, opponents say that the bill basically creates a “get out of jail free card” for these corporations.

The House today passed House Bill 251 which would allow a parent or guardian to enroll their student in a public school within the district that is not assigned by the local board of education. The legislation which is sponsored by Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan is designed to give parents more "school choice" when possible.

Representative David Lucas has introduced legislation that would bring back the sales tax on food. During these difficult economic times, he says that the measure would create as $1 billion in much needed revenue and could help the State avoid furloughs and layoffs. He spoke about his legislation in a morning order.

Senator Horacena Tate took a point of personal privilege this morning to express her opinion that federal stimulus monies coming to Georgia should go towards programs and capital investment needs for higher education.

After Senate passage yesterday, Senate Bill 80 is now headed to the House. That bill will require food manufacturers to tell state officials when they find tainted food. The bill would be a big change in how food processors operate, and it comes after the recent salmonella outbreak in peanut products made at the Peanut Corporation of America's Blakely plant. GPB Radio's Rome Bureau Chief John Sepulvado has that story.

It’s the end of the fifth legislative week under the gold dome, a perfect time to check in with Tom Crawford, National Editor of Nwandi talks with Tom about federal stimulus funds headed to Georgia, legislation introduced yesterday by Representative Tom Graves that aims to create jobs and an initiative to de-emphasize the role of the Department of Transportation.

"It's the right thing to do," prosecution–based victim advocates said today about their work and two pieces of legislation that would expand the victim impact statement, the time when victims can address the court prior to sentencing. Lawmakers' Emily Banks reports.

The fifth annual Children's Policy Watch at the Capitol took place this morning, featuring a keynote by Congressman Sanford Bishop, who discussed how the state can use funds from the federal economic stimulus package to help Georgia's children. Lawmaker's Alan Friedman has more.

The economic situation has, of course, left no age group unaffected. Those who are on the brink of joining the workforce brought their concerns to the Capitol steps today. Lawmakers' Brittany Evans has that story.

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.