Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Day 22- February 24, 2009

Tonight on Lawmakers, State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond urges Governor Sonny Perdue to accept federal stimulus monies for unemployment; the first of the Governor’s tort reform bills fails to pass out of committee; a hearing on the Governor’s initiative to overhaul the State’s transportation agencies, the Metro Atlanta Chamber sponsors a forum on school board governance legislation and two bills which aim to help Atlanta’s transit system, MARTA, pass the Senate.

At the national Governor’s Conference over the weekend, republican Governors formed a block against the so-called strings attached to certain federal stimulus monies. Governor Sonny Perdue was among those who stated that they would refuse some of the funds because of the change it would necessitate to Georgia law in requiring unemployment benefits for part-time workers and trade school students. State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond urged Governor Perdue to accept the federal dollars to help keep the State’s Unemployment Trust Fund solvent.

The Senate Economic Development Committee today failed to pass the first of two tort reform initiatives of Governor Sonny Perdue. 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 said 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. In failing the pass the legislation, Bill Clark of the Georgia Trail Lawyers Association said that he’s “pleased the Committee decided to stand up for the rights of the people of Georgia”. The bill failed to pass by a vote of 7 to 4.

Governor Sonny Perdue, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson joined forces last week 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. The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 200 this afternoon. Lawmakers’ Valarie Edwards reports.

Two bills which aim to help Atlanta’s transit system, MARTA, passed the Senate today. The first, Senate Bill 89, allows the sale of food and beverages inside MARTA transit stations. Bill Sponsor Senator Gloria Butler explained that the measure is a way to help generate much needed revenue. The second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 120, revises the MARTA Act of 1965 to eliminate tax provisions which bill sponsor Senator Doug Stoner says don’t pertain to the laws of today.

The Senate today also passed legislation which puts a prohibition on the establishment of “sanctuary cities”. Bill sponsor Senator Chip Pearson explained that a sanctuary city is one that offers a safe haven to illegal immigrants. Currently there are no sanctuary cities in Georgia and Senator Emanuel Jones says a measure like Senate Bill 20 sends the wrong message.

The House today passed House Bill 100, legislation which would allow small businesses to contribute to scholarship funds for public school students to move to private schools. Opponents say the tax credits will create a $50 million hole in the State budget. Bill sponsor Representative Earl Ehrhart said that there are no consequences to the budget and that the measure is just good business sense.

There were mixed opinions on the Senate floor today about gasoline blending regulations. Senate Bill 30, sponsored by Senator Ross Tolleson, was the subject of more than an hour of debate and three amendment attempts. All amendments were voted down and the legislation passed by a vote of 35 to 13.

Cadaver fluids could soon be the next tool to help train law enforcement dogs when it comes to finding bodies. Senate Bill 38 is sponsored by Senator Seth Harp. The measure passed the Senate 43 to 0 today.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee gave a do pass recommendation last week 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. This morning, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce sponsored a forum to discuss the legislation. We’ll have the highlights.

Senator Eric Johnson is proposing legislation to protect the secret ballot in union organizing elections. Senate Resolution 108 is a direct response to the Employee Free Choice Act expected to pass in Congress. This measure replaces the secret ballots with publicly signed union cards. Senator Johnson says his legislation works to protect Georgia employees. The resolution has been assigned to the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.

A bill that would have Georgia Power customers pay in advance for a planned nuclear expansion near Augusta cleared a major hurdle on Monday. The House Energy and Utility Telecommunications Committee voted 15 to 3 to approve Senate Bill 31. The move attempts to sidestep a planned Public Service Commission hearing on the issue early next month. Supporters say the measure will cut approximately $300 million from the project’s estimated $14 billion price tag. The legislation has already passed the Senate and now goes to House Rules. If approved by the House and signed by Governor Perdue, the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act would increase the average monthly electric bill by $1.30 a month starting in 2011. The rate would continue to increase until the plant’s scheduled completion in 2017.

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.