Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 31- March 17, 2009

Tonight on Lawmakers, an update on the big issues of the session, the Four T’s: transportation, taxes, trauma and teachers; on the first post-crossover legislative day, a review of bills that are likely dead for the session; the Public Service Commission gives Georgia Power the go-ahead to build two new nuclear power plants; Georgia Virtual Schools lobby legislators to provide funding on par with other public schools; and we’ll talk with Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact.com for his thoughts on the remaining days under the gold dome.

It was always anticipated that transportation would be a big issue in the 2009 session. First, the Senate and house revealed two different approaches to funding the State’s transportation needs- the Senate with a transportation special local option sales tax or T-SPLOST and the House with a statewide 1% sales tax. Then Governor Sonny Perdue announced his plans to reorganize the State’s transportation agencies. Lawmakers’ Valarie Edwards has the latest on transportation initiatives.

Always an important issue, tax proposals have gained an even higher profile during these troubled economic times. We’ll have updates on some of the tax-related legislation that is making its way through the legislative process. Senate Bill 83 would have doubled the homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000, but failed to pass the House. House Bill 143 preserves the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant, or HTRG, in years when the State experiences a surplus. That legislation has already been signed by Governor Perdue. House Bill 481 would exempt business inventory from ad valorem taxes. That legislation is currently in Senate committee.

Everyone seems to agree that Georgia needs a statewide trauma network but no one seems to agree on exactly how to fund such an undertaking. A $10 car tag fee has been proposed, as well as House Bill 160, known as the “Super Speeder” legislation. That bill would add about $200 to a speeding ticket with the violator is driving in excess of 85 MPH on a highway or 75 MPH on a two lane road.

Almost two-thirds of Georgia’s state budget goes to fund education, so, it’s no surprise that educators are the subject of a great many proposals before the General Assembly. Our review will include Senate Bill 93, a proposal backed by Governor Perdue that would have provided $10,000 bonuses to principals in high performing schools; House Bill 243, which repeals the salary increase for National Board Certified teachers; House Bill 280 which provides for additional compensation for highly qualified math and science teachers and information about budget cuts that would eliminate the school nurse program.

Lawmakers’ Nwandi Lawson takes a look at some of the legislation that failed to pass out of the chamber of its origination by legislative day 30, crossover day. From measures that would have placed a $1 per pack tax on cigarettes or brought back the sales tax on groceries to generate revenue to a bill that would have required the use of safety belts in pickup trucks.

Last week marked the end of eighth legislative week under the gold dome, a perfect time to check in with Tom Crawford, National Editor of CapitolImpact.com. Nwandi talks with Tom about bills that passed on crossover day, including a measure that would eliminate the birthday tax on cars.

The Public Service Commission gave Georgia Power the go-ahead for two new nuclear power plants today. These power plants have been a hot topic in the General Assembly with the passage of the Georgia Nuclear Financing Act. Lawmakers’ Brittany Evans has the details.

JUST Georgia, an organization seeking justice for children and youth, held workshops today to educate members on how to contact their legislators about proposed revisions to Georgia’s juvenile justice code. Lawmakers’ Minoo Hosseini attended a workshop and 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.