Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 32- March 18, 2009

Tonight on Lawmakers, the house passes a measure to strengthen regulation of food processing plants by the Georgia Department of Agriculture; the Senate approves legislation to reset HOPE Scholarship funding triggers because of strong lottery proceeds; Senator Don Thomas says it’s time for the State to require the use of seatbelts in pickup trucks; Funding for school nurses is restored, but talk of furloughs for Georgia’s teachers surfaces; Legislation that would create a program for high school juniors and seniors to move on when ready to college or technical school passes committee; and our leadership series of interviews continues with Senate Rules Chair Don Balfour.

The House today approved Senate Bill 80, which would give the Georgia Department of Agriculture more investigative powers. Drafted in response to a recent salmonella outbreak tied to a food processing plant in Blakely, Georgia, the legislation would require food processors to report any lab results that compromise food safety to the Department of Agriculture.

The Senate passed three House bills this morning. House Bill 157, changes triggers for HOPE Scholarship funding restrictions. Lottery reserves are richer than estimated two years ago when the triggers were set. House Bill 80 would lower the minimum number of employees to be eligible for health insurance contracts. House Bill 202 would provide for a maximum compensation to be used for computing contributions and benefits for retirement and pensions.

The House today passed House Resolution 334, urging Congress to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act, which prohibits state or federal intervention in women’s reproductive rights. Representative Jerry Keen told the House that although the current Congress has not introduced the legislation, its passage would imperil several Georgia laws.

A special House subcommittee met today to decide the fate of Senate Bill 200, the Transforming Transportation Investment Act. That legislation, backed by Governor Sonny Perdue, would reorganize the State’s transportation agencies. Lawmakers’ Valarie Edwards has that story.

Georgia is currently the only state that does not require the use of seatbelts in pickup trucks- that issue brought Senator Don Thomas to the well on a point of personal privilege this morning. Senator Thomas sponsors Senate Bill 5, which would change this law to require seatbelt use in trucks unless the vehicle is being used in an agricultural pursuit. The bill passed the senate earlier this session with little opposition. Thomas says it’s time to save lives and pass the bill in the House.

The House is expected to vote on the fiscal year 2010 budget tomorrow. Although the education line items have been approved, Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Representative Edward Lindsey suggests that furloughing teachers on some non-classroom days might retain jobs in peril. Representative Lindsey went on to say that the House version of the budget restores $30 million in funding for school nurses.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee passed House Bill 149 today. The “Move on When Ready Act” seeks to create a program that would allow juniors and seniors in high school to attend postsecondary schools for credit, paid for by State funds. The bill is sponsored by Representative Jan Jones and is backed by Governor Perdue. Lawmakers’ Minoo Hosseini reports.

Our leadership interview series continues with Senate Rules Chair Don Balfour. David Zelski had a chance to interview Senator Balfour today about the difficulties a Rules chair faces at crossover day, when tough choices have to be made. They also spoke about the controversial legislation that Senator Balfour sponsored that would allow utility companies to charge current customers for future power plant construction.

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.