Friday, April 3, 2009

Lawmakers Sine Die Special at 11 PM

Since 1971, Georgia Public Broadcasting Television has produced a special newscast every day the Georgia General Assembly is in session. “Lawmakers” concludes its 39th season today, Friday, April 3. Join David Zelski and Nwandi Lawson for a one hour live presentation of the Lawmakers Sine Die Special at 11 PM.

In addition to highlights of the day’s most important House and Senate action, we’ll bring you the latest on the Four T’s: Taxes, Transportation, Trauma and Teachers.

There are still several measures yet to achieve final passage this year in regard to taxes. Proposals that failed this session include: SB 83, a bill that would have increased the statewide homestead exemption by doubling the ad valorem tax exemption failed in the House back on March 25; HB 39, the co-called “Pass the Buck” bill that would have added $1 excise tax per pack on cigarettes or tobacco products; SB 91, the so-called “sin tax” that would have added a $5 surcharge for patrons of adult entertainment clubs; and HB 67, which would have brought back sales taxes on groceries. Some proposals are still undecided: HB 261 would give an income tax credit for the purchase of a single family home of either 1.2% or $3600, whichever is less; the House agreed to a Conference Committee report just before 9 PM; the Senate would still have to agree; HB 439, a corporate tax break proposal backed by Governor Perdue passed the Senate by substitute Wednesday, the House still needs to agree; HB 480 would eliminate of the ad valorem tax on cars, but add a significant title fee onto cars purchased after the act would go into law, that legislation was tabled in the Senate on Wednesday and although it could come up for a vote, it may be dead for the session. HB 482, which would provide an ad valorem tax exemption for property constituting the inventory of a business has passed both chambers and is headed to the Governor.

In the Transportation arena, the House and Senate have dueling proposals in regard to funding transportation. While the House favors a statewide 1% sales tax to fund a specific list of transportation projects, the Senate favors a T-SPLOST, or Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax, which aims to provide funding solutions for local traffic woes by asking voters to approve a regional 1% sales tax. The vehicle for a funding solution is HB 277, originally titled the Georgia 2020 Transportation Act. Conferees have met numerous times to come to an agreement on a compromise between the two plans. Lawmakers’ Valarie Edwards has been following this issue all session and will bring us the latest.

With the third T, Trauma, we’ll be taking a look at Georgia’s lack of a Statewide Trauma Care network. Currently, there are no trauma centers south of Macon to almost the Florida State line. There are several issues that pose problems here: funding, staffing and emergency transport. SB 156 would extensively revise the duties and powers of the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission, abolishes the existing Georgia Trauma Trust Fund and establishes a new State Office of EMS/Trauma. The real sticking point is funding. HB 160, the so-called Super Speeder legislation, will increase fines for those driving in excess of 85 MPH on highways or 75 MPH on two-lane roads by $200. It will also increase the fee to renew a driver’s license. The $23 million expected to be generated by the new fines and fees is intended to go towards funding trauma, but the monies will go into the general fund rather than a specific fund for trauma care.

The final T is Teachers but really that is education in general. There are several education proposals that have already failed this legislative session: SB 90, Senator Eric Johnson’s universal school voucher bill failed to make it out of the Senate Rules committee before crossover day; SB 93, an initiative of Governor Sonny Perdue which would have established a program to reward high performing principals with $10,000 bonuses also failed to make crossover day; and HB 282 which would have created the Georgia Master Teacher Program and provided a bonus for those master teachers also failed to make crossover day and appears to be dead for the session. Of the proposals that are still alive at this point in the session are: HB 243, legislation that repeals the salary increase for teachers that gain National Board Certification, that bill will likely go to a conference committee as the Senate passed the bill by substitute on Wednesday; HB 251, legislation that would have allowed students to attend any public school as long as the school board approved the transfer the new student- State funding would accompany that student to the new district; the House agreed to the Senate substitute, but amended the bill on the floor- it goes back to the Senate and may end up in Conference Committee. One measure that affects Georgia’s educators has passed and goes to Governor Perdue: HB 280, legislation that provides additional compensation for “highly qualified” math and science teachers.

You can also expect an update on HB 119, the FY 2010 budget. A Conference Committee report has been adopted by the House and Senate on that $18.6 billion spending plan.

We’ll also be joined live by the National Editor for, Tom Crawford.

And in celebration of the conclusion of the 39th season of Lawmakers, we’ll take a look back at episodes from the past four decades.

All that and more on the Lawmakers Sine Die Special at 11 PM tonight!

The Lawmakers Sine Die Special repeats Saturday 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. You can also watch a repeat of the Lawmakers Sine Die Special on Monday, April 6 on GPB television at 5 AM.