Saturday, April 4, 2009

Georgia Legislative Report

How certain bills fared in the final days of the Georgia Assembly:

-Lawmakers struck a deal on an $18.6 billion state budget that makes deep cuts to state spending. The plan avoids increasing health insurance costs for state workers by tapping federal stimulus dollars to pay for Medicaid, the health program for the poor.

The gridlock over transportation continued as lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on funding. Lawmakers struck a deal over a transportation overhaul that would give state politicians vast control over infrastructure dollars. But plans for a new one-cent sales tax to fund hundreds of road projects died.

-Lawmakers agreed on a separate transportation overhaul that would give state politicians vast new control over infrastructure dollars. The transportation makeover, which passed the Senate 33-22, comes after heavy lobbying from Republican leaders who argued that granting the governor and lawmakers new powers over transportation funding would help transform a dysfunctional bureaucracy into one that is more accountable to voters.

-The Legislature approved a sweeping new tax break that cuts the capital gains tax in half over two years. The measure also doles out a $2,400 income tax credit to any business that hires someone who has been unemployed for at least four weeks. And it creates a one-year "new business tax holiday" that waives the $100 filing fee for new business.

-Gov. Sonny Perdue won't be able to preside over a wedding anytime soon. The Legislature on Friday stripped a provision that would give the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and constitutional officers the power to preside at weddings. House Speaker Glenn Richardson had advocated the measure. But when it passed the House by a 164-1 vote, it only included a separate proposal designed to urge couples to get tested for sickle cell disease before marrying.

-State lawmakers who fail to pay taxes could soon face sanctions from a legislative committee. The House and Senate have both passed measures that would allow the House or Senate Ethics committees to investigate and sanction legislators who fail to pay their taxes. Both chambers passed the measure, which now goes to Perdue.

- A proposal that would give lawmakers more control over the public defender system was pulled amid concerns from lawmakers. It would have given politicians more control of the cash-strapped system.

-The Senate tried again to force adults in seat belts to buckle up, but House lawmakers refused to take up the measure. Similar proposals have died in that chamber for the last three years.

-The Legislature signed off on a proposal that would provide legal protection to families who use donated embryos to have a child. The House's 108-61 vote Friday on the "Option of Adoption Act" is designed to prevent an embryo donor from later claiming the child born from that embryo to another family.

-Lawmakers agreed to reorganize two of the state's largest bureaucracies. The Senate voted unanimously to restructure the state's health and human services department, creating a new agency to lead Georgia's troubled mental health system. The measure would reshuffle social services and health programs now spread across two state agencies and distribute them among three new divisions.

-Lawmakers voted to require prospective voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before they cast their ballots. The plan, which passed the House 104-67, would make Georgia the second in the nation with such requirements. Only Arizona requires its residents to prove they are U.S. citizens to register to vote.

Source here.

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