Archive for March, 2009

Perdue to get life-without-parole bill

By Bill Rankin/brankin@ajc.com

Georgia prosecutors will have more leeway to put killers behind bars until they die under legislation approved Wednesday by the state House of Representatives.

The House voted 164-0 for the bill, which would allow DAs to seek a sentence of life in prison without parole without having to seek the death penalty to get it.

The Senate already approved S.B. 13 by a unanimous vote. The bill now goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature.

The legislation was the top priority of the state’s district attorneys and also supported by numerous criminal defense attorneys.

DAs say that the legislation would allow them to put more murderers away forever. It also will spare DAs from having to mount costly death-penalty prosecutions when a life-without-parole sentence is what they would have settled for in the first place.

Under Georgia law, once a DA seeks the death penalty, the sentencing options are life in prison with parole, life without parole or the death …

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Senate passes “superspeeder” legislation, sends to governor

Drivers traveling far above the speed limit on Georgia roads would be fined extra money and called “super-speeders,” under a bill that passed the Senate Wednesday. 

The bill goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature. He is expected to sign it. 

Perdue has supported the legislation previously and asked for it to be introduced again this year. 

Motorists who speed at 85 miles per hour or more on a highway, and 75 miles or more on a two-lane road, would have to pay $200 to the state, above and beyond any local speeding ticket, according to the legislation.

“We want to try to change the driving habits in Georgia,” said Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), the governor’s floor leader in the Senate. 

“Georgia is known as a state you can make up lost time in when traveling,” Heath said.  

The money collected is supposed to go towards the creation of a trauma care network in Georgia, according to the bill.  In his state of the state address earlier this year, Perdue said the legislation …

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Georgia Senate passes jobs tax breaks

The Georgia Senate approved a Republican plan to give tax breaks to businesses that hire the unemployed.
House Bill 481, which has already passed the House, would give businesses $2,400 tax credits if they hire the unemployed and keep them on the job. It also gives unemployment tax breaks to companies that hire the unemployed.
In addition, the bill would gradually phase out corporate income taxes for Georgia-based companies.
The bill passed the Senate 43-7 on Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), said the plan would help create jobs.
However, Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), said it would result in a $600 million loss in state revenue.
“We’re in a budget climate where we are slashing and burning … this is fiscally unsound policy,” Orrock said. “It is irresponsible of us.”
Orrock said each job the bill would create would cost the state $265,000 in tax cuts. “It doesn’t pass the smell test,” she said. “We’re digging the budget hole deeper by passing bills like …

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House panel amends bill to find lawmakers who don’t file taxes

Legislation that would require the state Department of Revenue to report the names of lawmakers who fail to file state income tax returns gained key approval in a House committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 168, sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), passed the Senate as an ethics bill, changing some requirements for electronic filing of campaign and personal finance reports. But Tuesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee amended it to include the tax return information.

The bill could make it to the House floor next week.

The amendment comes weeks after Revenue officials released a report to legislative leaders showing that 19 other lawmakers – 16 in the House and 3 in the Senate – have not filed state income tax returns, some of them for six years. The names were redacted and have not been released because the information is still considered confidential until the individuals are given a chance to respond to revenue officials.

The report prompted Sen. Eric Johnson …

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Senate votes for optional penny sales tax for transportation – again

Voters could be asked to decide if they want a regional penny sales tax to pay for transportation improvements, according to a bill that passed the Senate on Monday.

This is the second time the Senate has approved the idea this session.

The Senate and House disagree on how to set up a new transportation sales tax. The Senate supports a regional tax, where groups of counties – including the Atlanta area – could band together to tax themselves. The House supports a state-wide tax because roads do not end at the county line. 

The Senate on Monday technically took a House version of the transportation bill (House Resolution 206) that they replaced with the Senate’s original version. The Senate passed that original version by a vote of 54 to 1. Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) was the only senator to vote against it. 

The Senate has not budged from its regional tax position, therefore the two chambers would have to agree on a compromise, or the prospect of a transportation tax would …

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Sen. Robert Brown blasts House for failure to approve Obama resolution

In his own unique style, Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown (D-Macon) skewered House members for their failure to pass a resolution honoring President Barack Obama as an honorary member of the Legislature’s Black Caucus. 

Brown posted a picture of former Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-tung, together with a noose, and also a photo of Obama taking the oath of office. 

His point was that the General Assembly has often passed resolutions that commend all kinds of things, including Communist China. Communist China, he said, is not our friend. 

“It’s a contradiction that, unfortunately, our colleagues in the House are unable to understand or deal with,” Brown said. 

“We pass resolutions saying thank you to the communists,” Brown said.
Yet now, “we are defaming the president,” he said. 

The Senate had passed the Obama resolution previously, but last week it ran into opposition in the House, when Republicans voted against it. 

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton), who is running for …

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No word yet on Obama resolution

The fate of the disputed House resolution honoring President Barack Obama remains in doubt, but what is now clear is that it will not be considered in the chamber today or Wednesday.

Last we left this issue, the House voted on Friday to reconsider the bill and sent it to the Rules Committee for negotiations. It cannot come back to the floor without the Rules Committee adding it to the debate calendar.

Well, Rules has met already this morning and not mention was made of HR 673. It was already not on the calendar for today’s session, which begins momentarily. This means the resolution will also not be considered on Wednesday, which is the next time the House plans to meet.

Today is Day 35 of 40 legislative days. Wednesday is Day 36, meaning there would be four days left for that resolution to live or die.

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Scholarship tax credit bill goes to governor

A bill that changes the state’s new tuition tax credit program passed the Senate Friday.

It will now be sent to the Governor for his signature. 

House Bill 100 would help small businesses that contribute cash to organizations that give scholarships for students to attend private school. The bill makes it easier to take advantage of the tax credit program, which gives credits against income taxes for individuals and corporations. The tax credits would also apply to pre-kindergarten programs.

The bill passed 35 to 12, with many Democratic senators voting against. 

“This is a back-door voucher bill that will hurt public education,” said Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta).

“We need to be very careful before we add pre-kindergarten to the mix,” Fort said, calling such a move a “sea change.” 

Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) presented the bill to the Senate, saying it’s good for education and encourages people to contribute to scholarships. Johnson is a proponent of universal …

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House approves $700K for man cleared of rape charge

Jerome White would be paid more than $700,000 by the state of Georgia for being wrongly convicted of rape under a resolution approved in the House on Friday.

White, now 48, was convicted in 1979 of raping, robbing and beating a Merriwhether County woman. Years later, White become one of a handful of Georgia prisoners proved innocent through DNA testing that was not available at the time of his conviction.

If the resolution is approved by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, White would receive the money in annual payments over the next 20 years as long as he is not convicted of another felony crime.

The vote in the House was more lopsided than the debate on the resolution would have suggested.

A number of Republicans raised concern over the payments, because while White was exonerated of the rape, robbery and assault charges, he was also found guilty of a separate burglary charge. He also later, while on parole for the rape conviction, was convicted of separate …

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Obama resolution revived; black caucus walks out

Should the Georgia House adopt a resolution commemorating President Barack Obama and make him an honorary member of the Legislative Black Caucus?

  • Yes, it’s respectful and deserved
  • Sure, but only because dozens of these get approved without comment each year
  • No way

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By a vote of 143-2, the House moments ago voted to revive HR 673, the resolution commending President Barack Obama. That parliamentary move simply brings the resolution back to life, but before it could be voting on again, House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) sent it to committee. 

That move, which prevented an up or down vote on the House floor, angered black lawmakers, who staged a brief walk out. As the members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus were leaving the House chamber, Richardson ordered the doors to the chamber be shut and locked, preventing anyone from coming or going. 

Richardson often does this, especially before the morning devotional, but …

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