Archive for May, 2009

Perdue hints he’ll sign transportation governance bill

Speaking to the Rotary Club of Atlanta, Gov. Sonny Perdue indicated he is likely to sign Senate Bill 200 into law, which would make major changes to the state Department of Transportation. 

While Perdue did not directly address whether he would sign or veto the bill, he called it a “step in the right direction regarding statewide planning.”

The bill is radically different from the one that he, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) unveiled early in the 2009 legislative session. That bill essentially gutted DOT and turned the DOT board into little more than a paving contractor, while giving most of the agency’s power to a state transportation authority.

What ultimately passed, however, preserves the current structure, but creates a new director of planning whose power is outside the DOT board. It also gives the General Assembly great power to approve funding for individual projects.

Perdue has until next week to sign or veto S.B. 200 and all outstanding …

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Massive reorganization of human resources now law

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Monday enacted a massive overhaul of the state’s health services agencies, calling a new state law “an important step for Georgia in the care of its citizens.”

Perdue signed into law House Bill 228 that splits the current Department of Human Resources into three separate yet equal agencies:

  • A Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities that includes mental health. Dr. Frank Shelp, clinical director at the Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah, will serve as commissioner of the Behavioral Health agency, with Dr. Bill McDonald, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University, will be special advisor to the governor on mental health. Gwen Skinner, who had led the state’s mental health division, will be deputy commissioner before retiring later this year.
  • A Department of Community Health that includes PeachCare, Medicaid and public health. Current community health commissioner Dr. Rhonda Medows will continue to lead the agency.
  • And …

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Perdue signs bill protecting HOPE book grants — for now

The more than 200,000 HOPE scholarship recipients should be able to keep their $300 book grant, thanks to legislation signed into law Friday by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

House Bill 157 changes provisions of law established in 2004 that said the book grant would be cut or eliminated if the Georgia Lottery has to dip into reserves to pay for its programs. HB 157, sponsored by House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin (R-Evans), changes that to say the grants would be cut only if lottery revenues drop more precipitously.

“It protects the book allowance,” Harbin said Friday, “and puts in some triggers to protect it so there’s a true emergency before there’s a cut.”

The state runs one of the most successful lotteries in the nation and has more than $900 million in reserve accounts. But the cost of awarding full tuition and book grants to more than 200,000 college students, plus pre-k for about 80,000 children, has continued to increase at a rate that has out-paced lottery revenue …

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