Archive for April, 2010

St8 bans txtN yl drivN; teens barred frm ph uz Bhnd wheel

Pending the signature of Gov. Perdue, it will soon be illegal to text while driving.

In sweeping legislation, the Senate and the House also voted to ban teens from using cell phone while driving. The two bills, one of the sponsors said, would significantly change the culture of Georgia’s roads forever.

“This is a good day for Georgia because we have addressed a dangerous, growing trend – texting while driving,” said Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon).

The two bills that passed were:

•HB 23, sponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), which bans Class D drivers – mostly teens – from talking on their cell phones while driving.

•SB 360, which would ban texting by all drivers. Sponsored by Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), the bill will be known as the Caleb Sorohan Act, named after a Morgan County teenager who died while texting.

“A year ago, Rep. Ramsey tried to pass this bill,” said David Belton, a member of the Morgan County Board of Education. “If that bill had been a law then, …

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Reservoir bill passes

The General Assembly late Thursday passed legislation that could open the door to more reservoirs statewide and cost the city of Atlanta millions in revenue.

The bill passed the House late last year, and the Senate on Tuesday of this week.

The bill, HB 406, was intended to help build one reservoir in south Fulton. But late Thursday, it was broadened. The city of Atlanta lost assurances it would hold onto $125 million a year in new sales taxes to make up for the loss of revenue from water customers in south Fulton.

At mid-afternoon, it looked like it could die after the House refused to agree to the Senate version. But the Senate later backed off, allowing it to head to the desk of the governor.

Rep. Mike Coan (R-Lawrenceville) said the governor wanted the legislation, which he said will enable construction of a reservoir in south Fulton County to relieve pressure on the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier.

Some House members voiced concern about the impact on other regions of …

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Perdue addressed Senate, praises hard work on “historic” bills

On the last day of the legislative session Gov. Sonny Perdue made a rare visit to the Senate chamber to give his farewell address and help usher out the session.

“I really wanted to come a congratulate you all on what I believe was one of the most production sessions you could have had,” Perdue told senators. “It was 106 days ago that I stood before you to ask you do the hard work. That was the challenge and I believe history will reflect that you have done that.”

Perdue praised members of the Senate in passing “historic” bills on water conservation, transportation and ethics.

“And when we faced a financial situation unlike many Georgians have seen, you passed a budget filled with right things,” Perdue said. “You made the tough choices.”

In what is his final session, Perdue was a bit reflective. He talked about the tough times during his eight years in office. He said Georgians have had a history of coming together when facing important issues.

“No other administration has had …

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C-Tran bill passes Houses

The Georgia House gave final approval Thursday to legislation allowing Clayton County residents to vote on paying an additional 1 percent sales tax to fund C-Tran, the county’s mass transit system. House Bill 1393 raises the cap on the sales tax counties can levy. It also extends the exemption from motor fuel taxes for public transit for another two years.

The measure sets up the possibility of an imminent sales tax vote in Clayton County.  However, the transit measure would have to be green-lighted by the Clayton County commission, which voted 4-1 to cancel its bus service in the first place.  The commission’s vice chairman, Wole Ralph, has said that he has concerns about such a referendum, and whether county tax money would be used to bail out cash-strapped MARTA.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale), said passage of the bill opens up a way to “a quality and affordable public transportation system for the people of Clayton County.”

The …

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New budget includes money for arts, College Football Hall

The House and Senate gave  final approval to a $17.9 billion budget for the upcoming year that cuts education spending but keeps alive arts programs and provides $10 million to buy land for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

The House had eliminated the Georgia Council for the Arts from the upcoming year’s budget. But budget negotiators agreed to provide $790,735 in state funding next year to keep the council  going.

Basic funding for schools and colleges was cut more than $600 million in the budget for fiscal 2011, which begins July 1. That will mean furloughs and layoffs in local school systems and sharply higher tuition at universities and colleges.

The recession has caused the state to cut back in many areas. Two of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s bond projects – one to expand a horse facility at the state fairgrounds  in his home Houston County and another aimed at supplying money for rural economic development – were slashed from the budget.

However, House and Senate …

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Gun bill passes House, heads back to Senate

With time running out on this year’s legislative session, the Georgia House has just passed a bill to expand the places where licensed gun owners may carry.

The bill passed 118 to 48. It has to go back to the Senate for approval of some House committee changes.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg), would allow licensed gun owners to carry in non-secure areas of airports, in bars where the owners allow it and in the parking lots of colleges, courthouses and jails.

It would eliminate the 1,000-foot limitation on guns at schools and colleges and has been one of the most hotly debated bills of the 2010 General Assembly session, which ends at midnight today.

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Senate bans texting for adults, conference committee report now goes to House

It will soon be against the law for adults to text while driving. The senate voted 48-0 to agree to the conference committee report on SB 360, which would ban texting, as well as the use of the Internet or email for anyone with a Class C license.

The bill now goes back to the House for a final agreement.

A similar bill is lingering in the House that would ban teens from texting.

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Breaking: Austin Scott confirms he’ll run for Congress

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) will challenge U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) in the 8th congressional district, eschewing a bid for governor.

Scott has been one of several candidates seeking the GOP nomination for governor but has been unable to attract the money of many of the other top contenders.

While a rumor surfaced in the past two weeks that he would challenge incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle instead, Scott confirmed to the AJC on Thursday that he will qualify to run for Congress.

Scott will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Friday at the Capitol to discuss his decision and to qualify for the bid.

Marshall’s position as a Democrat in a central Georgia district that has a trend line toward the right has made him a popular target for state and national Republicans. In a campaign season where the GOP has good reason to be optimistic they can reclaim the U.S. House.

Marshall barely held on to his seat in 2006, when he took 50.5 percent of the vote. But he rebounded …

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Property tax bill wins final approval

A long-promised property tax reform bill — promising annual assessments and longer appeal time — received final passage from the General Assembly Thursday.

“With the passage of SB 346, we will protect taxpayers from unfair assessments and guarantee the right to appeal,” Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock said). “While this is a huge victory for Georgia property owners, it’s only part of the solution to providing a system that actually works  With the passage of SB 346, we will protect taxpayers from unfair assessments and guarantee the right to appeal.”

The bill, considered the most sweeping overhaul of Georgia’s property tax system, would:

  • Requirement that every property owner receive annual Notice of Assessment, which guarantees right to appeal
  • Every Notice of Assessment must contain estimated property tax
  • Expansion of appeal time-period from 30 to 45 days
  • Alternative streamlined appeal option for property valued in excess of …

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Senate passes measure to allow drivers to keep road kill

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Georgia is one of the top 10 states in the country in deer-related auto accidents. Now, drivers can get some just desserts – or dinner.

The Senate gave final passage to SB 474, which allows drivers to keep any bear or deer that they might run over. The so-called Road Kill Bill, carried by Sen. Don Thomas of Dalton, passed 47-0.

“This is hot of the grill,” Thomas said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “And I urge you to support it.”

According to the bill, “Any person may take possession of native wildlife which has been killed by a motor vehicle.”

That was not always the case – at least with bears.

In the past, if someone hit and killed a bear, the Department of Natural Resources could take it to mount or place in a museum.

Thomas said drivers now have the option to keep their bears as long as they report the accident to DNR within 48 hours. They don’t have to report a deer strike.

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