Trauma care legislation passes House

The Georgia House has just passed legislation that would put before voters the idea of dedicating $10 a year from each license plate sale to funding a statewide trauma care system.

With eight million cars in Georgia, the fee could raise $80 million.

The bill passed at 12:12 p.m. at 149 to 14.

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Blackburn qualifies

A woman who out-shined Sarah Palin in a beauty contest and has been twice nominated for a Grammy award officially qualified today to run for a Georgia House seat.

Maryline Blackburn of Smyrna qualified as a Democrat, vowing to be a watchdog for residents in the district served by Rep. Rich Golick.

“I am concerned about House District 34’s current representation,” Blackburn said. “Our issues and concerns are being ignored and it’s time for new and better representation in the Georgia House of Representatives.”

Blackburn is a two-time Grammy nominated recording artist and won Miss Alaska 1984, beating second runner-up Sarah Palin.

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Dr. Don bows out

The doctor is out.

The spot for the first farewell speech delivered by an outgoing senator, was reserved for one of the chambers most beloved members – Sen. Don Thomas.

The author of the new seatbelt law and an instrumental figure in banning smoking in public places, Thomas is retiring to continue his medical practice in Dalton and care for his wife, Emma Jean, who has lung cancer.

He had been in the Senate since 1996.

Senators presented a lengthy video tribute to Thomas that featured several testimonials.

“You were the best,” said Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain). “Even when you cantankerous, you are the best.”

In presenting Thomas, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, wept.

“I look forward to being home with my wife Emma Jean, who allowed this to happen,” Thomas said. “You will always been in my hearts and I love everyone of you. Pray for us and I will pray for you.”

Thomas, who was joined by his wife and several members of his family, was declared “Doctor of the Day Emeritus.”

The …

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Senate starts Day 40

It was a bit louder than usual in the Senate chamber Thursday.

On what will be the final day of the legislative session, Senators are predicting a fairly quick day filled with agrees and disagrees, farewell speeches and waiting for the House to send bills over.

The Senate did pass HB 1465 to create a water and sewer authority in College Park.

In between time, there are a lot of babies getting their photos taken.

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Departing House members start goodbyes

The Georgia House is expecting a record turnover this year, with some lawmakers deciding its time to retire or seek other offices.

And on this last day of one of the longest sessions in recent history, the official goodbye speeches have already started.

Rep. John Lunsford (R-McDonough), who has decided to run for the state Senate, told House colleagues that his time with them has “totally changed my life and the lives of my family and friends.”

Rep. Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) had planned a farewell speech later in the day, but was called to the floor to receive a gift and applause in the chamber where he’s served for 18 years. He was part of the leadership team of former Speaker Glenn Richardson and has decided to retire.

All 236 legislative seats are up for election this year.

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Could they say ‘Sine Die’ at 4 p.m.?

As legislators make their way into the Capitol, there’s more talk about when they will adjourn sine die than about what’s left on their to-do list.

Some lawmakers say they are hearing the goal is to done by 4 p.m. That looks appealing to most since, by law, they have to conclude this 40th day of the 40-day session by midnight.

Only 117 members  were in their seats when House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) called the House to order.

To members who hadn’t seen the AJC, he shared the news that the three House members and three senators negotiating the final details of the 2011 state budget reached agreement late Wednesday. Members applauded before Ralston declared: “Much of our work is done.”

“We have a busy day,” the speaker said. “We’re going to go about our business with dispatch — and I emphasize dispatch.”

The agenda still includes some major bills that would expand the rights of gun owners; could put restrictions on abortions; reform the state’s property tax system; …

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House and Senate reach deal on 2011 budget

With just hours remaining in the 2010 legislative session, House and Senate budget negotiators struck a deal on the state budget late Wednesday, clearing the way for final adjournment on Thursday.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said the budget conference committee had reached agreement after nearly a week of negotiations on the $17.8 billion state budget.

“We didn’t have substantial differences between the House and the Senate,” Ralston said. “That’s a produce of the economic climate we’re in.”

The budget contains little in the way of frills as the state in 2011 will spend $3 billion less than just three years ago.

Ralston had few details of the compromise late Wednesday and the agreement must still be approved by the full House and Senate on Thursday, the final day of the 40-day legislative session. But the spending plan, which takes effect July 1, passed overwhelmingly once already in both chambers — 120-52 in the House on April 14, and 49-2 in the Senate a week …

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Lawmakers: School systems can look to private funding sources

In a testimony to the tough economic times, the Georgia General Assembly has given final approval to legislation that would allow private donors to fund public school field trips.

Field trip money has been one of the first expenses to be cut as school systems have had to drastically reduce spending in the face of falling revenues.

House Bill 1200, which was approved 44-0 in the Senate on Tuesday and now goes to the governor’s desk, would allow school boards to solicit and accept donations for field-trips and other school-related purposes.

Rep. Mike Glanton, a Democrat from Ellenwood, said:  “Field trips give students a hands-on approach to concepts and lessons that might not be as easily grasped in a classroom setting. Unfortunately, with budget cuts to school systems, along with tax base erosion, schools might not be able to afford these valuable programs without help from donations.”

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Another MARTA board shake-up?

House leaders were none too thrilled with MARTA’s level of cooperation as they tried to pass the transportation funding bill, HB 277, last week.  On top of that, some representatives from north Fulton County said they were dismayed that north Fulton mayors didn’t get a certain voice on the MARTA board.

Now, MARTA officials may be feeling some of that heat, as lawmakers draw up legislation that would re-make the MARTA board – again.

House Speaker pro Tempore Jan Jones said that the legislation (an amendment to SB 22) would reduce the current MARTA board from 18 to 13 voting members, with three appointed by the state.  The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker would each appoint one voting member to make up that three.  In addition, the Department of Transportation commissioner and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority director would have non-voting seats.

Jones said it was to ensure balance on the board and make sure Fulton and DeKalb taxpayers were …

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Hectic day in the General Assembly as lawmakers wind down session

Lawmakers told teenagers to stop texting behind the wheel, pickup drivers to buckle up, and President Obama to close the borders on the harried next-to-the-last legislative day.

With Tuesday’s final seat belt vote in the House, Georgia is set to become the last state to close a loophole that exempted adult pickup drivers.

That bill, which now goes to the governor, was one of dozens of measures that flew between the House and Senate as lawmakers rushed to complete their work by Thursday and hit the campaign trail.

But by 8 p.m., the House was still in a Rules Committee meeting to see what other bills to hear late into Tuesday evening.

Some measures looked like they are headed down to the wire – including restrictions on technology, such as texting.

Both the House and Senate passed bills to restrict texting by teens. But the two bodies were still wrestling over how far to go: Should teens also be barred from talking on the cell phone while driving? Should adults have to stop …

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