Georgia Political News for March 30, 2012

Hershey is a young retriever-mix puppy who is available from Angels Among Us Rescue.

Sine Die Summary

Passions were running high at the Capitol last night as a potent mix of money and moral issues, combined with long days and nights resulted in a near physical alteration between competing lobbyists. Georgia Right to Life President Dan Becker is said to have body-checked John Walraven at the Senate rope line before the two convened with a state trooper for a prayer meeting. Senator Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) suggested House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal was working with banks to block SB 448, the developers v. bankers bill, and that O’Neal’s service on a bank board presented a conflict of interest.

Dennis O’Hayer has an interview with Governor Nathan Deal on the last day of the session.

Criminal Justice Reform Passed

The cost to taxpayers of the state prison system motivated criminal justice reform that is also expected to reduce the rate of repeat offenses. Included in the package were increases in the threshold amounts at which some theft crimes become felonies and programs to move nonviolent drug offenders into treatment and accountability programs instead of prison. The bill also requires more adults to report suspected child abuse.

Open Records/Open Meetings Revisions Passed

Reforms to the state’s sunshine laws, which were advocated by Attorney General Sam Olens passed and are headed to Gov. Deal for signature. Included in the measure is a reduction in the cost of printing for citizens requesting government documents, and enhanced fines for government agencies or officials who violate the law.

The bill includes an exemption for some economic development projects before they are announced.

Fetal Pain Bill Compromise Passed

After considerable drama over appointing a conference committee, a compromise was reached to reconcile Senate amendments to the House-passed “Fetal Pain Bill,” which reduces the time period in which elective abortions are available. The compromise added an exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies that are “incompatible with life after birth” and protections for physicians against liability. Georgia is the eighth state to pass similar legislation.

Ethics Backsliding Voted Down

Amendments to a bill addressing hunting and fishing licenses that would have allowed the State Ethics Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to seal the records of investigations in which no violation is found, was defeated.

Senator Jason Carter (D-Decatur) offered an amendment to his own bill that would have capped lobbyist gifts to legislators at $100. It was defeated, ensuring that Georgia Democrats will be able to make ethics a campaign issue in the fall.

Metal Theft Bill Passed

Changes to state law designed to address the rise of metal theft passed as the Senate and House reached a compromise that prevents cash payments to sellers of non-ferrous metal to recyclers, but eliminates a waiting period for payment that was included in the Senate version.

Agency Sunset Law Passed

The General Assembly Legislative Sunset Committee will determine a method for periodically reviewing the need for state agencies and recommend legislative action under legislation by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Sandy Springs)

Zero-Based Budgeting Passed

The House and Senate reached an agreement to pass legislation requiring Zero-Based Budgeting for state agencies.

Schools to Receive Letter Grade

Legislation by Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) will grade schools on a 100-point scale on student achievement to make it easier for parents to understand schools’ success in educating students.

Foreclosure Fraud Bill Passed

The House agreed to Senate amendments on a bill designed to outlaw foreclosure fraud.

Tax Protections Passed

Legislation by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) creates a special court to handle taxpayer disputes with the Georgia Department of Revenue.

A bill by Sen. Chip Rogers would prevent counties from selling tax liens to third parties in cases where the property valuation is being appealed.

Legislative Retirements, Promotions

Gov. Deal announced the appointment of State Rep. Roger Lane to the Superior Court for  the Brunswick Circuit, filling the seat that opened when former Judge Amanda Williams resigned.

Legislators who are not seeking reelection include:

Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale)
Rep. Amos Amerson (R-Dahlonega)
Rep. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) will seek election to Congress in the new 12th District
Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Decatur)
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) is running for Congress in the new Ninth District
Rep. Elly Dobbs (D-Atlanta)
Rep. Joe Heckstall (D-East Point)
Rep. Sistie Hudson (D-Sparta)
Rep. Billy Horne (R-Sharpsburg)
Rep. Lynmore James (D-Montezuma)
Rep. Gene Maddox (R-Cairo)
Rep. Martin Scott (R-Rossville)
Rep. Tommy Smith (R-Nicholls)
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Dalton)

Rep. Mark Hatfield (R-Waycross) is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Greg Goggans (R-Douglas), who will not seek reelection. Clay Thomas and Tyler Harper are also running to succeed Goggans.

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