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Hill: Budget, session in hand
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The 2009 session wound down on April 3 as bills moved back and forth between the House and Senate and budget negotiations struggled to meet the most critical shortfall in the state’s history.

Key legislation will be highlighted in the succeeding weeks as well as a review of the 2010 general budget. The last week produced final passage on a number of pieces of legislation.  

Transforming Transportation Investment Act
SB 200 would transfer the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) to the newly-created State Transportation Authority. The authority will control and disburse the state and federal public transportation funds in accordance with the appropriations acts, allocations and statewide guidance and policies of the authority.

The board of the State Transportation Authority will be comprised of 11 members: five appointed by the governor, three by the lieutenant governor and three by the speaker of the House. Members’ terms are coterminous with appointers’ terms; a maximum of four years long and limited to two terms. Every four years, the authority would develop the statewide strategic transportation plan and allocation formulas to ensure proper distribution of moneys from available funds. The authority will make budget requests annually and submit a list of prioritized projects to the governor and the General Assembly for appropriations.  

Legislators will select specific local projects that will be funded through 10 percent of the annual transportation appropriation and will have more control of the annual transportation budget. Instead of motor fuel funds being given directly to DOT, they would be appropriated through the budget process, just like every other state agency.     

Final passage awaiting governor’s signature:
• SB 8: Permits local boards of education to allow students to carry self-administered injectable epinephrine to treat allergic reactions.

• SB 55: Requires foreclosure sales to be considered in property assessment comparisons.

• SB 128: Provides for the issuances, optional to the owner, of permanent license plates for boat trailers, utility trailers and noncommercial cattle and livestock trailers.

• SB 201: Provides for voluntary contributions through individual income tax returns for cancer research.

• SB 240: Allows a taxpayer’s appraisal of property to be considered in assessment appeals.  

• SB 246: Allows victims to be notified when a violent juvenile delinquent is released from detention.

• HB 2: Authorizes the state to withhold state and state-administered federal funding from any local government not in compliance with Georgia immigration law.

• HB 120: Reauthorizes the annual sales tax holiday for school supplies and energy efficient appliances.

• HB 193: Allows the state Board of Education to expand the length of a school year as 180 days or the equivalent number of hours.

• HB 245: Reduces the maximum time a juvenile offender can be sentenced to serve in a youth development center from 60 days to 30 days. On July 1, 2011, this reduction will sunset and the max will return to 60 days.

• HB 251: “Public school choice” — Allows a student in a local school system to transfer to another public elementary or secondary school in their system or in another district that accepts the student, providing the parents provide transportation.

• HB 313: Revises certain provisions relating to calculating grade point averages for purposes of determining eligibility for enrollment and scholarships for postsecondary education. States that all students enrolled in the ninth grade for the first time by the 2008-09 school year must have a GPA of at least 3.0 to meet achievement standards for the HOPE scholarship at graduation.

• HB 318: Suspends ad valorem taxation on heavy duty equipment until 2011.

• HB 326: Allows for purchases of two-year or multi-year fishing and hunting licenses.

• HB 455: Allows local systems a 30-day extension for the 2009-10 school years’ contracts with teachers.

• HB 457: Revises the definition of ‘disabled adult’ to include a person with dementia or a related cognitive impairment.

• HB 464: Authorizes prisons to require inmates to pay a co-pay to the prison for the cost of pharmaceutical services unrelated to pregnancy or chronic illnesses.

• HB 473: Provides grants for clean energy properties supplied from federal funds for a limited period through Dec. 31, 2012, and requires that users choose either the grant or the existing income tax credit for clean energy properties.

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