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Hill: Senate OKs DHR revamp
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The 2009 amended budget passed both houses and will fund the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant of $428 million. The governor signed the budget on March 13. The 2009 budget has shrunk over $2 billion since being first introduced by Gov. Perdue last January due to the declining economic situation. From the federal stimulus, $145 million are being used to replace additional budget cuts to education.

This budget includes $200 million from the Shortfall Reserve and cuts of 8-10 percent and higher to departments throughout government and utilizes several other reserves. Cuts to the Department of Corrections were restored by $5 million to prisons and other funds were restored to lift a hiring freeze for correctional officers. Other restorations focused on children’s needs and the elderly. Funds were also provided to the Department of Agriculture for new inspectors in the consumer protection division. Local county public health department grants were restored as well.   

Senate passes DHR reorganization
The Senate passed SB 222 on March 12 that would reorganize the state’s health and human services agencies, establishing three new departments:

1.) The Department of Health (DOH) will perform all duties and undertake all functions previously performed by the Department of Community Health (DCH), the Division of Public Health of the Department of Human Resources (DHR), and the Office of Regulatory Services of DHR.

2.) The Department of Human Services (DHS) will assume all powers, functions and duties previously handled by DHR, except for those relating to the Division of Mental Health.

3.) The Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) will assume all powers, functions and duties previously handled by DHR’s Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Addictive Diseases.

Since the House has passed a reorganization bill as well, one of the two bills will be negotiated by the two houses for the final plan.  

Additional Senate action last week
The following legislation passed the Senate:
SB 7: Allows legislative committees to require witnesses to take an oath under penalty of a felony for false swearing.

SR 12: Increases existing award for the first operating oil or gas well.

SB 17: Allows the state’s revenue commissioner to report the names of all legislative members who haven’t filed income tax returns to the joint House and Senate Ethics Committee.  

SB 25: Provides an income tax check-off for multiple sclerosis.  

SB 36: Requires local boards of education to adopt a code of ethics.

SB 67: Requires all written and oral driver’s license exams to be conducted only in English.  This legislation exempts temporary licenses.  

SB 75: Provides limited liability for landowners who allow visitors to come onto their land for the purpose of hunting, fishing or agritourism.

SB 82: Adds certain requirements on secondary metal recyclers regarding transaction records, types of metals, and payment. All sales over $100 must be paid by check. Specifies that no recycler can pay cash for metal that is primarily copper. Authorizes any county or city to license recyclers.

SB 160: Requires public elementary and secondary schools to be closed on Veterans Day.

SB 201: Allows voluntary contributions on individual income tax returns for cancer research.

SB 210: Allows students who attend a home school program to be eligible for honors programs already open to public and private high school students.

SB 239: Requires new residents in a local school system to enroll their children within 30 days.

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.

SR 277: Allows for a $10 annual charge on each licensed passenger vehicle to be applied to trauma funding.  

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