The Georgia Senate approved a House proposal that would create a uniform process for cities and counties that establish foreclosure registries. The Senate amendment to House Bill 110 passed by a vote of 33-15 after a two-hour debate between metro-Atlanta area and rural lawmakers. Under the proposal, cities or counties with foreclosure registries would require owners to register those properties or face a fine. Supporters maintained the Legislature should do something to address the state's foreclosure crisis and a growing concern about neglected properties, while critics claimed the measure could infringe on private property rights without actually cracking down on absentee owners. The bill is a carryover from last year, when it stalled as lobbyists for cities and counties, as well as the banking and real estate industries, raised concerns that the bill could have unintended consequences. The original legislation was sponsored by state Rep. Mike Jacobs, a Republican lawmaker whose district includes DeKalb County, which had more than $550,000 in its coffers to address foreclosures last year. That amount raised eyebrows among some who worried the registry could be used as a way to help strapped municipal budgets.
ODDS AND ENDS:
- Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the amended budget for the remainder of the fiscal year. The $18.5 billion budget adds only about $200 million to the original budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Most of the new spending addresses enrollment growth and deficits in Medicaid, which is offset largely by agency cuts.
- Terminally ill youth in Georgia would receive special hunting privileges under a bill passed by House lawmakers. It would authorize the state's natural resources commissioner to grant special hunting permits for big game or alligators to anyone under 21 who is terminally ill. The bill now heads to the governor's desk.
- The Republican-controlled Georgia House rejected a resolution praising Democratic youth and gay rights groups, prompting a Democrat to complain that state lawmakers had "gone down the tube." The resolution by Democratic Rep. Keisha Waites of Atlanta praised the Young Democrats at the University of Georgia for registering voters and volunteering on political campaigns, including the 2008 presidential campaign of President Barack Obama. The measure also praised the university's Lambda Alliance and Ally Outreach, which support gay rights.
- A Senate committee has passed a bill that would revoke bonuses for Georgia teachers who cheat on standardized tests. Under current policy, teachers can receive bonuses or incentive pay based on the standardized test scores of their students.
- The Senate has approved a pair of bills aimed at streamlining the state's human resources department. Effective July 1, House Bill 642 would create the Georgia Services Administration and House Bill 805 would eliminate the State Personnel Administration. The legislation is part of Deal's agenda to trim state government by eliminating or consolidating agencies.
- Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler urged legislators to salvage a plan to repay $730 million it owes federal government for help covering unemployment benefits in the economic downturn. Butler sent an open letter asking the General Assembly to pass the proposal. If the money isn't repaid, Butler said, the unemployment trust fund's debt could grow rapidly, putting it "in peril." A version of the plan has already cleared the Senate. Butler and others have raised concerns that the bill could face a court challenge because it should have originated in the House, where most revenue-related legislation is generated.
- A Senate panel has approved legislation that could be a boon for the state's brewpub business. House Bill 472 passed with no opposition and now heads to the Rules committee. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last month. The proposal increases the number of barrels that a brewpub could produce from 5,000 to 10,000 and increases from 500 to 5,000 the number they could sell to wholesale distributors.
"I'll drink to that," said Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, upon passage of legislation that would expand microbrewery production.
DAYS IN SESSION:
- There are seven days left in the session.
The joint legislative committee tackling criminal justice reform could have a revised version of the bill ready to consider early next week. The Senate Appropriations Committee continues to hammer out its version of the fiscal year 2013 budget. A House proposal that would ban abortions after 20 weeks is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee next week.