The measure infuses about $800,000 to the Georgia Council for the Arts, which had been slated to be eliminated. It also provides $10 million to buy land for the new College Football Hall of Fame, which is moving to Atlanta, but does not contain funding for the proposed Tennis Center of Georgia in Rome.
Floyd County’s delegates were split along party lines.
In favor were state Sen. Preston Smith, R-Rome, and state Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville. Opposed were state Reps. Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, and Rick Crawford, D-Cedartown.
Thursday was the last day of the 2010 legislative session and lawmakers dealt with a flurry of bills before it was gaveled to a close at midnight.
The bond package included $8.9 million for a Northwest Georgia Technical College campus in Catoosa County and $7.5 million for a classroom building.
Among the measures on the way to Gov. Sonny Perdue for signature are:
# Two bills that would make it illegal to text while driving, effective July 1.
One would ban teens from using their cell phones while driving. A second would ban all motorists from texting, checking e-mail or using the Internet behind the wheel. Navigation devices are not included in the bills.
Loudermilk was among those opposed to both measures.
“It’s just overbearing,” he said. “If you look at caller ID you’re breaking the law, but I don’t see how they can enforce it.”
# A sweeping gun rights expansion that focused on the few places licensed adults would not be able to carry them.
All five Floyd County delegates voted in favor of the bill, which makes it a misdemeanor to have weapons in a government building, courthouse, jail or prison, place of worship, mental health facility, nuclear power plant or polling place.
Otherwise, guns would be allowed in bars with the bar owner’s permission, and anywhere in Georgia unless a private property owner forbids it.
And while guns would be banned on school campuses or buses, they would be allowed in vehicles parked in the parking lots of schools, courthouses, airports and jails.
The measure comes days after a bipartisan group of legislators adopted a separate proposal that allows gun owners to carry their firearms into parts of airports not regulated by the federal government.
# A measure that bans the government from requiring any resident, employer or health care provider to participate in a health care system. It says it aims to “preserve the freedom of citizens of this state to provide for their health care.”
The proposal was pushed by conservative lawmakers worried that the sweeping health care bill approved in Washington in March tramples state rights. Critics said the language would quickly be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.
Smith, who will be giving up his Senate seat to run for state attorney general, voted in favor of the bill, as did Crawford and Dempsey in the House. Reece was the lone local delegate to oppose it, and Loudermilk was out of the chamber and did not cast a vote.
# A constitutional amendment that would add a $10 annual fee to car registrations to shore up the state’s cash-strapped network of trauma hospitals, which includes Floyd Medical Center.
The measure, which would have to be approved by voters at the ballot box, could raise as much as $80 million to bolster existing hospitals and expand access in rural Georgia.
# A wide-ranging overhaul of property taxes that would require that homes be assessed every year. It also extends the appeal process from 30 to 45 days and requires all comparable sales — including foreclosures — be applied when officials set an assessed value.
Floyd County officials said local school systems will take the biggest financial hit, although it will be some time before the extent is known.
“We’ll probably sit down with the tax assessor a month from now for a report on what happened to everyone’s tax revenues this session,” County Commissioner Chad Whitefield said.
# The release of crime scene photos showing dismembered body parts or exposed genitalia would be banned under a measure that drew spontaneous applause when it cleared the House. The measure now goes to the governor.
It was prompted by a Hustler Magazine inquiry for graphic crime scene photos of Meredith Emerson, the hiker whose naked, dismembered body was found in January 2008 in the North Georgia woods. A judge barred authorities from releasing those photos.
# A bill clarifying that people who run over and kill bears or deer can keep the animals instead of turning them over to the state Department of Natural Resources. State Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, sponsored the bill after two bears were accidentally killed in his district.
# A proposal that lets Georgia residents donate money to the state’s general fund.
The bill also allows the state to promote and solicit from citizens on their income tax return forms voluntary contributions for lupus and kidney research programs.
As lawmakers gathered for the final throes of the session, it often felt like it was the last day of school. More than a dozen retiring legislators made emotional farewell speeches and groups of lawmakers dotted the chamber posing for goodbye pictures.
“Y’all ready to go home?” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, asked tired lawmakers, who responded with a loud cheer.
The state’s 236 lawmakers are eager to return home — and to the campaign trail — after the longest legislative session in years. But they also seem relieved that they hammered out deals earlier in the session on a range of key issues that have long eluded them.
Legislators broke through a logjam on transportation funding after three years of trying, approving a plan that would allow Georgia voters to decide whether to hike the sales tax to pay for roads and infrastructure.
And two other packages have already headed to Perdue: An ethics overhaul that supporters say will make government more transparent by requiring lobbyists to disclose more of their expenditures and sweeping legislation that would put in place a wide-ranging series of water conservation measures.
Staff writer Diane Wagner contributed to this report.
Major legislation of the session:
Signed into law
HB 926: Lifts some of the mandates on state banks so they can renew loans with their good-standing borrowers.
Constitutional amendment awaiting voter approval in November
Awaiting governor’s signature
SR 277: Levies a $10 fee on car tags to go to fund a statewide trauma network. As a constitutional amendment, it will require approval by voters in November.
SB 449: Empowers the state to auction the 16 acres in Augusta the state bought for the now-defunct Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and to transfer to the city six statues of golfers inducted into the hall.
HB 1322: The Meredith Emerson Privacy Act would prohibit the release of crime-scene photos that include nude bodies and mutilation. It was passed in response to a request by Hustler magazine for the photos of the murder of University of Georgia graduate Meredith Emerson.
HB 23 and SB 360: Outlaw texting while driving and prohibit teenaged drivers from using cell phones.
SB 84: The school board governance bill that requires local school boards to adopt a code of ethics.
HB 519: Imposes a $75 fine for motorists driving slower than the speed limit in the left lane who do not yield to faster traffic.
Also it allows for driving golf cars on roads if they have safety equipment, and they can be used for commercial deliveries in residential areas.
HB 947: The mid-year adjustment to the current year budget, trimming about $800 million from what was appropriated last year.
HB 948: The budget for fiscal year 2011. The $17.9 billion budget cuts $141 million from the University System of Georgia, $400 million from K-12 education and other cuts while providing $68 million in bonds for deepening of the Savannah Harbor and $121 million for improvements on the Jimmy DeLoach Parkway in Savannah.
HB 244: Changes the name of the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and sells $288 million in outstanding loans to help balance the 2011 state budget.
SB 346: Would require annual property assessments and set up consumer safeguards for making appeals.
HB 1023: The Jobs, Opportunities and Business Success Act of 2010, includes a package of tax credits and cuts and incentives to create employment.
HB 1093: Require local governments to collect business-license data from local governments to ensure all businesses subject to sales taxes are indeed collecting them and submitting them to the state.
HB 1055: Phases out the state’s property tax and tax on retirement income while also imposing a new, 1.45-percent tax on the revenue of hospitals and boosts dozens of fees by $90 million.
SB 17: House Speaker David Ralston’s bill to double ethics fines, halve the period for reporting campaign contributions and lobbyists’ expenditures and outlaw use of government assets for intimidation.
SB 371: Would authorize the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate mortgage fraud.
SB 319: Expands the definition of “textbook,” to include Kindles and iPads.
SB 308: Sponsors of the bill say that it would clarify existing rules about where licensed owners can carry their guns — including churches, bars and parking lots at universities and airports.
HB 571: Outlaws sex between students and K-12 teachers in all cases, even if the student consents. Supporters say they wanted to close a loophole created by a Supreme Court ruling in the appeal of an Augusta teacher. It also seeks to correct other court decisions overturning portions of laws regarding where people on the sex offender registry can live.
SB 344: Expands volunteer health care legislation to include physicians’ assistants, which sponsors say would provide more care for indigent patients.
HB 1094: The Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010 would prohibit the sale of high-flow water fixtures and encourage local governments to fix leaky water mains.
HB 277: Would allow voters to levy a statewide 1-cent sales tax for transportation projects. The state would be divided into 12 regions, and each region would have its own project list and its own referendum to approve or reject the tax within the region.
SB 374: Creates an Economic Development Council to provide oversight and accountability to how the state’s economic development dollars are spent.
Bills that died
HB 138, 352 and SB 16: Would have allowed local governments to let voters decide on the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
HB 1184: Would allow the purchase of individual health plans that have been approved for sale in other states.
SB 304: Would prohibit charging girls younger than 16 with prostitution and instead treat them as victims.
SB 361: Georgia Early HOPE Scholarship Program, would offer private-school tuition vouchers to foster kids, children of military service personnel and the disabled.
HB 1111: Would strip the pension from educators convicted of altering standardized test scores.
HB 1121: Makes it a crime to tamper with state standardized tests, as part of the state’s application for the federal Race to the Top education grant.
SB 393: Would allow the governor to appoint state’s insurance, labor and agriculture commissioners, as well as the state school superintendent instead of their election.
SB 406: Would have allowed online voter registration.
SB 330: Would have prohibited health insurers from canceling policies or denying claims if the application includes minor misstatements.
HB 39: By Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, would have increased the state’s cigarette tax by $1 a pack.
HR 1: Would have limited growth in property tax assessments to no more than 3 percent a year.
SB 57: Multiple forms of mortgage reforms.
HB 869: Would allow the Legislative Services Committee to furlough legislators because of budget constraints.
Morris News Service