published Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Georgia: Lawmakers make some progress on last day

While Republican leaders in in Georgia’s House and Senate sparred over transportation bills late into the night on Friday’s last day of the session, lawmakers still got some bills passed through both chambers.

These will be sent to the governor to sign or veto.

Both chambers approved a sweeping tax break that cuts the state’s capital gains tax in half over two years.

House Bill 481 from Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, also would give a $2,400 income tax credit to any business that hires someone who has been unemployed for at least four weeks. And it waives the $100 filing fee for new business for one year.

The House and Senate both overwhelmingly agreed to House Bill 228 restructuring the state’s Health and Human Services Department and creating a new agency to lead Georgia’s troubled mental health system.

Social services and health programs would be reorganized and a position of state health officer created to help oversee the various programs.

Lawmakers approved two state sales tax holidays for school supplies and energy efficient products.

The Senate gave final approval this week to House Bill 120 setting the school supplies and clothing holiday for July 30-Aug. 2.

The holiday for energy efficient products which cost $1,500 or less would be Oct. 1-4 if Gov. Sonny Perdue signs off on the bill.

House Bill 217 got final passage and would let pharmacists continue administering flu vaccines. It allows doctors to enter into agreements with pharmacists and registered nurses to order and dispense the shots without each one needing a separate prescription.

They stopped House Bill 184 that would give the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and constitutional officers the power to preside at weddings.

Senate Bill 168, which would allow the House or Senate Ethics committees to investigate and sanction legislators who fail to pay their taxes, was on its way to the governor’s desk.

That bill came out after the state Department of Revenue revealed that 22 state lawmakers — about 10 percent of the General Assembly — was delinquent on their taxes. Only three of those lawmakers’ names have been made public. Legislators said they cannot consider sanctions unless they know who they are.

Both chambers signed off on House Bill 388 to provide legal protection to families who use donated embryos to have a child.

The House’s 108-61 vote Friday on the “Option of Adoption Act” is designed to prevent an embryo donor from later claiming the child born from that embryo to another family. The bill provides a legal framework for the donor to relinquish rights before the embryo transfer.

It now goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Supporters say it would clear the way for the adoption of more unused embryos by protecting families from future litigation, but opponents worry it could ultimately be used to restrict abortions.

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