Clock Running Out on Georgia Legislative Session

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - It was out with the old and in with the new Wednesday at the Golden Dome, as House lawmakers voted to completely overhaul they way Georgia's Department of Transportation is governed.

Both houses have now moved to give more power to the Governor and state legislators over how funds are spent, taking away authority from the existing 13 member board.

Here in Columbus, the unexpected change leaves city planners apprehensive.

"No matter what the organization may look like, we want the representation we need. We want to make sure our voice is heard in those offices, but at the same time make sure it has an equitable system to take care of all our needs throughout the state," said Rick Jones with Metropolitan Planning.

One bill expected to be voted on by the close of this year's session would end the so called "Birthday tax."

Instead of paying every year to renew your car tags, legislators hope to change that to a one time title fee.

Visitors to the Columbus tag office, tired of having to pay up on their birthdays, say they can't wait for the legislation to pass.

"I like the new part, that way I don't have to keep coming in every year, I just pay one time. I would rather do that," said Larry Buchanan, a Columbus Resident.

Money was on the minds of Senators as they passed their version of the 2010 budget, one of the year's biggest priorities.

In it, they filled a $150 million budget hole in the state's Medicaid program, as well as keeping the school nurse program.

Nothing ever comes for free, though, and as a result, it could mean higher health insurance rates for state employees and teachers.

There are still many differences to be ironed out between the House and Senate versions of the budget, as well as other bills.

Friday is the deadline, and lawmakers will be spending many sleepless nights over the next few days to try and tie up all the loose ends.

Other bills that could come up for a final vote before the end of the session:

-the ban on embryonic stem cell research

-ethics laws requiring delinquent legislators to finally pay their taxes on time

- legislation requiring truck drivers to wear seat belts

-$1 dollar cigarette tax for healthcare funding