Georgia Politics Flash Update: Legislature Adjurns

2004 Legislative Session Concludes and Within Minutes Governor Perdue Calls A Special Session

The 2004 legislative session concluded in typical hectic fashion late Wednesday night.  The fortieth and last day of the session was filled with last minute negotiating on many of the important issues that had consumed the General Assembly since January.  

Below is a run-down of what was ultimately decided or rejected:

FY 2005 Budget

Just minutes before their midnight deadline both the House and Senate passed a version of the FY 2005 budget.  The measure was a last minute compromise worked out by House and Senate negotiators.  However, there was a problem.  The budget that passed both chambers was not balanced.  For it to be balanced, an additional spending bill on indigent defense needed to pass concurrently.  The indigent defense bill did not make it in time, leaving the budget with a $57 million shortfall.  

Recognizing that the budget was unbalanced, Governor Perdue immediately called for a special session to fix the problem.  Lawmakers? reactions were swift, chastising the Governor for his hasty decision and for failing to consider wielding some of his own budgetary powers to fix the problem.  

Governor Perdue has not yet set a date for the special session that will cost the state $40,000 a day to conduct.  Legislators are eager to get the special session over with, so they can begin campaigning for November?s election.

Tort Reform    

As many who were close to the negotiations had anticipated, the conference committee on H.B. 1028 broke down late Wednesday night, over caps.  Although neither version of the bill as passed by the Senate or the House included a plan to introduce caps for pain and suffering in lawsuits, Senate Republican?s on the conference committee attempted to place a $750,000 cap into the legislation.  House Democratic negotiators balked at Republican?s attempt to alter the legislation at the last minute.  

With just 30 minutes before midnight, the Senate voted 29-21 to disband its conferees and end the negotiations.  House Democrats point out that the Republican Senate had already voted against caps two years in a row and were now changing their position.  The Democrats believe that the Republicans are responsible for the lack of compromise because they took the position of caps or nothing.  The Democrats point out that they have compromised on many of the original issue contained in the Senate bill including:

? Offer of Judgment
? Affidavits
? Expert Witness
? Mandatory Mediation
? Hospital Authority Bill

HOPE Scholarship

Legislators approved a plan to ensure that the HOPE scholarship remains solvent for future generations.  The legislation increases the academic standards for college students, requiring them to maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average.  The legislature also instituted a plan to allow the HOPE to cut payments for books and fees if it becomes necessary in the future.      
Atlanta Sewer Tax

Lawmakers passed a bill that would allow the City of Atlanta to raise funds to fix its troubled sewer system.  Legislators permitted either Fulton County or the City of Atlanta to institute an extra 1-cent sales tax, which could raise up to $100 million a year.  
Several Lawmakers Announce They Are Leaving the General Assembly

Senator Connie Stokes (D-Decatur) announced Wednesday that she is leaving her seat in the General Assembly to run for Georgia?s 4th Congressional seat being vacated by Denise Majette.  

Several other legislators had already announced plans to leave to run for Congress.  The list includes:

Senator Connie Stokes (D-Decatur)
Senator Tom Price (R-Roswell)
Senator Chuck Clay (R-Marietta)
Senator Robert Lamutt (R-Marietta)
Senator Mike Crotts (R-Conyers)
Senator Mary Hodges Squires (D-Norcross)
Senator Nadine Thomas (D-Decatur)
Representative Lynn Westmoreland (R-Sharpsburg)
Representative Roger Hines (R-Kennesaw)

Several legislators have announced their retirement, including:

Senator Nathan Dean (D-Rockmart)
Senator Tim Golden (D-Valdosta)
Representative Teresa Greene-Johnson (D-Lithonia)
Representative Barbara Bunn (R-Conyers)
Representative Brian Joyce (R-Lookout Mountain)
New Maps Pit Incumbents Against Each other

New redistricting maps redrawn by a Federal Court were issued during the 2004 session and have placed several incumbents in the same districts.  Some incumbents faced with the reelection dilemma have chosen to opt out of the incumbency race to retire or to seek another office.

Incumbent Run-offs in the House of Representatives:

? Doug Teper (D-Atlanta) and Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) - 57th District

? Roger Williams (R-Dalton) and Ron Forster (R-Ringgold) - 3rd District

? David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and Jack White (R-Blue Ridge) - 7th District

? Bill Heath (R-Bremen) and Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) - 17th District

? Chuck Harper (R-Carrollton) and Mark Butler (R-Carrollton) - 18th District

? Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna) and Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) - 34th District

? Barbara Mobley (D-Decatur), George Maddox (D-Decatur) and Jo Ann McClinton (D-Atlanta) - 84th District

? Gerald Greene (D-Cuthbert) and Hugh Broome (D-Donalsonville) - 149th District

? Edward Stephens (D-Savannah) and Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) - 161st District

? Al Williams (D-Midway) and Buddy Deloach (I-Hinesville) - 165th District

? Bert Oliver (D-Glennville) and Terry Barnard (R-Glennville) - 166th District

Incumbent Run-offs in the Senate:

? Senators Liane Levetan (D-Atlanta) and Steve Henson (D-Tucker) -  41st District
Levetan is considering a run for Denise Majette?s 4th Congressional seat.

? Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) and Rene Kemp (D-Hinesville) - District 1

? Hugh Gillis (D-Soperton) and Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) - 4th District

? Daniel W. Lee (R-LaGrange) and Seth Harp (R-Midland) - 29th District
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