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Lawmakers face deadline in Atlanta

Tax, transportation plans pend on last day

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POSTED: April 3, 2009 9:47 a.m.
ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia lawmakers rushed to consider vast changes to the state's transportation network and a series of sweeping new tax plans as they faced the tightest of political deadlines on Friday, the chaotic last day of the legislative session.

The Georgia Legislature's sole obligation during the 40-day legislative session is to pass the $18.6 billion spending plan, which would make deep spending cuts amid the lagging economy.

A slew of other measures also were on the agenda as Republican leaders tried to strike last-minute deals on a one-cent sales tax to fund infrastructure improvements and a separate plan that would give lawmakers and the governor more control over how transportation dollars are spent.

The transportation sales tax has been a point of contention for two years now as the House insists on a statewide tax while the Senate backs a plan that can be imposed regionally. And the tax's fate could be tied to another plan that would overhaul Georgia's transportation bureaucracy.

House leaders also were trying again to erase the annual car tag tax, this time by replacing it with a one-time fee of up to $1,500 for newly purchased vehicles. Proposals that would slow the growth of property assessments and phase out the corporate income tax for Georgia-based companies could also be debated.

Other key proposals included a push by legislators for more control over the ailing public defender system, an effort to soften parts of Georgia's crackdown on sex offenders and a bid to sanction lawmakers who haven't paid their taxes.

A pair of measures targeted by immigrant groups also could move toward final passage. One would require driver's license applicants to take the written exam in English and the other calls for residents to prove they are U.S. citizens before they register to vote.

The long list of pending proposals is not unusual for a legislative body used to going down to the wire.

The Legislature has given final passage to only a few proposals so far, including a heavily-debated plan to allow Georgia Power to charge ratepayers early to build new nuclear reactors and new requirements for food makers to alert state inspectors of internal test results.

With so many issues still up for debate, there's a chance Georgia's Republican leaders could leave the Capitol early Saturday morning without passing some of their top proposals.


 

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