Ga. legislators return to the Gold Dome today

The General Assembly heads back to the Gold Dome today, and a number of recurring themes are likely this session.

Among them:

Economy: 2010 looks like it could be as difficult as 2009 – from jobs to tax revenues.

For example, the state collected $1.4 million in December, a decrease from the nearly $1.5 million it collected in December 2008. In fact, year-to-date revenue collections for Fiscal Year 2010 are down 13.7 percent compared to Fiscal Year 2009, according to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

With lower tax collections, state legislators might be forced to “cut” budgets across the board.

Ethics: House Speaker Glenn Richardson resigned his post in December following a suicide attempt and allegations by his ex-wife that he had an affair with a lobbyist. When the state legislature reconvenes, it appears that Blue Ridge Republican David Ralston will be Richardson’s replacement.

Then, there was Perdue’s decision to appoint Brian Kemp, a former state senator and secretary of state candidate, to fill the secretary’s post. That decision prompted critics to charge that Perdue wanted to give Kemp an advantage heading into the campaign.

Considering 2010 is an election year, this could get interesting – especially the governor’s race.

Traffic: Especially in Metro Atlanta, this issue never disappears. Couple the traffic issue with the politics surrounding MARTA and this could provide some fireworks this session.

Last, but not least, depending on what Congress decides regarding health care, the General Assembly could take action.

On the legislation front, Kevin Levitas, D-Atlanta, wants legislation that he says will close a legal loophole that allows any teacher who has sex with a student to avoid prosecution if the teacher can prove the student wasn’t younger than 16 years old and that the sex was consensual.

Also, Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, is pushing for a law banning municipal police departments, but not sheriff’s offices or the state patrol, from using radar speed detection devices on the interstate.

“I think there are city councils that view this as being easy money,” Land Line magazine quoted Seabaugh as saying. “They don’t want to make tough decisions on cutting expenses or raising taxes. But they shouldn’t be looking for gimmicks for an easy way to raise revenue. Enforcement has to have integrity.”

Interesting, considering a new “Super Speeder Law” went into effect Jan. 1. Under the law, anyone convicted of driving 75 miles per hour or more on a two-lane road or 85 miles per hour or more on any road in the state will be fined an additional $200 on top of local fines that may be leveled. Authorities say the new law will help stop people driving at dangerous speeds.

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