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Henry, Clayton receive little local legislation

By Justin Boron

jboron@news-daily.com

Gov. Sonny Perdue reviewed 443 pieces of state and local legislation coming out of the most recent legislative session, in which lawmakers passed one the broadest smoking bans for tobacco producing states and reforms for medical malpractice awards and ethics for public officers.

Perdue vetoed only 15 of the bills, mostly local legislation.

Clayton County made up the bulk of those vetoes, getting seven, with the local legislative delegation and the majority of the Board of Commissioners split on how to proceed with a series of raises for state officials.

Perdue said in a release, the bills were vetoed because of a lack of cooperation between the lawmakers and commissioners.

The county commission had asked the governor to veto the raises because of financial straits in the county stemming from another piece of legislation that limits the amount of fuel sales tax the county can be collected from Delta Air Lines.

Henry County had only one bill passed by its local delegation of six proposed by the county commission.

House Bill 876 will allow the county to issue bonds on Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax road projects. The ability to issue bonds helps get the projects started quicker because it can bond the money up front and pay it back later with SPLOST collections.

Other bills that didn't pass included a full-time commissioner and moving stormwater management authority to the Henry County Water and Sewage Authority.

The following bills also were signed by the governor.

Smoking Ban

Smoking will be prohibited in most restaurants and bars that allow patrons under 18. The bill came out of the House with a few additional exemptions, including:

– Private homes.

– Hotel and motel rooms designated for smokers, up to a maximum of 20 percent of the rooms in any hotel or motel.

– Retail tobacco stores.

– Long-term care facilities.

– Smoking areas in international airports.

– Meeting rooms at convention facilities which are not owned or operated by the state or by any of its political subdivisions.

– Smoking areas designed by an employer which have an independent air handling system.

The ban will take effect July 1.

Woman's Right to Know

The bill requires a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions. It also stipulates several pieces of information must be given to her.

A woman must be told of any risks to themselves that the abortion might cause, the probable age of their child and any medical risks involved with bringing the child to term, that prenatal medical assistance may be available to her if she decides against an abortion, that the father can be made to provide financial assistance to her, and that she has the right to review medical information on subjects which include a discussion of whether the unborn fetus can experience pain.

Wireless Privacy Act

Wireless providers must get the expressed consent of a customer before including his or her name and phone number in a wireless directory.

"With the prevalence of mobile phones, there is a need to protect Georgians from unsolicited mobile calls by telemarketers and others," Perdue said. "It only adds insult to injury when you have to pay to receive a junk phone call."

Ethics reform law

House Bill 48 tightens down ethical standards for government and its public officers. It increases penalties for ethics violators by moving up the maximum fines for ethics violations to $10,000 on a graduated scale. The first violation is $1,000, the second is $5,000 and the third and thereafter is $10,000.

Jim Crow Era Laws repealed

Perdue signed four bills that took several Jim Crow-era laws off the books. The laws had given the governor open-ended power to halt classes if there was the "threat of violence."

Meth Bill

With heightened concern about the growth of methamphetamine labs and users in Georgia, Perdue signed a bill limiting the way ingredients used to make the drug are sold. The bill requires any product containing pseudoephedrine, which can be manufactured into meth, to be sold behind the counter. Also only three of one product containing the ingredient can be sold at one time.

Wholesalers must submit sales transactions and distribution reports to the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency within seven days of an "excessive purchase."

Civil Liability Reform

The bill places a $350,000 cap on jury awards in medical malpractice cases amid hospitals inability to handle skyrocketing liability insurance premiums. For cases involving more than one defendant, the limit would be $1.05 million.

The Associated Press and Daily Herald staff writer Michael Davis contributed to this article.