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March 24, 2003

The Conference Committee report on the Amended Fiscal Year 2003 Budget
has passed the House and Senate, but not without debate. The State's
spending plan is just over $16 billion dollars. The compromise plan
includes cutting $30 million from the State's Green space program and
additional austerity cuts from most of the State's agencies and

Gerald Bryant talks with Senator George Hooks about using
some newly identified sources of funds to help in these lean budget
times. Senator Hooks and members of the House and Senate's Budgetary
Responsibility Oversight Committees (BROC) have recommended restoring
at least $15 million, and perhaps as much as $45 million to the State's
2004 budget by using money from other state sources.

Balancing the fiscal year 2004 Budget is already on the minds of
many, as the State faces a revenue shortfall in the coming fiscal year.
Projected to be between $800 million and $1 billion, many legislators
are looking at increasing different types of taxes to help with the
projected deficit. Governor Sonny Perdue has proposed increasing the excise tax on tobacco, a move that could generate as much as $348 million. House Bill 379
has been passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee, but may be
losing support in the House. Susan Hoffman talks with House Minority
Leader Representative Lynn Westmoreland about the feeling among
many House Republicans, who are trying to avoid raising any taxes. And
Lawmakers' David Zelski talks with several of Georgia's tobacco farmers who came to the Capitol today to express their opposition to the increase.

Correspondent Nwandi Lawson talks with Senator Vincent Fort about
his request for an investigation in what is becoming known as the
"Freddie Mac Letter incident". During March 6 debate on Senate Bill 53, a bill that revised the Georgia Fair Lending Act,
the Governor's floor leader, Senator Bill Stephens, said that a Freddie
Mac was sending- within 30 minutes- confirmation of their intention to
withdraw from the Georgia mortgage market. The letter was actually
received March 11 and contained criticisms of some of the bill's
changes, but no threat to withdraw services from Georgia consumers.

Enabling legislation that would pave the way for Sandy Springs to incorporate as a city has passed the Senate. Senate Bill 43
was hotly debated as Senators from Fulton County weighed in with their
opinions about what kinds of revenue would be lost to other
municipalities if Sandy Springs incorporates. We'll have the highlights
of that debate.

Gerald Bryant talks with Governor Sonny Perdue's floor leader, Senator Bill Stephens, about the status of the Governor's legislative package and the slow progress of most legislation this session.

Advocates rallied at the Capitol today in support of several pieces of legislation that would reform Georgia's Child Support System. Lawmakers' Hamilton Northcutt was there and talks with Representative Earl Ehrhart and Senator Seth Harp, about what their respective bills would do.

And the Governor's Capitol Fitness Challenge drew to a close today. Lawmakers Cheznee Egemonye reports that the Governor has lost 17 pounds.