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March 31, 2004

nly two legislative days remain in the 2004 session and the State
Capitol is filled with legislators, lobbyists and concerned citizens
hoping to change- or prevent changes to- Georgia law.

Today the Georgia House approved SB 428, the measure to take drivers licenses away from students who fail to meet school attendance requirements. Due to House changes, the bill goes back to the Senate.

Gay Marriage. A vote is expected in the House today for Senate Resolution 595, a proposed Constitutional Amendment which seeks to ban same-sex marriage.
The legislation failed to pass the House by a two thirds majority on
February 26, but a vote for reconsideration on March first led to the
vote today. SR 595 needs 120 votes to pass the House.

Members of Georgia Equality rallied at the Capitol today in opposition to SR 595. Lawmakers Jesse Freeman has that story.

Showdown on Tort Reform. As the Senate debates two bills
related to the medical industry, HB 1265 and HB 1028, multiple attempts
are made to amend the bills to include some form of tort reform. We'll
have highlights of that debate in the Senate chamber.

Outside the chamber, Georgia Watch and other members of
the community voice their opposition to tort reform, saying that the
proposed legislation will benefit only doctors and trial lawyers, not
the victims of malpractice. Lawmakers Chrissy Thrasher has more about those concerns.

Water resources. The allocation and use of Georgia's water
resources has been a hotly contested issue in Georgia over the past
decade, and attempts to reach a compromise on House Bill 237
have met with failure- until now. Although the measure has not yet
passed either chamber, it appears that House and Senate conferees may
have reached an agreement.

HOPE Scholarship. The time for compromise on the best way to
preserve the HOPE scholarship is rapidly approaching. The Senate voted
this morning to reconsider House Bill 1325 on legislative day 39. Lawmakers David Zelski talks with Senate Higher Education Chair Bill Hamrick and House Higher Education Chair Louise McBee about the future of the HOPE scholarship.

Supporters say House Bill 1027 would right a decades-long injustice. The legislation would allow people who are active members of the Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund
to obtain creditable service for prior service as a peace officer
rendered prior to January 1, 1976. Before that date, the POAB denied black officers and other minorities those benefits, even after the end of official segregation in 1964. The estimated cost of the legislation this year is $1,320,186.

April 1st marks the beginning of Alcohol Awareness Month in Georgia. Many advocates for alcohol awareness came to the Capitol today to speak on upcoming events. Lawmakers' Angelena Washington has more.