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April 1, 2004

April Fools! Last night we reported Lawmakers would return on Monday,
April 12th after the House approved an adjournment resolution. However,
the Senate did not approve the measure, forcing legislators to return
today for day 39 of the 40-day session. We'll have all the latest from
under the Gold Dome, including updates on last night's action.

Legislators got some unsettling news today. The federal government wants millions
from the State because they say a Medicaid plan that deals with the
State's nursing homes is not valid. In an already tight budget year,
this is not welcome news. Budget negotiations were deadlocked and a
budget agreement will not be easy to reach, especially if this news has
an impact on the current fiscal year. The State could owe the federal
government $85 million for FY 2004 and an additional $100 million for FY 2005, if federal Medicaid regulators reject the plan . Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill explains the situation.

The Senate today approved HB 1184, which would continue Georgia's Sales Tax Holiday.
The sales tax exemptions apply to the sale of certain school supplies,
clothing, footwear, computers, and computer related accessories. The
sales tax holiday would be 12:01 A.M. July 29th through 12:00 Midnight
August 1st, 2004. The bill now goes to Governor Sonny Perdue for his

Representatives of the Georgia Water Coalition came to the
Capitol today to stress the importance of the House and Senate's
compromise and passage of a water planning bill yesterday. They also
expressed concern about two bills they believe threaten Georgia's
streams and river basins. Lawmakers' David Zelski has more.

Today the Senate approved HB 217, a bill that would require child safety restraints
for all children 5 years and younger. The bill does have provisions for
children over a certain weight or height. Sen. Joey Brush proposed an
amendment to repeal the State's motorcycle helmet law, but the amendment did not pass.

Today the House Judiciary Committee approved SB 517, part of Governor Perdue's ethics reform package. Lawmakers' Jesse Freeman has more.

Last night the Georgia House approved SR 595, the proposed
constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between
one man and one woman. Last month the House voted on the measure, but
the resolution failed to get the two-thirds majority vote needed to
pass. Yesterday the House debated the measure for second time due to a
vote to reconsider the resolution. The amendment is expected to be on
Georgia's ballot in November. We'll have reactions to last night's

The Georgia Senate approved tort reform legislation last night after almost 8 hours of debate.. The bill, HB 1028,
would limit medical malpractice lawsuits but does not create caps on
jury awards for pain and suffering. The Senate approved the bill by a
vote of 36-17. It also establishes an underwriting association designed
to encourage competition in the malpractice insurance industry. The
bill goes back to the House due to Senate changes and will likely end
up in a conference committee. Lawmakers' Chrissy Thrasher has highlights from the debate.

Yesterday the Senate amended a bill to include a state-wide smoking ban. Senators added the provision to HB 1138,
a bill that would make it illegal to smoke in a vehicle with a child in
a car seat. Due to the amendment, HB 1138 goes back to the House and
will likely end up in a conference committee.