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Day 36- March 28, 2008

The Senate passes their version of tax reform today. They first passed House Resolution 1244 which would reduce State income tax by 10% over 5 years. The second measure, House Resolution 1246, which eliminates the state portion of property taxes and freezes property assessments, brought a heated exchange between Sen. Chip Rogers and Sen. Nan Orrock. Both pieces of legislation go back the House. With just four days left, it remains to be seen if House and Senate negotiators can reach a compromise. Lawmakers’ Sandra Parrish reports.

Also today in the Senate, Appropriations Chair Jack Hill leads the passage of the Senate version of House Bill 990, the FY 2009 Budget. The House quickly rejected Senate changes and insisted on their version of the budget, setting the stage for the Conference Committee to be appointed. House Majority Leader Jerry Keen accused Senate leaders of bad faith in failing to move towards fully funding education by citing differences including $10 million for equalization grants, a Senate cut of $35 million for the restoration of austerity cuts to local systems, $60 million in added bonds and the deletion of pay raises for prison guards. House representatives to the Conference Committee are Majority Leader Keen, Appropriations Chair Ben Harbin and Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter. For the Senate, Majority Leader Tommie Williams, Appropriations Chair Jack Hill and President Pro Tem Eric Johnson will serve on the Conference Committee. That committee is expected to meet for the first time on Sunday evening.

The House today passed legislation designed to help grandparents raising their grandchildren. Senate Bill 88, the Care of a Grandchild Act, would give grandparents through a power of attorney certain statutory rights of parents for the day to day care of the child. Changes made in House committee send the bill back the Senate. Lawmakers’ Bridget Snapp has more.

The Senate today adopted two insurance related pieces of legislation. House Bill 673 protects leinholders from an action called theft by conversion. House Bill 1121 would change how insurance liabilities are structured for condominium owners. Both bills passed without any Senate changes, they go the Governor.

A bill making dogfighting a felony is headed to the Governor's desk after the Senate gave final passage today to House Bill 301. Senator Chip Rogers, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, has been trying to pass the measure for four years.

Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson held a press conference today to address concerns about a misunderstanding with Senate Bill 458. That legislation would require school systems that lose accreditation, or are deemed "needs improvement schools" for seven years, offer their students vouchers. The vouchers can be used at public or private schools. The misunderstanding stemmed from an amendment proposed by Senator Valencia Seay that would have required surrounding counties to absorb students from failing systems. The amendment is not a part of the final bill. SB 458 is currently in House Rules and is expected to be on the House floor next week.

Washington Street was blocked by vehicles of every shape and size today for the Governor's Office of Highway Safety's annual "Share the Road" event. Lawmakers Andi Dixon reports.




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