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Thursday, April 22, 2010 - 4:55am

Busy Capitol Day Includes Transportation, Ethics Moving Ahead

Day-38 of the General Assembly at the state Capitol Wednesday was long, busy, and productive. Here’s some of what transpired with major legislation:

Transportation - Legislation has passed both the House and Senate. The critical push for the bill included a speech from Speaker David Ralston on Wednesday. House members then voted 141-29 for the package. That vote was soon followed by the Senate's 43-8 approval.

The bill calls for the creation of 12 regions. Local elected officials and a Governor-appointee make-up a group in each region to draw-up projects. That list would go to the region's voters in the form of a referendum and whether they'd accept a penny sales tax. While counties cannot opt-out of a region tax, there is an 'out' if the group decides not to hold a region referendum. The legislation now goes to the Governor.

Ethics - The House gave its stamp of approval to the ethics bill Wednesday. Speaker David Ralston championed the legislation. Highlight points include more frequent financial disclosure from lobbyists, and higher fines for lobbyists and officials when they’re late filing disclosures. What the bill doesn't have: caps on lobbyist gifts or regulation on transfers of money between campaign committees. The bill goes to the Senate.

Property Taxes - What supporters are calling sweeping property tax reform was passed by the House Wednesday. Of the many facets of the bill--counties must consider nearby distress sales when calculating a homeowner's property tax bill. Senator Chip Rogers earlier in the Session said there was too much disparity in land values and assessments. Also, this bill would make it easier for property owners to appeal assessments.

Budget - The $17.8 billion budget plan for the next fiscal year was passed by the Senate. Next up, the blueprint must be reconciled with the House version.