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Friday, February 11, 2011 - 3:27am

Day-13 General Assembly Roundup

State House lawmakers Thursday passed an $18 billion midyear budget to carry the state through the end of the fiscal year June 30. Republican House Appropriations Chair Terry England says In it, lawmakers restored some cuts, including a popular meals program for seniors.

"We've added back respite care...we've added Meals on Wheels back, and we've also added hemophilia factor...some money to make sure the program is still there and available to someone who really needs it. For someone who is newly diagnosed or someone who comes in from an emergency."

House Democratic leadership voted against the amended budget, saying education still loses because it retains over a billion dollars in austerity cuts. Education advocates say many school systems will have to furlough teachers this year because of the remaining cuts. The amended budget spending plan now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

In other news from the General Assembly session:

--Powerful House Republicans want to give the board of Georgia's public defender system more say on its leader--

State Rep. Rich Golick of Smyrna and others are behind a House measure to allow the director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council to be appointed and removed by the council, subject to the approval of the governor. The law now says that the director serves at the "pleasure of the governor."

The measure developed after Gov. Nathan Deal picked an ex-prosecutor to replace Rob Teilhet a few months after he took the post. Council members expressed frustration they were not consulted before the move.

--Redistricting Office Flap--

Georgia’s highest-ranking senator has rejected a request from Senate Democrats seeking their own redistricting office amid concerns that the process could become partisan and unfair. A letter signed by Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams and House Speaker David Ralston says the matter is "a misunderstanding."

Last month, the redistricting process was moved from the nonpartisan Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to a legislative office.

Democrats balked at the move and accused GOP leaders of making the process partisan. The letter says the new legislative office will serve all members of the General Assembly.

The bill would require a host of other changes, including an annual report to the Georgia Supreme Court.