Lawmakers Wednesday took the first step toward overhauling Georgia's criminal justice system. The House voted to create a panel to study the state's tough sentencing laws.
Gov. Nathan Deal, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and a bipartisan group of legislative leaders have united behind the effort. The goal is to curb the state's soaring prison costs.
Georgia spends about $1 billion a year on corrections. It has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation.
The 10-member commission must make its recommendations by early 2012, in time for lawmakers to act on them in the next legislative session.
Deal has said he supports alternative sentencing for certain nonviolent offenders, like drug addicts. The House approved the bill 169-1 on Wednesday. It now moves to the state Senate.