Across Georgia

UGA lobbying costs to hit $400,000 for year


ATHENS --- The University of Georgia spent $230,000 to lobby federal officials in Washington in the first half of 2008 and will end up with a lobbying tab of more than $400,000 for the year.

UGA made no political contributions, according to the reports filed with Congress.

The filings do not detail where the money was spent. According to Griff Doyle, UGA's director of federal relations, the bulk of the money went to the Washington law firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge, which has a $254,000 contract with UGA.

The contract covers some legal work and expenses other than lobbying, Mr. Doyle said.

Challenge over public defenders advances

ATLANTA --- Defense attorneys battling changes to the public defender system have won a minor skirmish, but they're still far from winning their legal challenge.

The defense attorneys have asked a Fulton County judge to block the ailing system from firing four full-time attorneys and replacing them with contract staff.

The judge on Friday certified the case as a class action lawsuit. He also gave Georgia's public defender system 18 weeks to prove the changes don't violate the law.

The system's abrupt decision to close the Metro Atlanta Conflict Office and fire its 16 attorneys and five investigators touched off the legal fight.

In other news

ERIC JOHNSON said Friday he will step aside as president pro tem of the Georgia Senate, with an eye toward running for lieutenant governor.

-- Edited from wire reports