Originally created 02/11/06

Mourning dominated week



ATLANTA - The Legislature had a light week as members took time out to mourn the loss of longtime political figures and a national civil rights icon.

The Senate started off the week with tributes to Frank Eldridge Jr., who had served as a senator, executive of the Public Service Commission and most recently secretary for the upper chamber. Legislators also honored former Sen. Rene Kemp, of Hinesville, who also served three terms in the House during his political career.

Both men died last weekend.

"He was kind. He was wise. He was helpful," Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, said of Mr. Kemp. "He was a towering oak in the community of Hinesville, Liberty County and that part of the state."

Both chambers also took off Tuesday to attend the funeral of Coretta Scott King. House members have already filed legislation naming April 27 in her honor and calling for her picture to hang next to one of her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in the Capitol.

The Senate did pass a handful of bills this week, including one to reward high-performing school principals designed to attract highly qualified administrators to schools that need improvement. The state would pay for individual grants up to $15,000 a year for qualifying principals.

"We all know that leadership is a critical ingredient to the success to any school," said Sen. Dan Moody, R-Alpharetta, who sponsored the measure.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, who made the principals' grants as part of his education initiatives this year, had recommended spending $3 million on the program.

The Senate this week also approved a bill creating a registry for parents and schools to list children's e-mail addresses to prohibit people or businesses from sending sexually explicit or adult content.

The House unanimously passed a conservation income tax credit for private property owners who agree to preserve their land from development.

The House also approved legislation to give students up to five excused absences from school if their parents are in the military and deployed overseas or visiting home while on leave.

In a break from tradition, legislative leaders decided to hold open hearings and take applications for members to request funding for local projects. A panel of House and Senate members fielded those requests during a daylong session Friday.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 681-1701 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.