Legislators digest smaller bills

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ATLANTA - The Legislature sorted further into its growing pile of bills but saved more divisive debates for another week.

The Senate passed 11 bills this week, including the first House bill of the year to cross over and receive its final approval.

The minor bill gets rid of a phrase in existing law regarding the official car used by the warden of Reidsville state prison.

Some of the other bills the upper chamber unanimously approved included giving the state insurance commissioner the power to make rules protecting members of the military from unscrupulous insurance dealers and making minors serve up to 20 hours of community service if they are caught trying to buy cigarettes.

The Senate took the first step toward creating a statewide system to improve trauma care in Georgia so that more people who face life-threatening injuries can receive quick medical attention.

Senators approved establishing a trauma care commission to study the issue and how to fund the expansions.

The House, meanwhile, narrowly failed to pass a measure that would increase the portion of public retirement funds that can be invested in foreign companies.

The bill received an 87-81 vote in favor of the measure but failed to get the 91 votes required to move on to the Senate.

Supporters of the measure said it was merely an acknowledgement of a more globalized economy.

"We're not trying to pull any wool over anyone's eyes," said House Education Chairman Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth.

A parliamentary maneuver kept open the possibility the House could pass the bill later in the session.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson to the Legislature this week to give some encouraging words about a projected funding shortfall in Georgia's child health insurance program, PeachCare.

The joint state-federal program provides health care coverage for children whose families earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.

State lawmakers are still waiting to find out if Congress will make extra funding available so the program for low-income families can cover a $57 million gap now estimated until the state budget year ends June 30.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode and Brandon Larrabee at (404) 681-1701.


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