Department heads' vacation capped

Pay raise vote expected soon

While the compensation for department directors is going down, the pay for county commissioners may soon go up.

Under a bill introduced in the House this week, the salaries of Gwinnett County commissioners and the county chairman would be tied to state legislators' pay.

The legislation, sponsored by members of Gwinnett's House delegation, would require commissioners to receive the same salaries as members of the General Assembly, currently $16,500 a year.

The full-time county chairman would be paid at four times legislators' salaries, about $16,000 more than his current salary of $50,000.

Commissioners also would be reimbursed up to $7,000 per year for expenses they incur in carrying out their duties. The chairman would receive unlimited reimbursement.

However, a per-diem allowance for the commissioners and chairman contained in the original version of the bill has been removed from the substitute measure expected to come up for a floor vote as early as today.

While lawmakers collect a per diem, the requirements of their positions differ from commissioners, said Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville, the bill's chief sponsor.

"Some of the (legislators) spend the night down here,'' he said. "When you have an overnight trip, the per-diem issue is different.''

District 1 Commissioner Green said she has not yet seen the latest version of the proposal.

"It's been a very confusing issue. I appreciate their efforts," she said.

The delegations have already considered higher pay for judges and school board members this year, Green said.

"I would hope they look at all of us favorably," she said.

While Chairman Charles Bannister was a House member, he helped change the law to allow commissioners to raise their own pay.

But Bannister explained that if the commissioners voted on the measure it wouldn't go into effect until 2007, while a vote in the General Assembly would increase the pay immediately.

Smith to get reward

Gwinnett's hometown heroine today will get her reward from the governor.

Ashley Smith, the hostage hailed as a hero after turning in suspected courthouse shooter Brian Nichols, is scheduled to attend a ceremony at the Capitol today.

There, she will receive rewards promised by the state, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Georgia Sheriff's Association.

"Ashley Smith earned this reward because her brave actions led directly to the apprehension of Brian Nichols," Gov. Sonny Perdue said last week. "We are all proud of the quick law enforcement effort that peacefully resolved this crisis following her 9-1-1 call."

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Staff Writer Dave Williams contributed to this report.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.