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Rush to the end includes budget work

POSTED: March 13, 2014 7:05 p.m.

State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is reporting each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan. 13.

Day 30 (Monday, March 3): While serving on the Appropriations committee is a great honor, it is also a big responsibility. While most legislators went home last Thursday and Friday, myself and other members of the Appropriations committee remained in Atlanta working on the fiscal year 2015 budget. This is a big week for all of those running for office this year as this is qualifying week.

I am the first candidate to qualify as a candidate for the 1st Congressional District House of Representatives that is being vacated by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah), who is running for the United States Senate.

Today is also day 30 of our 40-day session and is typically one of the busier days of the session. Known as crossover day, all bills must cross over to the other chamber by the end of business today in order to remain active.

Because of this, we have 30 bills on the calendar today including SB 382, the retail theft crimes bill that addresses the growing nationwide problem of stolen merchandise being returned to a store without a receipt for store credit. These store credits are then sold on the black market at a discount, resulting in what has been estimated to be $9 billion in losses nationally each year.

The most controversial bill of the day is SB 98 prohibiting the State Health Benefit Plan and health plans offered through the state of Georgia from providing abortion coverage except in the case of a medical emergency. After hour of debate, the bill passes by a vote of 38-16.

Day 31 (Tuesday, March 4): We start the morning early with a meeting of the Appropriations committee where we pass out the FY 15 budget. Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), chairman of Appropriations and my seatmate in the Senate, does a fine job of presenting the budget that passes out unanimously. There is no harder worker in the Georgia legislature than Jack Hill, and the citizens of Georgia are fortunate to be served by such a fine and dedicated public servant.

After a long and busy day yesterday, we have only four bills on the calendar today including HB 176, the Mobile Broadband Leads to Development (BILD) Act or the cell tower bill as it is often referred. This bill has been worked on for many years and limits fees by local governments to actual costs and streamlines the review process for permit approvals for cell towers.

As chairman of Public Safety, I have the honor today of presenting Cpl. Stan Phillips of the Griffin Police Department with the Peace Officers Association of Georgia Officer of the Year for Valor award. In December 2012, Cpl. Phillips heroically saved the life of a child who was being attacked by a dog and has continued to work to obtain donations to assist with the child’s medical expenses.

Also honored as POAG Officer of the Year for Meritorious Service is Special Agent Debbie Shaw, whose career with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as well as the POAG has been dedicated to the training of public safety personnel.

Day 32 (Wednesday, March 5): We celebrate Women’s History Month today by honoring First Lady Sandra Deal for the tireless efforts she has given to the children of our state. Georgia’s first lady has led the effort to promote early reading in our schools as well as increasing immunizations in our state.

We have only two bills on the calendar today, HB 229 dealing with property and casualty insurers and HB 774 making various changes in code relating to DOT reporting and maximum lawful speed limits. Among other things, the bill increases the maximum speed limit on the highway interstate system inside an urbanized area of 50,000 or more from 65 to 70 miles per hour.

The afternoon is spent in various committee meetings as we attempt to hear as many of the numerous house bills that have passed over to the Senate in the past few days.

Day 33 (Thursday, March 6): I start the morning early with an interview with Savannah radio host Bill Edwards as I give an update of our progress under the gold dome and also express my disappointment and outrage at the President’s omission in his budget proposal of federal funds for the Savannah River Harbor deepening.

I am at the Capitol at 8 a.m. to present SB 361, a bill extending the sunset date of the Georgia Geospatial Commission, to the House Natural Resources committee. It is a pleasure today to welcome to the Capitol Rev. John Fender, pastor of the Pooler First Presbyterian Church as our pastor of the day. Rev. Fender is joined today with his wife Leslie and beautiful daughters Caroline and Catherine, who serve as pages today. Rev. Fender does an outstanding job of bringing an inspirational message to the Senate as we begin our day.

I am proud to be wearing my green blazer today as I also have the honor of welcoming the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee to the Senate. Led by Parade Committee Chairman Kevin Halligan and Grand Marshal Dave Roberts, the committee takes the opportunity to invite all Georgians to what is one of the best events in our state.

Also this morning I take to the well during points of personal privilege to speak out against the President’s failure to include funding for the Savannah Harbor deepening in his budget proposal. While we only have two bills on the calendar today, they are both important, particularly HB 744, which is the FY 15 budget.

Later in the afternoon, I chair a Public Safety meeting and attend two more committee meetings before heading to the event of the year, Savannah-Chatham Day. As has been the case for the past 10 years that I have been in Atlanta, the food is excellent and the company is even better.

Day 34 (Friday, March 7): As we finish up the week today, I take to the podium again to welcome South Carolina legislators who are members of the Savannah River Caucus to the Capitol. The Savannah River Caucus consists of Georgia and South Carolina legislators whose district includes any portion of the Savannah River and whose purpose is to work cooperatively on issues affecting this vital natural resource.

We have four bills on the calendar today, including HB 740 and HB 786, both dealing with sportsman’s licenses. HB 740 considers full-time military personnel on active duty and their dependents residents of our state for certain hunting and fishing privileges while HB 786 adds a Type 1 (infant) nonresident lifetime sportsman’s license to encourage and recruit the younger generation to become sportsmen.

Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109. You can connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.

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