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40 days at the Capitol
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To our readers: State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative session. The session began Jan. 11 and is expected to last until the latter days of March a long, long time.
Day 31 (March 30): Having passed the deadline where bills originating in the Senate can be passed over to the House, we now begin concentrating on those House bills that have been sent to us this year as well as bills left over from last year. But before we begin our official business of the day we take time out to honor a popular country music star from Douglas, Jennifer Nettles of the musical group Sugarland. HB 905, an effort to grant schools more flexibility as they face daunting budget challenges, receives unanimous passage today as does SB 231, a bill that defines the powers of an interior designer in relation to drawing and consulting on construction permits previously designed by an architect. SB 67, left over from last year, deals with limiting drivers’ license exams to be offered only in English and creates a lengthy debate on the floor before being passed by a 39-11 vote. The federal government’s proposed Cap and Trade legislation and its potential high cost to the state’s citizens, is the target of SR 801, which passes mostly along party lines. This resolution urges Congress not to adopt Cap and Trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions saying that global warming caused by carbon emissions is due not only to natural gas, oil and coal production, but also to a large degree because of cropland and forest conversion.                      

Day 32 (March 31): Today is a sad day for members of the Senate as many members travel to Toccoa for the funeral of former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer and her husband Bruce, who were tragically killed last week. Although the session is brief today, we do pass HB 128, which extends from one year to 10 years the validation period for a disabled war veteran or blind person’s eligibility certificate who operates a business and is exempt from certain taxes or fees.  Although the session is short today, most legislators are running around the Capitol not only attending their own committee meetings but also attending the other chamber’s committee meetings where their bills are being heard. I attend at least a part of 10 committee and sub-committee meetings today and present three of my bills to the different groups, which makes for a very hectic day. Fortunately, one of my bills is passed out of subcommittee to the full committee and the other two are passed out of the full committees.                                

Day 33 (April 1): Although we don’t go into session until the afternoon, the morning is full of more committee meetings. For the first time in my six years in the legislature, I have a bill before the House Judiciary Committee, widely considered to be the toughest and most deliberate committee at the Capitol. Consisting of 15 lawyers and three non-lawyers, the committee is sometimes merciless; however, I come prepared today as I bring legal counsel for the group I am representing and we are successful in getting our bill passed out. After this stressful experience, the day gets even more stressful as we go into session to debate arguably the most controversial bill not only of this session but, for many of us, of our career. HB 307 would impose a 1.45 percent tax on most of the state’s hospitals and generate about $169 million in state revenues, as well as draw down more than $500 million in federal funds for Medicaid, helping fix a massive hole in the budget. After hours of intense debate and closed door meetings, an amendment to add a major tax exemption by repealing the state’s insurance premium tax on health care plans is added making the bill revenue neutral and the bill passes by the slimmest of margins.              
Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) Room 302-B, Atlanta GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.