To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative session. The session began Jan. 14 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 1 (Jan. 14): As we arrive at our offices today to begin the 2008 legislative session, we are greeted with the aroma of freshly baked raisin bread, a traditional gift from Effingham County. Having arrived in Atlanta yesterday afternoon and catching up with each other at the annual “Wild Hog” barbecue supper, we celebrate “Effingham Day” at the Capitol as we welcome over 100 leaders from back home.
The day starts early for me as I have a meeting with the pharmacy caucus followed immediately by a Republican Caucus meeting. After being gaveled into session at 10 a.m. we get off to a very inauspicious start as we override 12 of the governor’s vetoes from last year. Not only is this the most veto overrides ever in a single session, it is also the first veto overrides since 1974 when Jimmy Carter was governor.
When a bill is sent to the governor and is vetoed, the veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate and then becomes law without the governor’s signature. All 12 bills receive well over the required two-thirds votes for overriding the governor and are sent to the Senate for their “immediate consideration.” The Senate assigns the bills to its Rules Committee so that they can delay action for as long as possible.
Among the vetoes overridden are a bill to allow individuals to get a copy of their driving record from the Department of Driver Services Web site free of charge and a bill that will require each state agency to provide annual detailed spending reports to the legislature.
Later that afternoon we are treated to a “Taste of Effingham” at the Depot as these local leaders entertain the Legislature with food and greetings. As is the case every year the event is a smashing success with visits from Speaker Glenn Richardson and Majority Leader Jerry Keen, among others.
Day 2 (Jan. 15): The annual Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues Breakfast is held this morning at the World Congress Center as we hear from the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker on their thoughts concerning the upcoming session. Also this morning, Effingham County hosts a breakfast for our local delegation, giving myself, Rep. Jon Burns and Sen. Jack Hill an opportunity to address the group. Our special guest this morning is the new Department of Transportation commissioner, Gena Abraham, who updates the group on road issues in the state including positive comments on the Effingham Parkway.
We are excited today to welcome Dr. Darren Thomas from the First Baptist Church of Springfield as our chaplain of the day and he delivers a powerful and meaningful message that is well received by the House members. We have a relatively quiet session today as no bills are debated on the floor, a much welcomed change from the tense session of yesterday. Later, we are joined by the leaders from Effingham County for a picture with Gov. Sonny Perdue on the Capitol steps before they head back to South Georgia.
Day 3 (Jan. 16): I’m at the Capitol early this morning as we have our weekly prayer caucus at 7 a.m. and I have a radio interview with WBMQ in Savannah immediately afterwards. We have a Rural Caucus meeting later that morning where we discuss the Statewide Water Plan that was passed out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee yesterday and will be heard in the same committee in the House later today. The rest of the morning is filled with meetings before we go into session at 1 p.m.
The Atlanta area is saddened today to learn of two police officers working off duty who were ambushed and killed last night in DeKalb County. Legislators from the county lead us in a moment of silence before we welcome the governor for his State of the State address at 2 p.m. Because the House Chamber is the largest room in the Capitol, members of the Senate and Judiciary join us to hear the governor’s update on how the state is doing and outline his budget proposals for the coming year. We are pleased to learn that the governor has included $53 million for trauma centers as well as $52 million for the deepening of the Savannah Harbor.
Day 4 (Jan. 17): We’re in at 10 a.m. this morning and although we don’t have any bills ready to debate today, the Speaker notifies us that the Statewide Water Plan has been passed out of committee and will be on tomorrow’s agenda for debate. The Senate is also scheduled to vote on the plan and if it passes both chambers, we could have a plan on the governor’s desk for his signature before we leave this week. The day is filled with meetings and paper work before ending with a reception hosted by my alma mater, the University of Georgia. Go Dawgs!
Day 5 (Jan. 18): What started out as a tumultuous week ends on a brighter note today as we pass the water plan out of the house. The plan that was nearly three years in the making is debated passionately on the floor for three hours before passing by a 131-37 vote. While the House is in recess next week, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ll be at the Capitol to hear the governor and department heads review their budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year.