To our readers: State Senator Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 10 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 25 (Monday, March 7): Today is 10th Amendment Day in the Senate as we take up three bills aimed at strengthening the rights of the state of Georgia under federal law. The 10th Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution or prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states. Among the bills passed today is SB 9 that allows the governor to delay implementing any federal program regulating greenhouse gasses until he sees an analysis showing why it is in the best interest of Georgians. Also passed is SB 61 that, despite a federal ban beginning in 2014, will allow the manufacturing and sale of incandescent light bulbs within Georgia borders.
Later today, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he is changing his proposed plan to cut pre-K class hours from 6.5 to 4 hours per day and will instead cut the number of pre-K class days from 180 to 160 as well as increase class sizes by two students to 22 each. The announcement is well received by many educators and should help alleviate many of the concerns surrounding the proposed changes to HOPE.
Day 26 (Tuesday, March 8): The day starts off bright and early with two committee meetings before 9 a.m. As we go into session today, I am pleased to welcome my good friend, Congressman Jack Kingston, from Savannah to the Senate chambers.
One of the major bills on the agenda today is HB 179, the outdoor advertising bill that takes up all of our morning and early afternoon. This bill has been around for years with no resolution; however, this year a compromise has been reached that will allow billboard owners to remove trees along state highways that are blocking their signs.
HB 326, the HOPE legislation, takes up our afternoon and brings protestors to our normally tranquil chambers. The protestors, who appear to be primarily college aged students, use a number of tactics to try to disrupt our discussions, including hanging banners from the gallery, hissing and snapping fingers before finally reverting to shouting. As the protestors are escorted out of the Capitol, we continue our debate and the bill passes with a few amendments, including adding all valedictorians and salutatorians from all schools to be eligible for the full HOPE scholarship, even if they don’t qualify academically.
Day 27 (Thursday, March 10): Yesterday was anything but a day off as we spent the whole day in committee hearings convincing many of the freshmen legislators that the saying “the session lasts for 40 days and 80 nights” is true. I am honored today to welcome representatives from the state Hospice and Palliative Care Association to the Senate and present them with a resolution in their honor.
I present two bills today, SB 79 changing terms for school board members to four years minimum and SB 81 which allows the state board of pharmacy to perform mental and physical evaluations with just cause to pharmacist and pharmacy techs. Also passed today is the controversial SB 160 that allows utility companies such as Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light to contribute directly to candidates for state office.
Sen. William Ligon, a freshman from Brunswick who served 17 years as a municipal court judge, also passes SB 162 today, a bill that will make driving under the influence (DUI) a felony offense for a person who is residing illegally in the United States.
Day 28 (Friday, March 11): Because today is the last day that bills can be passed out of committees in order to be heard in the full Senate chamber before crossover day on day 30, we have a rare Friday afternoon start to allow for committee meetings in the morning. One important bill that we do pass today is HB 232 that defines more specifically what a lobbyist is and which people should be required to register with the state as a lobbyist.
Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) Room 301-A, Atlanta GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.