Day 22 (Tuesday, Feb. 21): Although it made for a late night drive, I was delighted to join the Skidaway Island Republican Club last night for their annual Presidents’ Day Dinner where we heard from Home Depot Co-founder Bernie Marcus. Mr. Marcus’ story is that of the true American dream and he is certainly an inspiration to many of us.
After an early morning caucus meeting, we have an Appropriations meeting to pass out the FY12 amended budget. During session we have three bills on the calendar, all of which pass rather easily. SB 367 authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to require anyone incurring civil penalties to obtain a surety bond or suspend portions of those penalties while SB 383 updates the procedural rules for international commercial arbitrations in our state. SB 390 allows the Dean of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to designate any certifying agency to provide for seed certification.
I am delighted to welcome participants in Classical Conversations, a group of home school students pursuing a classical Christian education program, to the Capitol today. One of their leaders, Kristin Bigalke from Rincon, is a fellow pharmacist who helps us occasionally in our pharmacies.
Later in the evening, I am a guest on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Lawmakers program, as I debate the HOPE scholarship with Sen. Jason Carter. You can view the telecast at http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers-tv/2012/02/21.
Day 23 (Wednesday, Feb. 22):
Our calendars are beginning to get longer as we race toward the 30th day (crossover day) when bills must be passed in the Senate in order to be heard in the House this session. We have eight bills on the calendar, including SB 324, which states that the shoeing and fitting of equines for shoes is excluded from the definition of "practice of veterinary medicine," and SB 360, which would allow tilapia to be released into private ponds. While these may seem like silly subjects for the state legislature to be considering, it is important to those who are being prohibited from these practices because of existing laws.
I present SB 370, which is the annual drug update that revises lists of drugs classified as dangerous drugs. We also pass SB 396, which transfers the governance of the Herty Advanced Materials Development Center to Georgia Southern University. Later in the day I present SB 377, a bill that would require signers of election related petitions to provide proof of identification, to the Ethics Committee. This turns out to be a very controversial bill and fails to pass.
Day 24 (Thursday, Feb. 23):
Today is another busy day during session as we have nine bills and one resolution on the calendar, including the FY12 amended budget which totals $18.5 billion. Because there were changes made in the budget after it was passed in the House, it will now go to a conference committee made up of Senate and House members who will work out a compromise. I have another bill on the floor today, SB 378 which changes the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that pharmacists in our state can fill out of state prescriptions and also brings our states sampling laws into compliance with federal law.
Later in the afternoon, during the Regulated Industries committee meeting, I offer an amendment dealing with solar power to a bill in the same code section that is being presented. If the subject matter is germane to the code section being discussed in a bill, it can be amended, as I am doing here. In one of the most closely watched meetings of the year, with a full room and lots of media coverage, I present what was originally SB 401, as an amendment. And, although the bill ends up being tabled today, I am pleased that we have been able to bring the issue to the forefront and live to fight another day.
Day 25 (Friday, Feb. 24): We welcome back to the Senate the first African-American elected to the General Assembly after the Reconstruction period, Sen. Leroy Johnson. It is an honor to have this fine gentleman and great Georgian back at the Capitol. I present my third bill in three days as SR 765, granting non-exclusive easements in Butts, Bryan and Liberty counties for the placement of power lines, is passed.
We pass SB 372, a bill that will require the funeral director in charge of a crematory to make a reasonable effort to determine whether any body submitted for final disposition by cremation is that of a deceased veteran. We also spend about two hours debating SB 447, a bill that increases the amount of employee wages that are taxed for unemployment insurances, before it passes mostly along party lines. This bill addresses the $736 million that our state has borrowed to pay state unemployment benefits allowing us to pay back the federal government by the end of 2014 and gives us $1 billion in the trust fund by the end of 2016.
While this is difficult for all of us to do, I am proud that we are facing our responsibilities and addressing this dilemma.
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. You can connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.I’m back in front of another committee early this morning as I present SB 376, a bill that calls for mandatory reporting to the state nursing board by employers of nurses who are believed to be impaired. The bill passes this sub-committee and now heads to the full Health and Human Services Committee. Early morning meetings are the norm during this busy time of year, and today is a perfect example as I meet with representatives from the Savannah Economic Development Authority and Georgia Workforce Development Office before heading downtown to speak to the Independent Colleges’ Association.