To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan. 8 and is expected to last until the latter days of April.
Day 34 (April 10): After a week off for spring break, we’re back at work today with the budget remaining the focal point of the session. Ongoing negotiations have proved futile as we head to a showdown with the Senate.
At our weekly Caucus meeting today, the Speaker announces that time is running out and unless an agreement is reached soon we may have to recess again. While we’re all obviously growing weary of this burdensome process, we continue on with our work as best we can.
Before the session begins at 10 a.m., I squeeze in an Appropriations Human Resources subcommittee meeting to approve our portion of the 2008 budget.
Once we’re in session I introduce local legislation to change the position of surveyor in Chatham County from an elected position to an appointed one. Earlier this session I had introduced the same legislation for Effingham County.
The only bill that we consider today is a resolution urging the government of Turkey to discontinue their discrimination and recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch who is the spiritual leader and representative worldwide voice of some 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
The bill is introduced by Rep Mike Cheokas from Americus, who is a Greek Orthodox and is significant to the Savannah area because of the many members of this faith in our community.
Later that afternoon we have an Economic Development committee meeting to discuss SR 309 that creates Infrastructure Development Districts (IDDs). Referred to by some as “private cities,” developers would be allowed to sell tax-free bonds to finance the construction of residential projects in these districts and levy taxes on the homeowners to pay off those bonds. After three hours of intense debate and scrutiny, the bill passes and will now be voted on by the full House.
Day 35 (April 11): After arriving at the Capitol shortly after 7 a.m. for our weekly Legislative Prayer Caucus meeting, we are delighted to hear the news that a compromise has been worked out on the 2007 amended budget. The news gets better as we learn that included in the compromise budget is a $142 million one-time tax break that will give most homeowners an average refund of about $100. Later that morning at our Rural Caucus meeting we hear from supporters and opponents of SB 173 that would allow the expansion of the existing petroleum pipeline in Georgia.
Afterwards I venture over to the Senate chambers to visit with Senators Thomas and Johnson and receive their concurrence on modifications to local legislation involving the city of Port Wentworth. Shortly before lunch we have a caucus meeting where the Speaker informs us that as a result of the budget compromise we will be in on Friday of this week. More importantly, he announces that day 40, our final day, will be Friday, making this the second longest session on record.
As we go into session later that afternoon I have the pleasure of introducing our Doctor of the Day, Dr. Dan Deloach, one of our fine surgeons from Savannah.
The only bill we take up today is one that updates our state banking laws to reflect changes in federal law. We have also begun the process of agrees/disagrees. This is where bills that have been sent over to the Senate and have had changes made to them are sent back to the House for the author of the bill to either agree or disagree to the changes. After the session is complete we have an Industrial Relations committee meeting before finally finishing for the day.
Day 36 (April 13): After a day off that consisted of an Appropriations committee meeting starting at 8 a.m. and a Health and Human Services committee meeting later that afternoon, we’re back in today and our first order of business is to take up the 2007 amended budget.
After a detailed review of the budget led by Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin from Augusta, it is passed unanimously.
The stress level is extraordinarily high this week and is beginning to take its toll as we had one member taken to the hospital with chest pains yesterday and two more today, including my good friend and fellow delegation member, Rep. Ron Stephens. We are all relieved to find out that all three members are doing well and should be back soon.
Our special guest today is the Georgia state spelling bee champion from Macon, Shoman Kasbekar, who will be traveling to Washington, D.C., in the next few weeks to represent us in the national competition. Shoman displays his expertise by correctly spelling three words submitted by his representative — Appropriation, recommitment and sine die.
After breaking for lunch, we reconvene at 12:30 p.m. to take up the proposed 2008 budget. This budget was approved during our committee meeting yesterday morning and printed and placed on our desks at noon.
According to House rules, the proposed budget must be placed on our desks at least 24 hours before it can be considered. As is always the case, the “big” budget generates much contentious debate. Mercifully, after four hours of poring over the $20.2 billion document, it is approved and we head home.
Rep. Carter can be reached at Legislative Office Building (L.O.B.) Room 508, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-0213.