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Carter: Nuke plants a hot topic
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To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative session. The session began Jan. 12.

Day 22 (Feb. 24): Having hit day 22 in the 40-day session, the pace is picking up as we have 10 bills on the debate calendar today. The most controversial bill to pass today is HB 100 that changes income tax contributions to student scholarship organizations (SSOs) that were created in 2008 and are allowed to award educational scholarships and tuition grants to private school students. The bill changes a taxpayer’s contribution limit to the amount actually expended or 75 percent of the taxpayer’s income tax liability, whichever is less.

It also adds a nonpublic pre-kindergarten program to the qualified schools list and requires a SSO to obligate 90 percent of its annual revenue for scholarships and tuition grants.  

Another bill that passes is HB 64 that allows a funeral home director the right to report a physician for not filing a death certificate within 30 days of death and compels funeral directors to turn in a death certificate to local authorities within 72 hours of a doctor signing the certificate.

SB 31, a bill that was passed out of the Senate last week, passes out of the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee today and should come to the House floor for a vote later in the week. This closely followed bill will allow Georgia Power Co. to start charging ratepayers $1.6 billion of the cost of new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle six years before the facilities are actually built.

The company claims that future rates will actually be lower if the costs can be spread out over time.                  

Day 23 (Feb. 25): Another full agenda has us deliberating 11 bills today including HB 149, referred to as the “Move When Ready Act.” This bill provides 11th and 12th grade students the choice to attend postsecondary colleges and technical schools to complete graduation requirements while earning college credit.

Also passing today is HB 229 that enacts an annual fitness test for elementary and secondary school children. These assessments will occur during a physical education course in which the student is enrolled and individual results will be reported to the student’s parent or guardian and aggregate results to the state Board of Education and governor.  

While there are many bills introduced each session, because of a vigorous committee process that they have to pass, only a few ever make it to the floor to be voted on.

For instance, a few interesting bills being debated in committee this week include one that will make it illegal to sit on a seat belt and have it buckled behind your back, a bill that would force government employees to live in the cities or counties where they work and one that would limit the round-trip travel of a school for athletic competitions to 200 miles. Although these bills may never make it to the house floor for a vote, they are being considered in committee.        

Day 24 (Feb. 26): Although we’re only debating three bills today, we are expecting a long day and therefore start our work an hour earlier than normal. Two highly anticipated bills, the amended ’09 budget and SB 31, dealing with Georgia Power’s request for an incremental rate increase over the next seven years to help pay for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, are on the agenda.

The morning session is dedicated to SB 31 and, after hours of intensely emotional debate, the bill passes by a 107 to 66 margin and is sent to the governor for his action. If he signs the bill into law as expected, customers will pay a 1.3 percent rate increase each year from 2011 to 2017 and will save $300 million in interest charges during this time.

Arguably, the most beneficial part of this entire project will be the 2,500 high-paying construction jobs that will be generated in our state.  

Sandwiched in between SB 31 and the amended budget is HB 169, a bill that I am sponsoring that will require the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to notify, by certified mail, affected property owners whenever they reclassify flood elevations in the state. The bill, which passed out of both subcommittee and full committee unanimously, passes by a 141-2 margin and now moves to the Senate for their consideration.                                      

Rep. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) Room 508, Atlanta, GA 30334.  His Capitol office number is (404) 656-0213.