To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 12 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 19 (Feb. 17): One of the longstanding practices of the legislature is to invite a physician to be “Doctor of the Day” while we are in session. While the Capitol is equipped with a nurse’s station and an on-duty nurse, legislators are allowed to invite a physician for this honorary function and today it is my pleasure to have Dr. Pam Gallup, a practicing OB/GYN from Savannah as our “Doctor of the Day.”
Among the six bills that are passed today is HB 217 that allows pharmacists and registered nurses who enter into a written agreement with a physician the ability to administer flu shots. This practice has actually been in effect for many years in Georgia but due to some court rulings last year, new legislation is necessary to clarify the process.
Property tax relief remains a hot topic at the Capitol today as we vote to reconsider HR 1, a bill that caps property assessment increases to 3 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is less, and that failed to garner a constitutional majority last week. The vote to reconsider passes and the bill is sent back to the Rules Committee, where it will remain active while a compromise is being worked on.
Also today the governor signs HB 143 into law, assuring that the Homeowners’ Tax Relief Grant (HTRG) will be funded in the budget this year, saving taxpayers between $200-$300 per household.
Day 20 (Feb. 18): Although we pass a number of bills today, including HB 185 that gives the chief judge of appeals the authorization to issue a judicial state of emergency, most of the talk around the Capitol centers around the economic crisis and our state budget.
With the budget deficit now at a whopping $2.6 billion, Gov. Sonny Perdue has ordered state agencies to make another $131 million in spending cuts and has moved another $150 million from the state’s reserve fund to the current budget.
Meanwhile, Senate and House Republican leaders attack the problem head on today by announcing a package of tax credits and cuts to help create and maintain jobs in our state. Included in this package is a $2,400 income tax credit for each unemployed person that businesses hire before July 2010 and keep on the job for at least 24 months.
Other changes would be the gradual elimination of the state’s 6 percent corporate income tax and the elimination of the inventory tax and sales tax deposit. This bold plan would benefit Georgia businesses long term while setting the stage for economic recovery and receives rave reviews from legislators.
Day 21 (Feb. 19): The most hotly debated bill today is HB 251 that would allow children to transfer to any school within the same school district if space is available at the transfer school and the parents/guardians accept responsibility for the cost of transportation of the student to and from school. The bill passes the House and is sent to the Senate for their consideration.
The Capitol is still abuzz today on news of the governor’s proposal to revise the way we build new roads and highways and diminish the influence of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The proposed legislation would create a new State Transportation Authority consisting of an 11-member board with five members appointed by the governor and three members each by the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.
Although some legislators are skeptical of giving up their right to vote on the appointment of board members as is the case now with the current DOT, most speak favorably of the increased fiscal oversight this bill would give the legislature.
Ironically, elections are held today for three DOT board positions, including the 12th district where Raybon Anderson from Statesboro has resigned. Rep. Bobby Parham, a retired pharmacist from Milledgeville and 35-year veteran of the House is elected as the new representative for the 12th district.
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.