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Changes are afoot for the General Assembly
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To our readers: State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 11 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.

Day 1 (Jan. 11): After serving the past five years in the House of Representatives, this morning I make the short journey across the Capitol to begin my Senate career. While the House consists of 180 members and meets in the largest room in the Capitol, the Senate has only 56 members with a much smaller chamber that tends to be much quieter. Similar to the House, the Senate begins its day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a message from the Chaplain of the Day followed by a prayer.  

As I have noted before, I am extremely proud that our General Assembly continues to open each session with an inspirational message and prayer. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who serves as President of the Senate, reads a report from the Secretary of State certifying myself and Sen. Donzella James from College Park as the newest members of the Senate and welcomes us to our new positions. The lieutenant governor also appoints Sen. James and me, along with several other senators, to the committee of notification and after lunch, we meet with the governor in his office to notify him that the session has begun.     

Day 2 (Jan. 12): As is tradition, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce holds its annual eggs and issues breakfast this morning and we hear from Lt. Gov. Cagle, newly-elected House Speaker David Ralston and Gov. Sonny Perdue. Speaker Ralston, who like myself attended Young Harris College and was my suitemate last year, is a fine man who will do an outstanding job as the leader of the House.

Gov. Perdue takes this opportunity to outline a proposal to enhance the way we compensate teachers by adding a performance based pay option to the existing salary system. Salary bonuses would be awarded based on classroom observation and student growth, allowing effective teachers to be eligible for much higher salaries much earlier in their careers.  

Later in the day, Majority Whip Sen. Mitch Seabaugh files legislation intended to clear up confusion in the current firearms laws. Called Georgia’s Common Sense Lawful Carry Act, the legislation is intended to make corrections to current firearm laws in order to provide lawfully carrying citizens and law enforcement clear guidelines.         

Day 3 (Jan. 13): During the session, we have a legislative group that meets on Wednesday mornings for Bible study and prayer. Each year we begin by inviting members of the executive branch to hear the governor and a special guest share a message with us.  Today we are honored to have Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, join us for our initial meeting.

After going into session and taking care of our daily business, we join members of the House for a joint session to hear Gov. Perdue deliver his eighth and final State of the State address. While normally covering specifics of his budget proposals, the governor deviates from that this year and speaks in general terms of the hard decisions that must be made during this session in order to ensure the next generation is not handed a problem-ridden state.     

Day 4 (Jan. 14): Each morning the lieutenant governor allows a period of personal privilege for senators to take the well and speak on matters of importance to them or their constituents. This morning’s time is dominated by the tragedy in Haiti with senators offering prayers and encouragement for help in the relief efforts.  

Transportation seems to be the subject of the day as the governor announces a comprehensive plan to provide additional resources in Georgia’s transportation network including $300 million in bond projects. He also said that he would support legislation that would create special tax districts for transportation that mirror the state’s 12 regional planning districts. With our first week of this session in the books, we will not meet next week in order to allow state department heads to present their budgets to the appropriations committees of both chambers.     

Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.