To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative session. The session began Jan. 14 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 23 (Feb. 26): We begin the day with a Republican Caucus meeting to discuss transportation and tax reform. After this I have the opportunity to meet with Scott Smith from the Coastal Heritage Society in Savannah to discuss funding for Fort Jackson. We’re in at 10 a.m. with 14 bills to be debated, including HB 1113 that prohibits the use of state issued credit cards to purchase certain items such as gift cards, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. The bill also stipulates that those state employees found to be abusing the cards could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense.
HB 455 creates a program to monitor the number of prescriptions for certain controlled substances a pharmacist can dispense to a single individual. This will help law enforcement tract those individuals seeking to fill prescriptions for the same controlled substances.
The Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank is created with HB 1019 and will serve to make low interest loans to communities around Georgia for transportation projects.
During our break for lunch, I join representatives from St. Josephs/Candler and Effingham County Hospital at the Community Hospitals Association meeting. I also have the opportunity to join mental health workers from Savannah at their luncheon before heading back into session for an afternoon full of work.
Day 24 (Feb. 27): After our Wednesday morning prayer caucus, I am delighted to join Sens. Regina Thomas and Tommy Williams to greet a group of senior citizens from Savannah. Later that morning as I walk across the street to the Capitol, I notice a gentleman sitting in a pickup truck filled with bottled water. It’s obvious he’s from Tennessee since he’s wearing a coon-tail hat, carrying a musket and talks funny.
As TV cameras converge on the gentleman, we learn that he has been sent by the mayor of Chattanooga to deliver the water as part of the ongoing border dispute involving water rights between our two states.
We have 11 bills on the agenda today with HR 413 creating the most controversy. This resolution would amend Georgia’s constitution and declare English as the official language of the Georgia state government. Because it fails to receive the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment, the author asks for reconsideration and it is sent back to committee.
Among the bills that pass today is HB 1169 that exempts private K-12 schools that provide after school programs from the definition of a day care center. HB 1124 clarifies the procedures for awarding DOT design-build contracts. These type contracts encourage the engineer and contractors to work together to ensure that conflicts between the design and actual building project are limited and typically result in a faster completion date.
Day 25 (Feb. 28): The days are getting longer now as we have more bills on the debate calendar and the more controversial matters are making their way through the committee process. Today we spend most of the day in session as we debate 16 bills including HB 1159 that gives an annual tax credit to families that adopt foster children. HB 1061 makes changes to laws concerning the shipment of wine allowing wineries to make direct shipments to consumer’s homes as long as they hold a proper license. After many questions we are assured provisions are in place to make sure the shipper is not selling or delivering wine to those that are underage.
An oversight committee to research, evaluate and recommend tobacco prevention programs to the governor and legislature is set up with HB 887. The most controversial bill debated today is HB 978 that says a vehicle registered in Georgia that is involved in a traffic violation or accident while being operated by a person not legally in this country is subject to be seized. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that legal citizens are not burdened with the cost of repeat offenders who are not legally in this state. After much passionate debate from both sides of the issue, the bill passes.
After today’s long session, I squeeze in both a Health and Human Services and Industrial Relations committee meeting. I also have the time to meet with representatives from the Department of Human Resources regarding a waiver for a child of one of my constituents back home before calling it a day.
Day 26 (Feb. 29): Today is our 26th day of the 40 day session and the Speaker lets us know that the House and Senate conference committees are still not in agreement on the 2008 amended budget, which is not good news. Most of the four bills on the debate calendar today, including HB 851 that increases tax incentives for those who restore and preserve Georgia’s historic buildings, pass without much discussion. However, a bill responsible for establishing the agricultural commodities commission for blueberries generates much discussion before finally passing.
Although we are out before lunch, I have another Health and Human Services committee meeting before heading home.