Monday, Feb. 25: For the third year in a row, I presented a synthetic-marijuana bill to the Senate. House Bill 57, sponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, already had passed the House and was on the fast track so that the governor can sign the bill into law and it can become effective immediately. Manufacturers of synthetic marijuana continuously change the chemical make-up of the drug, requiring us to follow suit by adding their most recent formulas to the list of banned substances.
Although we didn’t have anything controversial Feb. 25, we did have six other bills on the agenda, including Senate Bill 120, which allows for a probate-court judge in a county with no state court to request the district attorney to prosecute criminal cases. Primarily intended to address some of our less-populated rural counties, bills like this continue to highlight the different population trends and needs within our state.
Also passed was SB 125, which clarifies liability issues facing property owners who have tenants, visitors or trespassers on their property.
For the 12th annual Clergy Day at the Capitol, we welcomed members of the clergy from across our state. Participating in the event this year was the Rev. Joe Buck, who is pastor of Sandersville United Methodist Church and previously served as associate pastor of my home church, Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah.
Tuesday, Feb. 26: As we got closer to crossover day — the 30th day when bills must cross over from one chamber to the other in order to be considered this session — some of the more controversial bills began coming to the floor.
That day, we had five bills for consideration including SB 68, sponsored by Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick. While this seems like a relatively innocuous bill, it turns out to be anything but.
The bill establishes the week of Sept. 17 as Celebrate Freedom Week in Georgia public schools, during which students would be required to receive at least three hours of instruction regarding our nation’s founding principles as well as recitation of important historical writings from materials provided by the Department of Education. After much debate, primarily focusing on what materials should be included in the instruction, the bill passed.
Also causing some debate but eventually passing was SB 135, the DNA sample-collection bill. This bill requires that law enforcement agencies collect DNA samples from those both arrested for and convicted of a felony within 30 days of finding that probable cause for the arrest was established. If a sample is required, the court will ensure the sample is provided as a condition of bail.
Wednesday, Feb. 27: The Capitol was a sea of purple shirts today as we observed Alzheimer’s Awareness Day. These dedicated advocates, including Gordon Varnedoe, aka “Batman” from Savannah, do a great job of making legislators aware of the effects of this horrible disease.
We also were happy to welcome Armstrong Atlantic State University President Linda Bleicken.
I had SB 134, a bill expanding the definition of “prescriber,” on the calendar. This bill simply clarifies our code to include anyone authorized to prescribe a controlled substance under the laws of any state or territory of the United States so that pharmacist can honor out-of-state prescriptions.
We passed three other bills before adjourning for the day. The afternoon was taken up by committee meetings including a marathon four-hour Health and Human Services meeting in which we vote out one bill and have hearings on two others.
Thursday, Feb. 28: The day started early, as I was at the Capitol at 7:30 a.m. to speak to the Fraternal Order of Police. These dedicated public servants are some of the finest law enforcement personnel in the nation, and we are proud to have them in our state.
Later, I attended a meeting of the newly-formed Savannah River Caucus, a group of legislators whose district includes the Savannah River. These legislators share common concerns about the impact of legislation and government regulations on this precious natural resource.
As we went into session later that morning, I was successful in passing SB 10, a bill requiring continued competency requirements for nurses. Working closely with the state nursing board, I offered this legislation to address the situation of nurses being the only allied health field in our state without continuing education requirements.
We passed three other bills, as well as recognized 2013 Georgia Superintendent of the Year Christopher B. Erwin from the Banks County School System.
We also welcomed five Miss Georgia Peach Queens to the Capitol. The Georgia Peach Festival originated in 1987 in Peach County for the purpose of promoting the county and the peach industry. Georgia ranks second in the nation in the annual production of peaches.
Friday, March 1: It was a special day at the Capitol as it was Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. Georgia leads the U.S. in peanut production, producing nearly 50 percent of the nation’s supply. Peanut production is the largest single cash food row crop in our state.
Freshman Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, presented his first bill and was subjected to the time-honored tradition of Senate hazing. Although his pedigree would lead one to believe he would be unfazed by any hazing, he appeared to get flustered on several occasions. Nevertheless, he was successful in passing his bill.
We also passed SB 136, the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law” and “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law.” Named in honor of the young people who were killed in boating accidents last year in our state, this bill will reduce the legal blood alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08 for hunting or boating while under the influence.
Before heading home for the weekend, I chaired a Health and Human Services subcommittee meeting where we passed out SB 171, a bill proposing changes to single specialty ambulatory surgical centers.
Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109. Reach him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.