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House passes Carter-Burns
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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. 14 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.

Day 35 (March 27): Although we’re only in two days this week, it’s already been a busy week with numerous committee meetings and mad scrambles to meet deadlines to make certain legislation gets in the right place before looming deadlines.  

HB 367, a bill I am sponsoring that will require insurance companies to cover a 10-day supply of medication until a prior approval or formulary change can take place, has passed the House and is in the Senate Health and Human Resources committee this morning for a hearing. After adding a few amendments to the bill, it is passed out of the committee and now heads to the Senate Rules committee.

Before going in at 10 a.m., I am frantically rushing around the Capitol from one office to the other making certain that I have everything in place for two local bills I am sponsoring for the city of Port Wentworth.

Once in session, we debate the long awaited transportation bill, SR 845.  This bill proposes a constitutional amendment that will allow a regional commission area transportation tax to fund transportation purposes within a regional area. This sales and use tax may be up to 1 percent and would be limited to a specified period of time. The ballot question will describe the amount of tax to be collected, the specified transportation purpose to be funded, the maximum cost of projects and the maximum period of time the tax will be collected.  

Also debated today is SB 385 that allows limousine carriers to sell alcohol for consumption by having an annual permit. It also allows limousine carriers to purchase alcohol from retailers and allows limousine carriers to purchase and resale alcohol in the area where the sale of alcohol is allowed except in the case of minors. This is another example of the many alcohol bills that have been quite popular around the Capitol this session.  

With Gwinnett County wanting to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays at their new Triple-A Braves stadium, bills allowing citizens to order wine over the Internet and have it delivered to their homes and constitutional amendments calling for counties to be allowed to vote for Sunday sales of alcohol, the session has been overflowing with alcohol this year.

Later that afternoon, I present SR 1063 on behalf of Sen. Eric Johnson to the House Natural Resources committee. The resolution urges the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to adopt new requirements for total maximum daily load (TMDL) for dissolved oxygen (DO) in the Savannah Harbor and is passed out by the committee.  

Day 36 (March 28): Today is a very special day for the citizens of Effingham County and myself as, after four long years of work, we pass the Carter-Burns Bill out of the House.  Similar to the Stephens-Day Bill in Chatham County, the Carter-Burns Bill will provide a homestead exemption from county and school ad valorem taxes so that a residential tax bill will not increase more than the percentage change in the consumer price index (CPI) or 3 percent, whichever is less.

This momentous legislation now heads over to the Senate, where Sen. Jack Hill has agreed to sign it and will then be voted on by the citizens of Effingham County in the November general election. One of the true blessings of serving in the state legislature is the friendships that you develop with your fellow members. Serving with my good friend, Rep. Jon Burns from North Effingham, has truly been a blessing and now to share our names on this historic legislation is very special for both of us.  

Also debated today is SB 88 that enacts the “care of a grandchild” act. This allows a parent to delegate the care of a minor to a grandparent in hardship cases with a power of attorney. SB 421 increases the fine to a maximum of $100,000 for those who knowingly manufacture, sell or distribute false IDs. It also changes the penalty for people under the age of 21 who are convicted of using false IDs in order to enter age restricted places or to purchase age restricted goods as well as allows for repeat offenders to be convicted of a high and aggravated misdemeanor.  

The ’09 budget is sent back from the Senate with significant cuts in funding for education and pay raises for state correction officers that the House finds to be unacceptable.  Because of this, we reject their proposal and insist on our original proposal.  

Before adjourning for the weekend, the Speaker appoints three House conferees to meet with three Senate conferees to try to work out the differences. While the rest of us head home, these six people stay in Atlanta for a long weekend of work.