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Lawmakers ponder budget recommendations
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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 a long, long time.

Day 25 (March 16): Although we were not in session yesterday, we were still busy with committee and sub-committee meetings, which are extremely important in the legislative process.

With some exceptions, bills are generally “ready to go” by the time they make it to the Senate floor because of the exhaustive work done in committees. In January of this year, the Senate Budget Task Force was formed to provide recommendations to the Legislature regarding short and long-term budget solutions. The final report of this group of private sector leaders is released today and includes a series of 50 recommendations for the Legislature to consider, including reducing the state workforce to reflect budget constraints and adjusting fees for state services.  

As is custom each session, today we have the State of Judiciary address where both Senate and House members gather together to hear about the state of Georgia’s judicial system. Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of Georgia’s Supreme Court delivers her first message while serving in that position and stressed that the tough economic times are causing increased case loads and decreased funding.

Afterwards we reconvene and pass four bills including SB 345, the Rules of the Road Bill which allows for races on county and city roads when sanctioned by the local governing authority and when the road is closed to traffic.              

Day 26 (March 17): Since I can’t be home in Savannah for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade today, I proudly wear my green blazer to show my fellow legislators that although I’m at the Capitol today, I long to be somewhere else.  

We have a very contentious bill on the floor today in SB 406, the Online Voter Registration Bill, which calls for the Department of Driver Services, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, to implement an online voter registration system. The online program would allow qualified voters with a valid Georgia driver’s license or identification card to be eligible to register online to vote.

Among the other seven bills that are presented today are SB 364 which is intended to shut down illegal massage parlors in our state, and SB 150 which removes the terms “junk” and “junk dealer” from Georgia law. SB 150 also eliminates the $1 registration charge levied on junk dealers which has been on the books for years but has not been being collected.            

Day 27 (March 18): Today is an exciting day in the Senate as we consider numerous bills, many of which could change the state considerably. SR 794, the Health Care Freedom of Choice Constitutional Amendment, is aimed at protecting Georgians’ right to choose their health care. This legislation is in response to the proposed national health insurance plan currently being debated in Washington, which many fear will bring about a loss of patient rights as well as increased state costs.  

Although the resolution passed yesterday, it failed to garner the two-thirds majority necessary for a constitutional amendment and today is brought back up for reconsideration. The reconsideration motion passes, and SR 317 is given another chance and will be back on the floor again in the near future.  

SB 360 is known as Caleb’s Law in memory of Caleb Sorohan, an 18-year-old from Dahlonega, who died nine days before Christmas after his car crossed the centerline of a rural road while he was driving and texting and ran into a truck carrying horses. The law will apply to drivers of all ages and the fine will be up to $150.  

Additionally, a teenager who is charged twice with texting while driving will be required to drive on a class D license for a period of one year, a restriction that has both passenger and time limitations.         

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