To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) has been reporting each week during the Legislative session. The session began Jan. 14 and lasted until April 4.
Day 37 (March 31): We begin the last week of the session with our final meeting of the special committee on certificate of need. This committee has been meeting for the past two years and actually holds the Capitol record for the most hours met during a session. A compromise has finally been reached and, although not perfect, the final bill represents a giant step forward for health care in our state.
As we begin the session early in the afternoon the tension is so thick that you can almost cut it with a knife. Legislators and lobbyists are frantically racing around the Capitol trying to cut deals and put the finishing touches on their bills. I’m no exception as I have a number of bills that are still pending including local legislation to create voting districts in the city of Port Wentworth.
After being read in the House for the first time today, I get a call from legislative counsel telling me that we have a technical problem and that we’ll have to offer a substitute tomorrow. Because of the tight schedule, I am concerned that this may derail the bill, but after checking with the House clerk, I’m assured we can still pass the bill if everything else goes right.
Among the bills passed today is SB 24 that prohibits people from using the Internet to “phish” for a person’s private information. We’ve all received e-mails that attempt to fraudulently acquire personal information by falsely representing themselves as trustworthy people. Under this much-needed law “phishing” would be punished as a felony with prison time and a fine.
Day 38 (April 1): I’m at the Capitol when the doors open this morning to pick up the substitute bill for Port Wentworth’s redistricting and after checking it thoroughly, I immediately take it to the committee chairman to make certain that nothing goes awry. I also make a quick visit to the Senate to check with Sen. Regina Thomas about some road naming bills we are working on.
After making certain everything is in order for my local legislation, I begin to focus on the pharmacy bills that we are working on. As we debate numerous bills on the House floor, I am following the discussion closely while also meeting with various department heads and lobbyists addressing their concerns with our legislation.
Later in the afternoon I make a trip with some of my fellow pharmacy caucus members downstairs to the governor’s office to meet with his staff about our bills. Time is running short and while we are pushing hard to get our bills through, we are also keeping a close eye on legislation that we want to make sure doesn’t get passed.
For this reason we try to keep a pharmacy member on the floor at all times to make certain no amendments are slipped in without our knowledge. Among the many bills passed today is SB 355 that was triggered by Homebanc’s dishonoring $28 million in closing funds last year after they declared bankruptcy. This bill encourages wire funds to be used at a closing and will protect buyers and a seller in a time when the housing market is down and in the future.
Day 39 (April 2): I’m at the Rules Committee first thing this morning to make certain that SR 1063, a resolution that Sen. Eric Johnson has asked me to carry in the House, is placed on the debate calendar.
The resolution urges the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to implement a new water quality standard for the Savannah harbor. The existing total maximum daily load (TMDL) for dissolved oxygen (DO) is set at an unattainable level and the resolution asks that EPD base the levels on sound science that is economically achievable. The resolution makes it on the calendar and later passes the House overwhelmingly.
As the day wears on and the tension grows by the minute, we continue to strategize as to how we might get our bills passed. Of the many bills that do pass today, SB 1 is certainly one of the most important as it adds provisions to the current sex offender laws which prevent registered sex offenders from photographing minors without the consent of a minor’s parent or guardian.
Day 40 (April 4): Although sine die is officially defined as not fixing a day for future action or meeting, in the legislature it’s defined as heaven.
Day 40 is finally here and I must say that in my four years of legislative service, this has been by far the most grueling. The good news is that our local legislation has gone exceptionally well. With the passing of the Carter-Burns referendum in Effingham County and voting districts in Port Wentworth, we have accomplished a great deal.
As we start our final day at 10 a.m., we brace ourselves for what will surely be a very long and tumultuous day. Major issues such as trauma funding, transportation, taxes and, of course, the budget still remain unresolved.
As the final budget hits our desk early in the afternoon, the news is good for our area. Funding for local projects such as the Tybee Island beach re-nourishment, Matthew Reardon, Herty Foundation and Starbase projects are all included.
The news is also good for education as equalization money is secured and some of the austerity cuts are reinstated.
While the antiquated CON laws are finally reformed and pass both chambers, some of the other major issues as well as our pharmacy issues are left unresolved and as the clock strikes midnight, the 2008 session of the Georgia state legislature is history, surely to be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in recent history.