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 11 (Feb. 5): Today is a special day in the House as we honor our Vietnam veterans who have traveled to the Capitol. The recognition service is led by Rep. Amos Amerson from Dahlonega, who is one of several Vietnam veterans serving in the House. We also honor Georgia Southern quarterback Jayson Foster, who is this year’s winner of the Walter Payton Award signifying the most valuable Division I-AA football player in the nation.
We debate and pass four bills today including a bill that will adopt federal tax law changes passed in 2007 and will save Georgians about $38 million in taxes from 2008-2012. Another bill that passes cleans up language on legislation passed last year by removing the means test for taking tax deductions for contributions to college savings plans and permits grandparents to contribute and deduct contributions to the plans. Later that evening, we enjoy the annual Statesboro/Bulloch County Wild Game Supper where we feast on Southern delicacies such as quail and venison.
Day 12 (Feb. 6): After attending the prayer caucus at 7:15 this morning, I make it over to a breakfast sponsored by the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies coalition. This is a fine group that works to increase access to prenatal and preventive health care for low income and uninsured families in our state.
We only have two bills on the calendar today and the first one designating the 12th day of February each year as “Georgia Day” passes easily. The second bill, a seemingly simple bill to increase the number of people on the state medical board, turns out to be quite controversial and provides a civics lesson to everyone observing. Last year the legislature gave advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) the authority to prescribe certain medications while practicing under the direction of a physician and directed the medical board to implement the new law. Because only a fraction of the eligible APRNs have obtained the authority to prescribe and many have complained that the medical board has made the regulations too stringent, an amendment is offered to this bill trying to force the medical board to follow the legislature’s intentions.
After hours of debate and a series of five votes on the bill and amendment, including a motion by the author to table the bill, it passes as amended but is called for reconsideration on the next day.
Day 13 (Feb. 7): The day starts with an appropriations meeting in which we pass out the amended budget for 2008. Among the changes that we make to the governor’s proposed budget is restoring $30 million in funding to address an equalization issue for a number of school systems in our state. I have pushed hard for this change as included in this group of generally fast-growing school systems is Effingham County. Our first order of business today is to take up the reconsideration of the medical board bill that was debated for hours and finally passed yesterday. As is sometimes the case, the House reverses its earlier action and defeats the bill. Ah, politics!
A number of bills are passed today including one that decreases from 4 to 3 the number of days that a special election can be held to present a question to the voters such as a SPLOST vote. The afternoon is filled with committee meetings before I head back to the office to do paperwork. While still at the office, my phone starts ringing off the hook with calls from home telling me the tragic news of an explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar plant in my hometown of Port Wentworth. Torn between returning home and staying, I decide to stay on the advice of family and friends.
Day 14 (Feb. 8): After a restless night filled with prayers for the safety of those involved in the plant explosion, I make my way to the Capitol and head straight to the Speaker’s office to request to speak during morning orders. This is a time before we start debating bills that each member is allowed 2 to 3 minutes to speak on whatever we choose.
Before we go into session at 9 a.m., I am on the phone with Mayor Glenn Jones of Port Wentworth receiving the latest updates on the situation back home. After we hear from the chaplain of the day, I try to round up the Chatham County delegation and ask them to join me up front. As I approach my colleague and good friend Rep. Bob Bryant, he informs me that one of the missing workers is his first cousin and he is leaving immediately. After delivering the news of the tragic accident back home, the other house members join me in a moment of silent prayer.
Later we adopt the amended ’08 budget and head home for the weekend. For me, it’s one of the longest and saddest drives home ever.