To our readers: State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 10 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 11 (Monday, Feb. 7): As we begin this week, we welcome the Leadership Liberty County group to the Capitol. After pictures with the governor and a tour of the House chambers led by Rep. Al Williams, I have the privilege of leading the group on a tour of the Senate chambers.
During our majority caucus meeting at lunch today, we are honored to have Gov. Nathan Deal address us and give us the latest news on the HOPE scholarship. Gov. Deal has made solving the HOPE scholarship dilemma one of his top priorities this year and is intent on bringing this issue to a quick resolution.
As we go into session this afternoon, we welcome the many 4-H members from across the state as we celebrate 4-H day at the Capitol. I am honored today to have seven pages who are all 4-H members from my district. The page program is an excellent opportunity for students, ages 12 and above, to participate in activities at the Capitol. More information on this program can be found at http://www.senate.ga.gov/hr/en-US/PageProgram.aspx.
Later in the afternoon I present two bills that I am sponsoring, HB 37 and HR 84, before the State Institutions and Properties committee. HR 84 calls for a constitutional amendment to allow the state to enter into multiyear leases and HB 37 details how the leasing contracts are to be carried out. Both bills pass out unanimously and now go before the Rules committee to be considered for placement before the full Senate.
Day 12 (Wednesday, Feb. 9): Although we were not in session yesterday, we certainly had a busy agenda as committee meetings dominated the day. A number of bills have been introduced this week including SB 63, a bill that will establish the Georgia Medical Assistance Fraud Prevention Program. This program is intended to reduce Medicaid fraud by requiring Medicaid cards to be integrated with a computer chip that includes a digital photograph and fingerprint of the card holder.
Also introduced is SB 65 that prohibits illegal immigrants form collecting unemployment benefits and SB 140 that will draw $10 from existing vehicle registration fees into a trauma trust fund. As a co-sponsor of all of these bills, I am excited that they are being introduced and look forward to working to have them passed.
After a very short session today, I have the pleasure of spending time with members of the Savannah Federation of Educators, who have traveled to the Capitol to lobby for their group. Afterwards I meet with Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens, who oversees our state’s prison and parole system which falls under the committee that I chair. Finally, I present SB36, the Patient Safety Act of 2011, to a subcommittee of the Health and Human Services committee and am pleased that it is passed on to the full committee.
Day 13 (Thursday, Feb. 10): The day begins with good news as the governor has announced that state revenues for the month of January have increased 8.1 percent compared to the same month last year. We are thick in the budget process as the House passed the FY11 amended budget yesterday.
According to our state’s constitution, the budget starts in the House and is then sent to the Senate for our recommendations. As vice-chairman of the Criminal Justice subcommittee of Appropriations, I have the responsibility of reviewing the House submissions for Prisons and Parole and reporting my recommendations to the full committee. As we head into session today, we finally get down to some business as we pass out our first bill of the session, SB30. In a 51-4 vote this bill will require that all municipal court judges must also be licensed attorneys and standing members of the State Bar of Georgia. As you can imagine, this bill brings out plenty of good hearted lawyer jokes.
Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) Room 301-A, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.