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Several crime bills tackled
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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 32 (March 18): If you pay close attention, you can learn a lot serving in the state legislature. Today we take up a bill dealing with ratites. Ratites are flightless birds. They include such birds as ostriches, emus and rheas and fall under the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) with USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (USDA FSIS). 

Currently, ratites are classified as livestock under the Georgia Code. SB 364 strikes ratites from several code sections defining and dealing with livestock and redefines them as poultry within the code so that they are now regulated as poultry for agriculture inspection purposes. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun debating this bill on the House floor and yes, Big Bird was referred to more than once.  

Other bills that are debated today include SB 373 that makes changes to employment and training standards for peace officers by creating a new subsection allowing for emergency suspension of any peace officer who is indicted or arrested on a felony charge. Another bill directs the consumer advisory board to transmit copies of identity fraud complaints to the GBI rather than the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs. The GBI would then be the recipient of all identity fraud complaints and would be able to investigate accordingly.  

Later that afternoon we have our first meeting this session of the special Committee on Certificate of Need where we hear testimony on a new comprehensive reform bill.                

Day 33 (March 19): We’re joined in our Wednesday morning prayer caucus by Gov. Sonny Perdue today. Gov. Perdue, who has a son who is a Baptist minister, joins us occasionally and is a welcomed addition to our group.  

Afterwards, I have the opportunity to meet with our 12th district Department of Transportation (DOT) Board member, Raybon Anderson, from Statesboro and Speaker Glenn Richardson to discuss transportation issues in our state. The meeting goes well and we are fortunate to have these two fine gentlemen working for our state.  

Once in session, we take time to honor the reigning NCAA women’s tennis champions from Georgia Tech.

We debate four Senate bills today including SB 430 that allows the GBI to compare DNA profiles collected from suspects in criminal investigations to DNA profiles collected from evidentiary material. This will dramatically decrease the time needed to identify criminal suspects.  

SB 145 is a historical bill that will allow prosecutors to seek the penalty of life without parole without being required to seek the death penalty in order to impose the conviction. The bill is further amended to allow a judge to impose the death penalty instead of a lesser sentence when a jury has not unanimously agreed but 10 or more jurors voted in favor of the death penalty.  

Although we are given copies of the 2009 budget today, we will have to wait until tomorrow to debate it since, according to House rules, it must sit on our desk for 24 hours before being debated.      

Day 34 (March 20): In order to allow the budget the full 24 hours required to be on our desks, we postpone starting the session until 1:30 p.m. today.  After numerous committee meetings in the morning, we start today’s session honoring law enforcement personnel involved in the search for Meredith Hope Emerson, the Athens hiker who was found killed in Vogel State Park near Blairsville. While a student at Young Harris College in the late ’70s, I enjoyed hiking in this area and therefore found this story to be quite disturbing and tragic.  

Besides the amended ’08 and ’09 budgets, which are adopted with little opposition, we also pass SB 320 which addresses penalties for those driving without a valid license. When convicted of driving without a valid license, a person must be fingerprinted and these will be forwarded to the Georgia crime information center and assigned an identification number for the purposes of tracking repeat offenders. A person who can present the court with a proof of a valid license will be excused, however if found guilty four or more times within a 5-year period, a person will be charged with a felony.  

Also passed today is a bill that allows the use of residential gray water to help prevent water waste. This bill sets minimal gray water use standards specifying how gray water may and may not be used and what type of water may be used. Because of our late start today, we don’t finish until 6 p.m.; however, that doesn’t stop me from heading home for South Georgia.