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 19 (Feb. 19): After an early morning Republican caucus meeting, we’re in at 10 a.m. with seven bills on the calendar including a bill intended to increase private faith-based elderly care services. HB 1044 distinguishes “respite care services” and care given by a “primary caregiver” from licensed adult day care, therefore relieving faith-based caregiver support from the adult day care licensure regulation. Another bill makes trafficking ecstasy an offense bailable only by a superior court judge. Currently a magistrate judge can set bail in these cases. HB 1054, known as the Children and Family Service Strengthening Act, consolidates existing children’s services agencies to provide Georgia’s children more efficient programs. The afternoon is spent in committee meetings including a pharmacy caucus meeting where I am working on several pieces of legislation.
Day 20 (Feb. 20): Before participating in a radio interview with WBMQ in Savannah via phone this morning, I have the opportunity to address over 250 pharmacists and pharmacy students from across the state who are visiting the Capitol. I also take time to stop by the Senate and visit with Rev. Mike Ricker from Columbus, who is the chaplain of the day today. Mike and his wife, Cindy Walea Ricker, are old friends from Garden City who both graduated from Groves High School.
Of the six bills on the calendar today, perhaps the most interesting is a resolution creating the Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission. When Tennessee was admitted in 1796 by an act of Congress, its southern boundary was the 35th parallel but in 1818 a surveyor commissioned to mark the state line marked it a mile south of its actual location. The commissions would be charged with studying the boundary line issue and reporting back to the General Assembly. If the line were redrawn correctly, Georgia would have water rights to the Tennessee River where several river basins in Georgia flow into.
HB 1123 would require the commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to submit an annual report to the General Assembly detailing the department’s progress in road and bridge maintenance. The commissioner of Natural Resources would have the ability to close all or any portion of the salt waters of Georgia to commercial and recreational fishing for blue crabs according to HB 1016, which passed by a 142-21 vote.
After visiting with members of the American Cancer Society at lunch, I spend the afternoon in an Appropriation Human Resources meeting discussing budget requests for 2009.
Day 21 (Feb. 21): As a member of the Appropriations committee, I stand with Chairman Ben Harbin at a news conference this morning as he lists education, health care, public safety and natural resources as priorities of the House in the 2009 budget. Today is a special day at the Capitol as we welcome four employees from Imperial Sugar to the Capitol. I cannot be any prouder as I speak from the well to welcome these special people from back home and share with my fellow House members heroic stories of bravery performed during this tragedy.
Among the four special guests are two employees who saved countless lives by going into the boiler room during the fire to turn off the boilers. Other stories are told of employees who went in multiple times to retrieve numerous injured employees.
We have four bills that are debated today including the infamous special license plate reciprocity agreement bill. Essentially the bill says that until a state signs a reciprocity agreement to allow our athletic program logos to be placed on their state tags, we won’t allow their athletic logos to be placed on our state tags. The bill passes with a surprising 10 nay votes (Auburn/Florida alumni no doubt!).
Also passed today is HB 1040 that allows for a relative or another adult rather than the government to serve as a guardian to a deprived child in the event of parental rights being terminated. Later that afternoon, I have the opportunity to meet with the CEO of Imperial Sugar, John Sheptor, and Gov. Sonny Perdue to hear the latest update on the sugar refinery tragedy.
Day 22 (Feb. 22): We wake up to a downpour in Atlanta this morning, but no one is complaining since North Georgia needs the rain desperately.
While there are nine bills to be debated today, none garner as much attention as the midyear budget which has been sent back by the Senate. Because of changes made primarily to education and equalization grants, we vote to insist on our position and the Speaker appoints a conference committee to negotiate with the Senate. Another bill that passes will require more stringent background checks for workers at daycare centers. Before we head for home we are reminded that although we are over half way through the session, much work lies ahead including tax reform, certificate of need (CON) for hospitals and of course, the budget.