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Statewide drug courts are still much debated
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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 middle of April.

Day 31 (Monday, March 21): After a very short weekend, we’re back at it bright and early as I meet with the Chairman of Senate Appropriations, Sen. Jack Hill, and members of the senate budget office regarding drug courts in our state. Gov. Nathan Deal, whose son Jason is a drug court judge in Hall County, has said that he wants to see our state expand this concept in order to decrease our prison population that is draining our state treasury.

While violent and repeat offenders are not eligible, others who want to change their lives have had great success through this program. Although we only have one bill on the calendar today since the deadline to pass bills from one chamber to the other has passed, it turns out to be very controversial.

HB 80, dealing with the annexation of unincorporated islands by cities, receives much debate and is soundly defeated. However, this will not be the last time we see this bill as the author asks for reconsideration and it is sent back to the rules committee for further work. Later I meet with Dr. Frank Mullins with the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta about legislation I will be carrying to include burn centers in the state’s trauma network.

Day 32 (Tuesday, March 22): The morning is busy with meetings as I have a total of six before noon, including one with the governor’s director of Executive Appointments regarding an appointment to a state board as well as a Health and Human Services committee meeting.

As we go into session today, I am honored to introduce our Doctor of the Day, Dr. Dan Deloach from Savannah Plastic Surgery. Dr. Deloach is serving as chairman of the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) this year, the organization that sponsors this program. Every day that we are in session a visiting doctor volunteers in the nurse’s clinic at the Capitol to assist those in need of medical attention.

Today, we unanimously pass SR 228, a resolution urging authorities to study the feasibility of surface water withdrawal, storage and distribution from the Tennessee River basin. Later I present three bills before the House State Institutions and Properties committee as well as a resolution before the House Economic Development committee. Of the four, I am able to get two passed while the other two are sent to a subcommittee.

Day 33 (Wednesday, March 23): As is the case every Wednesday morning that we are in session, we have a Bible study at 7:15 a.m. in the governor’s conference room. This particular Bible study is for legislators only and our studies are led by different legislators each week.

We are in at 10 a.m. this morning and, while we recognize a number of groups from our state, we only have one bill on the calendar, HB 223, that exempts farm buildings used to store manure from minimum state building requirements. As can be expected, discussion on this bill gets out of hand quickly.

After session I attend the weekly Chairman’s lunch with Senate leadership to review the bills we have in our committees. At 3 p.m., I face the impossible task of being in four meetings at the same time. However, with the assistance of my intern and administrative assistant I make it to each meeting to present my bills and thankfully they all pass.

It is announced today that the FY12 budget has been received from the House and will be voted on Monday, which means that as a chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee I will be here the rest of the week working on my department’s submissions. Also today the legislative tax reform committee announces their recommendations on plans to reform the tax code to attract jobs and encourage investment in our state. The FY12 budget and tax reform recommendations promise to keep us busy for the remaining seven legislative days.

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.