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Support of harbor brightens cold day
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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 latter days of March.

Day 1 (Monday, Jan. 10): If the late Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Caray were describing the start of the 2011 Georgia legislative session he would, no doubt, say that it was off to an inauspicious start.

As tradition has it, most legislators and staff members arrived yesterday, on Sunday evening, for the 49th annual “Wild Hog Supper” held at the railroad depot near the Capitol.  Sponsored by a private agriculture foundation to celebrate Georgia’s largest industry, more than 20 hogs are typically consumed, along with more than 40 gallons of Brunswick stew and 1,100 ears of corn. The event serves as the unofficial kickoff to a new legislative session.

But while legislators, lobbyists and staff are excited to see each other, the talk is focused more on the weather than any other subject. With predictions of snow and sleet to start later that night, many of the planned festivities for the week, such as the Governor’s Inaugural Ball on Monday night and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast on Tuesday morning, have already been canceled. True to the predictions, around 8 p.m. the snow begins to fall and continues throughout the night until it is replaced by sleet, creating a winter wonderland in Atlanta.

Like most cities in the deep South, Atlanta is minimally prepared for such an event and as we wake up this morning we find a city literally paralyzed by ice covered roads. However, not only does Georgia’s constitution call for the legislative session to begin on the second Monday in January, but the transfer of power from one governor to the next must be done on this day as well. With the assistance of the Georgia State Patrol and other emergency personnel, as many legislators as possible make it to the Capitol and are sworn in at 10 a.m.

Although both chambers have a quorum, many legislators trickle in throughout the day and grab a judge to inaugurate them as they arrive. At 2 p.m., all legislators assemble in the House chambers to witness Nathan Deal become the 82nd governor of the state of Georgia. Sworn in by his son Jason, a superior court judge in Hall County, the new governor also has his wife, Sandra and their three daughters by his side.  

Following his inauguration, Gov. Deal next performs his first official duty of swearing in the other statewide officials. After the ceremony, senators meet individually with the Committee on Assignments to find out committee assignments. I am delighted to find out that I have been chosen to chair the State Institutions and Properties Committee, serve as vice-chair of Health and Human Services and serve on the Appropriations, Ethics and Regulated Industries committees. As we head home for the day, we are informed that because of the dangerous conditions on the roads the session is canceled tomorrow and we will not go back in until Wednesday afternoon.

Day 2 (Wednesday, Jan. 12): While conditions in the Atlanta area have not improved much, we go back into session at 1 p.m. this afternoon so that the governor can give his state of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate at 2 p.m.

During our session on Monday, we adopted new Senate rules for the year which included a change that calls for us to recite the pledge to the Georgia flag at the beginning of each session.  The pledge is led today by the dean of the Senate, Sen. George Hooks (D-Americus), who jokingly comments that he was present when the pledge was adopted back in 1935.

During his address, Gov. Deal presents his proposed budget for FY 2012, which includes $32 million in bonds for the deepening of the Savannah Harbor. I am all smiles as the governor expresses his understanding and support of this vitally important project.        

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.