Day 37 (Tuesday, April 20, 2010): With only four days remaining in this year’s session, we get down to business today by passing the amended FY 2010 budget that runs through June 30 of this year. The historic drop in state revenue is evident here as the FY 2010 budget has been reduced to 2004 and 2005 levels as revenues have fallen $1.6 billion since the original 2010 budget was passed last April. Totaling $17.7 billion, the average agency has been cut 18 percent while vital services such as Medicaid and Education have been cut only 9 percent. Also passing today is HB 1405, the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians Act, which is aimed at identifying and recommending major initiatives to reform and improve the state’s tax system. The controversial bill will create the Special Joint Commission on Georgia Revenue Structure (SJC), which will take the Council’s findings and recommendations and create legislation. HB 651, which requires the Georgia Department of Education to provide schools a list of all registered sex offenders in the state, and HB 1016, which changes the definition of identity fraud to apply to businesses as well as individuals, also pass. We take up a number of agree-disagrees today. These are bills that have passed the Senate but have been changed before they pass the House. If a bill is changed in any way after it leaves the Senate then it has to come back to the Senate where the author of the bill can either agree with the changes or disagree with the changes. If the author agrees with the changes, the bill is then sent to the Governor to be signed but, if the author disagrees with the changes, a conference committee of 3 Senators and 3 Representatives is assigned to work out the differences.
Day 38 (Wednesday, April 21, 2010): With 47 bills on the calendar today we hunker down for a very busy day. Although all bills are important, today we have the FY 2011 budget, transportation funding and the ethics bill -- three of the most important bills of the entire session. As I have written before, our only constitutional requirement as a legislative body is to pass a balanced budget and today we do that by passing the FY 2011 budget that will cover us from July 1 through June 30, 2011. Although our budget cuts state spending by $2.6 billion and most state agencies are reduced by more than 20 percent, we are able to maintain essential services like 4-H programs, education, Medicaid and funding for grassroots arts programs. Today is a historic day as we finally pass a transportation funding bill that is the culmination of years of debate, compromise and hard work. HB 277, “The Transportation Investment Act of 2010,” divides the state into 12 regions with each region having a roundtable of local elected officials who will work with the Department of Transportation’s planning director to develop a list of needed projects for that particular region. The list would then be put before the voters of the region who will decide on whether to impose a one percent sales tax to fund the projects of their choice. The “Ethics in Government Act,” SB 17, also passes creating the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission and giving them the authority to oversee interactions between lobbyists and legislators. Along with tightening reporting requirements and increasing fines for violators, the bill also includes regulations that require local officials to file campaign disclosure reports. As we work from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. today we also pass HB 788, the Dog and Cat Euthanasia Bill that will prohibit the use of gas chambers to euthanize cats and dogs and allows for intracardial injections only after the cat or dog is unconscious.
Carter represents Bryan, Liberty and Chatham counties. He can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.
Editor's note: Carter (R-Pooler) reports each week during the legislative session, which began Jan. 11.