Monday, Feb. 10 marked the halfway point of our 40-day legislative session, and we are flying through it faster than any other session I have been involved with in the past 10 years.
After an early morning caucus meeting, we went into session at 10 a.m. and were honored to have as our guest U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a long-serving, dedicated politician who is retiring this year.
The first bill we took up was Senate Resolution 290, a bill that would allow probate courts to hear appeals of dangerous-dog confiscations if there is no animal control or health board in a county. It also would allow the non-surgical sterilizations of dangerous dogs in shelters. Dangerous dogs are a problem in certain areas of Georgia, particularly in the rural southwest region.
Senate Bill 305 also passed. It requires building-code inspectors, such as fire marshals or code officials, to provide written notifications that building construction or plans are not in compliance with code and provides an opportunity for the situation to be remedied.
SB 322, the snake-habitat-protection bill, removes the exemption for poisonous snakes from habitat-protection requirements. This bill is intended to protect the gopher turtle, the official state reptile of Georgia, which has been identified as being endangered. Currently, no person can disturb, mutilate or destroy the dens, holes or homes of any wildlife with lights, explosives, chemicals or smoke to drive wildlife out of such habitats. The only exemption to this is in the case of poisonous snakes. This bill would delete that exemption.
In the tradition of show-and-tell, Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, the author of the bill, brought “Gator,” his pet gopher turtle, to the well when he presented the bill.
The final bill of the day, SB 329, would expand the Youth Apprenticeship Program to a “work-based learning program” in hopes of increasing its number of students and employers.
Later that afternoon, I had a meeting with fellow pharmacy legislators and Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss issues affecting our profession.
We finished the day with a two-hour Health and Human Services committee meeting, where we passed out four bills and had a hearing on another.
On the 21st day of the session, Tuesday, Feb. 11, we received a little bad news. Forecasters warned of more bad weather for Atlanta and most of Georgia in the next few days. Deal and state officials took no chances after the lessons learned two weeks ago and began preparing immediately.
After our caucus meeting, we went into session at 10 a.m. to contend with three bills on the calendar, including SB 294, a bill that would allow licensed electrical contractors to perform low-voltage contracting without obtaining a separate license.
SB 301, a bill that would allow wood construction in public-school facilities, also passed, although it didn’t generate much discussion about the safety of such structures.
The final bill of the day, HB 494, would allow private-airstrip owners to pay utilities to install security markers on their airstrips. This is a serious problem for many smaller airstrips in the state, because power lines or nonelectrical cables often can interfere with navigational routes.
While we were scheduled to be in session Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 12-13, the weather forecast concerned everyone, so Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle announced that all afternoon committee meetings were canceled and ended our week’s work right there.
Before we adjourned, Majority Leader Sen. Ronnie Chance, R- Tyrone, presented us with an adjournment resolution that will carry us through the rest of the session.
We picked up with day 21 of the session on Monday, Feb. 17, and the session is scheduled to end March 20. While this is a little later than most of us expected, the unusually harsh winter weather we experienced this year in Georgia necessitated the change.
Carter, R- Pooler, reports periodically during the legislative session. Write to him at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334; call him at 404-656-5109; find him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga; or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.